The Six Most Underrated Oscars and Who Should Win Them

If you have ever been to an Oscars party where the guests actually compete by picking winners, you know that everything is won or lost on the technical categories. Why? Mainly because it's hard to pick a winner when you're not even entirely sure what the award is for. Here is a quick rundown of what many consider to be the less-glamorous categories and who we think (or hope) might win. (Predicted winners are in bold.)

Best Art Direction Who won last year: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo - Sweenety Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street What it's for: Contrary to the name, this award has more to do with the production designer than the slightly lower-ranking art director who primarily focuses on the look of the sets. Ultimately, the award goes to the team responsible for putting the most visually compelling scenes in front of the camera. Of course, looks aren't everything, but even a brilliantly-written movie can be ruined by sloppy visuals.

This year's nominees:

  • Changeling
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Duchess
  • Revolutionary Road

Best Cinematography Who won last year: There Will Be Blood What it's for: The Director of Photography is the one in charge of figuring out how to light and photograph the things the Production Designer's team put in front of the camera. The job comes with a tremendous amount of pressure, which is almost made up for by their access to cranes.

This year's nominees:

  • Chageling
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Best Film Editing Who won last year: The Bourne Ultimatum Who won last year: Most people know what an editor does, but too often people forget that a bad editor can take beautiful footage and turn it into something totally unwatchable. In fact, the Academy should consider replacing the gold trophy with a high-class computer chair considering how many hours an editor needs to spend in front of his monitors to earn an award like this one.

This year's nominees:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Mixing Who won last year: The Bourne Ultimatum What it's for: The production sound mixers are the guys in charge of recording the audio from the set using an array of equipment that brings a tear to the eye of the typical gear-hound. They're usually joined in receiving the award by the re-recording mixers who do the post-production work that ensures the sound matches not only what's on screen, but what is in the director's fanatically specific brain.

This year's nominees:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Wall-E
  • Wanted

Best Sound Editing Who won last year: The Bourne Ultimatum What it's for: If you're not familiar with the hierarchy of a movie crew, it can be tough to differentiate between this award and Best Sound Editing, especially since The Bourne Ultimatum took down both trophies last year. The supervising sound editor is the guy who ensures that all of the recorded sound, including stuff recorded on the set, the work of foley artists, and the music come together to form the reason we're willing to spend thousands of dollars on high-end speakers.

This year's nominees:

  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Wall-E
  • Wanted

Best Visual effects Who won last year: The Golden Compass What it's for: Until 1963, this award and the sound awards were wrapped up into one category simply called Best Special Effects. The guidelines are extremely specific, stating that you can't win for creating images of things that actually exist and could have been filmed. Also, a film can't win, or even be nominated, just because of its beautiful, computer-rendered visuals (sorry, Michael Bay). They have to contribute to the overall production of the film. Though that makes last year's win by The Golden Compass seem a little hard to explain.

This year's nominees:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
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