One of my favorite “minor” categores it will be hard not to allow some personal tastes to creep in here, but sometimes it is best to just look at it like the voters ultimately will, that is subjectively. Life of Pi and The Master are visually unparalleld this year. The films were so well shot that they could work on a purely visual level if they needed to. Also, I was quite impressed with how Django looked. Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln are excellently shot and get a boost from impressive showings leading up to the nominations. Also ZDT won the award with the New York Film Critics.
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty