There’s plenty else cooking on the Oscar ballot too, but some of it—we gotta be honest—is way confusing. Even to our red carpet experts. Like, what’s the difference between sound mixing and sound editing? How is art direction different from cinematography or just regular direction? Are blue aliens considered actors?To keep it all straight, we put together a list of the five most confusing Oscar categories—and what they mean:
1. Best Art Direction: This judges how well the movie is visually communicated. The award goes to the group of people involved with all the crazy interior and set designs on, this year, films like Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Nine.
Last year’s winners—we’re sure you remember—were the art director and set decorator from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
2. Best Sound Mixing: Which isn’t the same thing as Best Sound Editing, even though four of the five nominations for each category are the same.
Sound editing refers to the production of sounds from scratch—the noises cooked up in the studio instead of live on set. On top of that, the masters of this art make sure that all the dialogue is usable and understandable.
Sound mixing is putting all of this audio (dialogue, effects, music, etc.) together. Got it? Good.
3. Best Documentary Short Subject: No, silly, this isn’t for movies about tiny people. It’s for documentaries that simply range from 15 to 40 minutes in length. Like last year’s winner, the 39-minuteSmile Pinki, about a young girl in India with a cleft lip. And sure, yeah, she happened to be short, too…
4. Best Cinematography: The Oscar goes to the cinematographer, aka director of photography—which is a different job from the director, who’s usually pacing around nearby calling the shots. The cinematographer is the guy (all the noms this year are male, working on films like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Avatar and The Hurt Locker) behind the camera capturing the film.
5. Best Original Score: Here, the Oscar is given to the composer of the music written specifically for the film, most of which plays in the background and lets you know when it’s time to, like, start crying.
Last year’s winner was Slumdog Millionaire‘s A.R. Rahman, who composed the score but—here’s where it gets confusing—also won for writing the Best Original Song, “Jai Ho.” Oh, and the guy’s a comedian as well, and said of the awards, “Before coming, I was excited and terrified. The last time I felt like that was during my marriage.” Oh, A.R., you kill us!