In the glory days of the Academy, these two categories would frequently align with Best Picture. While some would regard this as boring, others saw it as being indicative of the presence of truly great films. After all, wouldn’t it seem logical that the best movie of the year would also be the best photographed and put together? But alas, the days of “Braveheart,” “The English Patient,” and “Titanic” have gone. In their place, we have “Babel.” Oh well. Let’s get on with the predictions.

For Best Cinematography, the nominees are…

Vilmos Zsigmond, “The Black Dahlia”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Children of Men”
Dick Pope, “The Illusionist”
Guillermo Navarro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Wally Pfister, “The Prestige”

This has got to be the first time in a decade, if not more, that none of the Best Picture nominees received a cinematography nomination. Amazing. The two magician films, “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige” will cancel each other out. “The Black Dahlia,” which got panned by the critics, is just along for the ride. That leaves “Children of Men” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” to jockey for the Oscar.

If you look at the history of this award, the Academy has consistently opted for the bigger, flashier, and more epic-style cinematography over the more artistic look. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” and “Good Night and Good Luck,” two gorgeously shot films, lost respectively to the more extravagant “Fellowship of the Ring” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Going by this standard, “Children of Men” seems the obvious choice. Its unique and dark cinematography is front and center, and hardly an audience member leaves the theater without marvelling at particular shots. In addition, Emmanuel Lubezki won the ASC award this past weekend, a strong indicator.

But there is an intriguing precedent for an upset. In the last ten to fifteen years, there has been maybe only one or two occasions when a Best Cinematography winner was NOT also nominated for Art Direction. This, of course, makes sense, since you can’t photograph exquisitely unless there is something exquisite to photograph. Last year, most experts picked “Brokeback Mountain,” but “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which also had an Art Direction nomination, pulled the upset. “Brokeback” was shut out from Art Direction.

If this trend continues, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the likely benefactor. It has six total nominations, including Cinematography and Art Direction. “Children of Men” is not nominated for Art Direction. We are seriously considering the “Pan’s” upset, but for now, we think the Academy will want to recognize a brilliant film that has made a tremendous impression as of late.

Our pick: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Children of Men”

Watch the editing category very carefully. It could provide the evening’s first real insight into who will win Best Picture. The nominees are…

Stephen Mirrione, Douglass Crise, “Babel”
Steven Rosenblum, “Blood Diamond”
Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Cuaron, “Children of Men”
Thelma Schoonmaker, “The Departed”
Clare Douglass, Christopher Rouse, Richard Pearson, “United 93”

This is without doubt, one of the hardest categories to predict this year. After tossing aside the window dressing that is “Blood Diamond” and “Children of Men,” we are left with two Best Picture contenders and one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year.

Thelma Schoonmaker will be a factor simply because she is beloved by the Academy and has won twice before. But when it comes to editing, “Babel” and “United 93” come to mind more readily. Whenever you have a story that interweaves four or five plotlines, we know that the editing will be recognized. Since “Crash” won last year, “Babel” seems a logical choice this year. The real question is, how will Academy members regard “United 93?” Critics loved it and the editing was indeed spectacular, taut enough to make you feel like you were on board that plane or a fly on the wall in the FAA crisis room. But for many people, “United 93” hit too close to home. Did enough voters watch it all the way through to be able to appreciate the editing?

We think so. After all, Paul Greengrass snuck in there with a nomination for Best Director. “United 93” also won the BAFTA award for editing and the recent TIE between “The Departed” and “Babel” for the ACE Editing award may be a signal of things to come. Split vote? “United 93” is in perfect position to reap the rewards.

Our pick: Clare Douglass, Christopher Rouse, Richard Pearson, “United 93”Impulse video