Even with an unprecedented seven nominees, the American Society of Cinematographers only cited four of the likely Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography -- "Captain Phillips," "Gravity", "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "12 Years a Slave."
It snubbed our fourth place contender "Rush" in favor of "Nebraska" (sixth), "Prisoners" (seventh) and "The Grandmaster" (11th on our Oscar chart). That last entry is probably less surprising to anyone who has seen Wong Kar-Wai's stylish martial arts film.
The ASC nominees are: Sean Bobbitt, "12 Years a Slave"
Barry Ackroyd, "Captain Phillips"
Philippe Le Sourd, "The Grandmaster"
Emmanuel Lubezki, "Gravity"
Bruno Delbonnel, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Phedon Papamichael, "Nebraska"
Roger Deakins, "Prisoners"
Last year, Deakins took home his third ASC prize for "Skyfall" -- following wins for "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001). He has yet to claim an Oscar despite 10 nominations. He contends with the ASC for the 12th time this year for his lensing of "Prisoners."
Oscar frontrunner Lubezki ("Gravity") already has two ASC trophies -- "Children of Men" (2006) and "The Tree of Life" (2011) -- but no Academy Award. He contended at the Oscars for both of those films and for the ASC-nominated "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) as well as for "The Little Princess" (1995) and "The New World" (2005).
Delbonnel has contended at the ASC twice before -- "Amelie" (2001) and "A Very Long Engagement," (2004), winning for the latter. He contended at the Oscars for both of those films as well as "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009).
Ackroyd earned an ASC and Oscar nomination for "The Hurt Locker" (2010).
Papamichael is nominated for the first time for a motion picture; he has two previous ASC nominations in the TV movie/miniseries category for "Wild Palms" (1994) and "White Dwarf" (1996). He has never contended at the Oscars.
Neither have first-time ASC nominees Bobbitt and Le Sourd ("Grandmaster").
Over its 27-year history, the ASC has predicted 105 of the 135 Oscar nominees. And, with seven nominees this year, it may be likelier that the ASC roster includes all five fellows that will contend at the Oscars. Which of them are likeliest to be left out?
Deakins and Le Sourd may be the most vulnerable. "Prisoners" hasn't emerged as a strong contender elsewhere in the Oscar race. And "The Grandmaster" too has flown under the radar, though it is one of the finalists for a Foreign Language Film nomination; in 2009, Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" was also nominated for both Foreign Film and Cinematography.
However, the ASC choice for the best in the business has presaged the eventual winner at the Oscars only 13 times. Indeed, of this year's three previous ASC champs -- Deakins, Lubezki and Delbonnel -- in contention, none have yet won Oscars, despite a combined 18 nominations.
The academy has favored special-effects extravaganzas for the last four consecutive years: "Avatar" (2009), "Inception" (2010), "Hugo" (2011), and "Life of Pi" (2012). The ASC only agreed on one of those choices ("Inception"), while in the other years choosing films whose visuals weren't driven by effects: "White Ribbon" (2009), "The Tree of Life" (2011), and "Skyfall" (2012).
The ASC awardsfest will be held Feb. 10 at the Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom.
What do you think is going to win Best Cinematography at the Oscars?