What it is: The production designers are the visual storytellers, responsible for a film’s overall look.
The expert says: “The Great Gatsby. Everyone and their mother was swooning over the style and sets. Did I like this movie? It was OK, but the production design was amazing. This category is not about how amazing a film is to watch—it’s about the look and feel of it.” —Joshua Leake, director and producer, whose films include Glena, a documentary about a female professional cage fighter
What it is: Sound editors gather sound from the time of shooting, namely dialogue, and effects captured at other times. Think of sound editors as the grocery shoppers and sound mixers as the chefs.
The expert says: “Either The Hobbit or Lone Survivor seem like leading contenders. Both of these films have major editing tasks, adding hefty amounts of foley (fake swords don’t clang and swoosh) or cut effects (blanks on a set are often low-powder charges for safety, which sound like balloons popping).” —Christian Dolan, freelance production sound mixer who’s worked on Grimm, Leverage, feature films and commercials
What it is: After the sound editor does the grocery shopping, the sound mixer makes the meal, assembling the sounds for the movie’s final track.
The expert says: “I like to see the awards go to films that break new ground, or utilize creative solutions to support their narratives. Towards that end, I think Gravity deserves a nod. How do you suggest sound in the vacuum of space? Their choice of using the muted thuds of suit contact really add to the visceral ‘you are there’ feeling. Tension in that kind of movie only works if its presentation is truly transportive, and I found it to be very effective.” —Christian Dolan
What it is: The so-called “invisible art” entails selecting and assembling raw footage into something coherent.
The expert says: “Gravity. There were a few treacly moments I could have lived without, but overall it’s a very lean film. It takes you on an amazing journey in a very short time. The crew did a fantastic job of keeping the audience oriented in a world where there is no up or down. I love a story that breathes and takes its time to unfold, but the events in Gravity happen very quickly, and it needed to be tight.” —Laura Roe, editor and camera loader who’s worked on Leverage, Grimm and Wild
Makeup & Hairstyling
What it is: Painting faces and sculpting hair.
The expert says: “Hands down Dallas Buyers Club. The makeup for Jared Leto’s character was so authentic and really helped define his role as Rayon. Matthew McConaughey’s character was so distressed and tortured. The makeup department did an amazing job of showing the characters’ pain and anguish.” —Jessica Needham, head of Portlandia’s hair and makeup department
What it is: Pretty straightforward—costume designers craft a film’s wardrobe. Period films tend to win, and this year there’s not a single nominee set in the present.
The expert says: “While I think Patricia Norris should win for 12 Years a Slave for her ability to have clothing play such an intricate role in the film, my gut tells me that Michael Wilkinson will win for his incredible and articulate approach in designing American Hustle. [I’m] still dreaming of a few pieces Amy Adams wore in that film.” —Amanda Needham, two-time Emmy Award-winning costume designer for Portlandia
WATCH: The Oscars air Sunday, March 2, on ABC.