Best Supporting Actress
Naomie Harris, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" may not be a great film but with a talent like Idris Elba playing the titular hero, it's obviously worth considering. As great as he is though, the performance that I most remember from this film is that of Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. The simple fact is, from a dramatic standpoint Winnie is the meatier character to play. While Elba is mostly required to be dignified and peaceful, Harris is able to alternate between being fierce, sweet and vulnerable. It's a fantastic showcase for her range and she pulls it off beautifully. In addition, she accomplishes this while giving a commendable stab at one of the most difficult accents to master. If 2013 was the year of the black film, then it seems only fair that Naomie Harris should be a part of the Oscar conversation too.
Best Original Screenplay
Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg, The Hunt
One of the most astonishing films in recent memory is "The Hunt" and that's largely due to the screenplay by Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg. This daring film shows humanity at its ugliest, as a town turns on one of its own after a false child molestation accusation. It's a film that sometimes threatens to veer into pulpy territory, yet it always manages to feel grounded in reality. Even as you're horrified by the behaviour on screen, you're likely to wonder if you wouldn't be similarly antagonistic yourself. In doing so, this fine script cuts deep. Foreign language films tend to be "ghettoized" as contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar only. This is a case where the film truly merits consideration elsewhere, especially for its screenplay. It's discomfiting, thought-provoking, maddening...and brilliant.
Best Production Design
Ra Vincent, Simon Bright & Dan Hennah, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Yes, I know this is a somewhat lazy choice but you have to give credit where it's due. Peter Jackson loves Middle-earth so much that you can just tell from the exquisite production design in "The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug". The world-building of his team (Ra Vincent, Simon Bright and Dan Hennah) is impeccable, creating unique settings that fully transport you to this fictional world. There are similar designs from the previous Tolkien adaptations, but there also some fascinating new locations like the dingy environs of Esgaroth and the Lonely Mountain. It's all incredibly elaborate and appealing. Unfortunately, the absence of this film in the Best Makeup & Hairstyling shortlist would seem to indicate a growing voter fatigue with the franchise. It would be a shame if that were to transfer over to this category as well, since it's absolutely deserving of a nomination.
Best Foreign Language Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing