Why are all these posts concentrating on little categories like “Best Actor” and “Best Director” when what we all really care about is Art Direction and Costumes? In the course of seeing all of the films nominated for the big eight I ended up seeing most of the films nominated for all those other categories they hand out awards to in the middle 2 hours of the Oscar telecast. Since you obviously care about my make-up preferences, please, read on!

Best Song
“Falling Slowly” Once, “Raise it Up” August Rush, “Happy Working Song” Enchanted, “So Close” Enchanted, “That’s How You Know” Enchanted

For some reason I feel like I already covered this category. But since the Academy stupidly ignored my recommendations, let’s take a look at these inferior choices.

The clear winner for me is “Falling Slowly.” It’s the central song in the wonderful musical Once that embodies the heartbreak and loneliness of the main characters. “Raise it Up” is actually fairly offbeat and I imagine it works well in the film, schmaltzy as it surely is. Nothing against Enchated, but if one of its triumvirate wins it better be “That’s How You Know,” a clever take on the Disney fairy tale tune set in modern times. “Happy Working Song” is a cute but uninspiring ditty while “So Close” is a toothless and unmemorable love song.

Snubs: See my breakdown of the eligible songs to find about a dozen songs I liked better than all the non-Once songs.

Best Score
Atonement, The Kite Runner, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille, 3:10 to Yuma

Ratatouille’s score is, well, cartoony and bold. Michael Clayton, on the other hand, is sort of undersold. 3:10 to Yuma’s score is strong and pays homage to the Western scores of old.

But the last two really stand out. The Kite Runner combines Afghan and western music in a set of pieces that are attention-getting and moving. But how can you argue against Atonement’s score? Okay, I’ll tell you how: it’s too overbearing for the film and outshines the rest of the film way too often. But as a work on its own it’s intriguing, engrossing, and dramatic. I’ve played it many times and it’s always a treat to hear.

Snubs: If you ignore the disqualification of the haunting score to There Will Be Blood, I really enjoyed the score to the otherwise dismal Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Best Art Direction
American Gangster, Atonement, The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood

Sometimes I think this category is dominated by fanciful and stylish sci-fi or fantasy films when accurate and appropriate period set design is just as impressive, so I like that American Gangster, Atonement, and There Will Be Blood got nominated for stylish and impressive period sets in 1970s New York, 1930s country England and London, and 1900s desert California, respectively. But I’ll be a tad hypocritical and throw my support behind the foreboding and gloomy London of Sweeney Todd.

Best Costume
Across the Universe, Atonement, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, La Vie en Rose, Sweeney Todd

Can you really go wrong with any of these? All had interesting and appropriate costumes. While Atonement may have had the most iconic costume of this awards season in Keira Knightley’s green dress, Sweeney Todd’s costumes transcended period clothing and fit into the sinister London imagined in the film.

Best Makeup
La Vie en Rose, Norbit, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

La Vie en Rose by a mile. The old and decrepit Edith Piaf looked old and decrepit, not like a strangely made-up movie character.

Snubs: Why did Norbit get the fat suit nomination instead of Hairspray? Eddie Murphy may have worn a bikini in his fat suit but John Travolta danced in his.

Best Visual Effects
The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers

No disrespect meant for the other nominees, but the special effects in Transformers struck me as more complete, more integral to the film, and more flashy.

Best Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood

Bourne seems to be getting some attention because its editing is so obvious (and so nausea-inducing). I say just skip all that and go for the best film, in this case No Country For Old Men. I also found some of the editing in Into the Wild too heavy-handed, such as the cuts to the poem McCandless wrote while he was struggling in Alaska.

The Sound Categories
I can’t even tell you what the difference between Best Sound and Best Sound Editing is. All I know is that I loved the sound in 3:10 to Yuma, No Country for Old Men told a lot of the story through nothing but sound, and Transformers is an example of digital visual and audio mastery. 3:10 to Yuma for sound mixing, No Country for Old Men for sound editing.

Cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood.

Darn good set of nominees here. Atonement’s going to get some looks for that long, incredible tracking shot on the Dunkirk beaches. It was awesome by itself, but I didn’t think it fit in with the film that well. Some of the shot compositions also struck me as being too artsy. No Country for Old Men looks great and incorporates very well the emptiness of western Texas. The camera was the character of Jean-Dominique Bauby for half of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The point-of-view from the paralyzed man’s one eye was probably the best part of the film and it contrasted nicely with the beautiful dream sequences. No Country for Old Men is always gorgeous with some amazing shots. There Will Be Blood takes a bit more risks, playing with some of the color palettes.

But Assassination of Jesse James gets my support. It has the requisite beautiful scenes and gorgeous landscape shots, but it’s always framed in such a way that the empty, desolate midwestern plains always contribute to the film’s tone and even feel like a separate character. It was quite a year for Roger Deakins; he also shot No Country and In the Valley of Elah.

Snubs: Into the Wild.

Animated Feature Film
Persepolis, Ratatouille, Surf’s Up

I know this isn’t really a technical category, but this is my last chance to pontificate about it so I will. I also won’t be calling a favorite since I have yet to see Perspolis. Ratatouille is the entire package. It looks stunning and is utterly engaging. The atmosphere it creates completely draws you into this world and perhaps no film has ever captured so well the joys of cooking and food.

Surf’s Up is a curious choice. On the one hand, it looks incredible and the animation style is innovative. The surfing scenes are absolutely thrilling and you feel like you’re in the wave with them it’s so well animated. It’s also a mockumentary and there are several clever touches: characters in the background stare at the camera, characters talk over each other and get self conscious in front of the camera, and the shots are designed to feel like they are coming from a real documentary film crew. To get that feel, the creators pioneered an entirely new animation filming technique. Each scene was animated in three dimensions. From there, a cameraman holding a camera walked through an empty room filled with sensors “filming” the action. Thus we get realistic camera movement around objects and the jostle of a handheld camera. It’s all really neat.

Too bad the plot and characters are so unoriginal. If it wasn’t for the neat style I would’ve been bored out of my mind. All style, no substance.

Snubs: I thought for sure The Simpsons Movie would be nominated. It was a pretty good film with a lot of sentimental backing. But if I’m being honest, Meet the Robinsons was even better. It’s a pure kids movie, unlike so many animated films today, full of stunt casting and spending a lot of time casting sly winks to older watchers. But it’s very sweet, very funny, and very trippy. I mean, the bad guy is a bowler hat named Doris, it’s nuts!