Let's start with Best Cinematography. The nominees are Black Swan, Inception, The King's Speech, The Social Network, and True Grit. I hated the camerawork in Black Swan. The Social Network slid into this category by virtue of its Best Picture nomination - it was nothing special. The lighting and compositions in The King's Speech were fantastic and Inception had the steely look characteristic of all Christopher Nolan films, but my pick goes to True Grit. First, because it had a wonderful dusty, raw, and... well... gritty look while still being gorgeous to look at. Second, because it's the great Roger Deakins, who has never won despite a gazillion nominations.
Best Art Direction nominees are Alice In Wonderland, Harry Potter 7a, Inception, The King's Speech, and True Grit. Most of these films' looks are based on reality - including the one that takes place mostly in a dream - so Alice In Wonderland has a distinctive edge. Everything had to be created from a whimsical imagination. No props could be bought - it all had to come from scratch, so the degree of difficulty is raised.
The Best Costumes category features Alice In Wonderland, I Am Love, The King's Speech, The Tempest, and True Grit. First, let me note how unusual it is to have a movie with a contemporary setting in this category. I Am Love doesn't stand a chance. No, in this category more is more and the more elaborate the costumes are, the better. That's why I'm picking Alice In Wonderland - its costumes are so outrageous that it stands out among the other nominees. Also, it varies widely from realistic Victorian looks to the crazy Wonderland apparel. Also also, it's the great Coleen Atwood who is amazing.
This year's Best Makeup nominees are Barney's Version (a Canadian comedy starring Paul Giamatti), The Way Back (about Russian prison camp escapees), and The Wolfman (the Benicio Del toro monster-movie dud from last winter). What a weak category. The Academy really couldn't come up with better Makeup nominees? The winner here is clear – The Wolfman will get it.
Interesting note: the makeup for The Wolfman was done by the legendary Rick Baker who, you may recall, won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup for another werewolf movie – An American Werewolf In London. He was also one of the three people to beat Titanic back in '97.