The best part about the 81st annual Academy Awards on Sunday night—y’know, besides Zac Efron, OMG!—is that once it’s over, we’ll never have to think about Slumdog Millionaire again. Not to join the obvious chorus of backlashers, but a warmed-over Dickensian fable dressed up to look like a prestige version of a Tony Scott film isn’t our idea of a Best Picture winner. But, that being said, we still know it is going to be the winner. And that’s the problem … so does everyone else! If you want to be the champion of your Oscar pool this year, it’s going to take a lot more than just Slumdog Millionaire. You’ll need to score well with the below-the-line categories too. Well, don’t fret! Here’s our surefire handicapping guide.
Art Direction: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road
With no Slumdog Millionaire to steal its thunder, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will happily win this award. And we guess it deserves to: Those teacups that Brad Pitt and Tilda Swinton drank out of were pretty awesome, right?
Cinematography: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire
For some unknown reason, everyone loves the work that Anthony Dod Mantle did on Slumdog Millionaire. Apparently when you steal equal parts of City of God and Man on Fire, you become a genius. Who knew? He’ll win, but we still want a recount to find out why Harris Savides missed out on a nomination for Milk.
Costume Design: Austrailia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Duchess, Milk, Revolutionary Road
We’re tempted to select Benjamin Button here based on Cate Blanchett’s red dress alone, but if we know Hollywood, they love an honest to goodness period piece. The giant dresses and constricting corsets of The Duchess are tailor made for this award (nyuck, nyuck).
Film Editing: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire
The Dark Knight is too long, and to say the fight scenes are somewhat difficult to follow would be kind. But! The action set piece that climaxes with an 18-wheeler flipping over is literally the film sequence of the year. On that alone, we think The Dark Knight takes this trophy home. Well, that and the fact that we didn’t like Slumdog Millionaire.
Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army
We loved Heath Ledger’s Joker makeup and all, but in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, they made Cate Blanchett look scary old. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner!
Score: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E
We’ve been all over Alexandre Desplat’s score from Benjamin Button for months. It manages to be both beautiful and timeless. Seriously, you’ll be hearing this music in mawkish movie trailers for the next ten years.
Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Iron Man
In Iron Man they made Robert Downey Jr. fly. Cool enough. But in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher and his special effects wizards took Brad Pitt’s face and digitally grafted it onto another body. Old man babies always top flying robot suits.