True Grit - The consistently brilliant Roger Deakins can go toe-to-toe with Peter O'Toole for the title of most overdue man in Hollywood. True Grit will likely mark his ninth nomination without a win despite lensing the unforgettable visuals in such films as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I don't think there is another name I'd be happier to hear read on Oscar night.Inception - Wally Pfister does his usual fantastic work collaborating with Christopher Nolan helping to craft a number of images that are already justly famous. There's a case to be made he should have won this category in 2007 for The Prestige. A win this year is going to be tough to come by with this competition but the nomination looks like a lock.
The Social Network - I was relieved to see the perfectly-pitched work by Jeff Cronenweth get recognized by the Cinematographer's Guild reducing the chances it will slip through the cracks like the similarly edgy photography of Collateral. It could still get muscled out by showier contenders but I think Social Network's high profile gets it on the ballot.
127 Hours - The shakiest of my predictions since 127 Hours has a lost a lot of momentum since its release, but I still think the film foregrounds its craft so much that it will be hard to ignore in these categories.
CONTENDERSShutter Island- Robert Richardson is a legend in the field with two trophies and six nominations to his credit including last year's Inglorious Basterds. His work on Shutter Island is showy as all get out so I could easily see him knocking out one of the top five, but my prediction is that there just isn't room.
The Way Back - The film has a very low profile but Cinematography throws in the occasional wild card and Russell Boyd won this category on his last collaboration with Peter Weir, Master and Commander, so he can't be counted out.
The Town - Cinematography nominees tend to go to the fantastical and awe-inspiring, so it's hard to get nominated for lighting mundane living rooms and city blocks. Still, There Will Be Blood winner Robert Elswit give The Town a distinctive monochromatic, gritty look and could be a surprise inclusion. Huge long shot though.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Say what you will about the Potter films but they always look great and have been nominated in this category twice previously. Seems like a tall order this year though.
Never Let Me Go - Same goes for atmospheric work on this film by Adam Kimmel. Can't count it out completely but I wouldn't bet any cash on it.
WORTHY WITHOUT BUZZ
Somewhere/Greenberg - Lots of cinematographers can make palaces and vistas look amazing but how about someone who brings out the other-worldly qualities of urban Los Angeles? That's what Harris Savides did in 2010 with this one-two punch. His ethereal sun-drenched camerawork is as much a part of the storytelling as the scripts. Between this work and equally fantastic work in Zodiac and Milk it's shameful that Savides is likely to remain waiting for nomination number one after this year.
I Am Love - Work this grand doesn't come along every year. Sweeping a quiet drama up in a tornado of unbridled passion Yorick Le Saux's imagery demands a nomination that I'm confident it won't get.
IF I HAD A BALLOT
Other Category Close Ups