In recent years, Oscar voters have honored large-scale, effects-driven films in this category ("Inception" in 2010, "Avatar" in 2009), but previous winners also include smaller-scale dramas like "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Pan's Labyrinth." Like Best Production Design, this category tends to favor fantasy and period films, though contemporary films have prevailed ("Slumdog," "American Beauty").
Of the last 20 winners of this category, 15 were also nominated for Best Picture, and of those, six won the top prize.
This year, possible contenders include "The Master" (Mihai Malaimare Jr.), "Life of Pi" (Claudio Miranda, previously nominated for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), "To the Wonder" (five-time nominee Emmanuel Lubezki), and "Lincoln" (two-time winner Janusz Kaminski).
"Inception" winner Wally Pfister could earn his fifth nomination for "The Dark Knight Rises"; he was nominated for both of Christopher Nolan's previous Batman films, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," as well as Nolan's "The Prestige."
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" lenser Ben Richardson won the cinematography award at the Sundance Film Festival and could earn his first career Oscar bid, while Danny Cohen ("The King's Speech") could earn his second for "Les Miserables."