Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, with Kim Sinclair for set decoration
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore
Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
No argument on these three: quality of physically constructed sets and props and of CGI elements is pretty high, as is the overall standard of photography. The depth of simulation of Pandoran geography and culture is a factor here as it really comes across well in the film.
Editing: Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
Has Avatar been edited in an unusually brilliant way? Not so sure, although editing is one of the most important creative processes in film; also as I've previously said, editing a 3D film is different from 2D and there may have been numerous achievements and envelope-pushes along the way. Agreed (after extra time).
Original Score: James Horner
Not the most memorable film score ever but beautifully understated, and deserves some kind of award for not going down the March of the Stormtroopers route. OK, you can have that one on me.
Best Picture: James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
In a year that Moon didn't even get a mention I'm going to be overcritical of the Best Picture category. Avatar is a very enjoyable film (if you're not a full time critic) and that should count for something, but is it in the Best Picture overall category? Sorry, it's no turkey but it doesn't quite make the grade.
Sound Editing: Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Sound Mixing: Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
I should know more about this technically, but I actually don't think the sound was of such stand-out quality to deserve Oscar nominations in the same way as the visual elements.
Direction: James Cameron
For: Cameron is well known as a hands on director, and has pushed every aspect of this movie from start to finish. So you can't separate his input from any other aspect of the movie - if you're giving out any gongs at all you have to include him.
Against: once upon a time, a director's job included coaxing great performances out of actors. Remember? Avatar has nine nominations - none of which are for acting - and I don't believe the cast are to blame for this as they included seasoned professionals like Weaver and highly talented newcomers like Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.
Conclusion: you can keep the nomination but only after a slap on the wrist. Understood?