Who wasn’t assuming that True Grit‘s Roger Deakins would take the big kowabunga prize at last night’s American Society of Cinematographers awards? It was understood and accepted. The fix was in. If you’d called around last Friday and asked motorcycle mechanics in Palmdale, pharmacists in Norwalk, Chinese restaurant chefs in Monterey Park and licensed massage therapists in Newport Beach, to a man they would have said “gotta be Deakins.” So how to explain Inception‘s Wally Phister scoring an upset win?

TheWrap‘s Steve Pond called Phster’s win “a bit of an upset.” A bit? It was a 5.5 earthquake. Faint cries were heard in the canyons. Chandeliers swayed in the foyer. DVD collections fell onto the floor.

Just before Pfister’s triumph, Deakins had been honored with the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which followed his winning a Best Cinematographer BAFTA award in London.

Pfister also defeated Black Swan‘s “Matty” Libatique, The King’s Speech‘s Danny Cohen (strictly a coattails nomination) and The Social Network‘s Jeff Cronenweth.

Scott Feinberg was predicting that Pfister will take the Best Cinematography Oscar over Deakins even before last night’s ASC stunner. His reasoning, according to a piece he put up this morning, is that (a) “most voters will not realize that Deakins was the cinematographer on True Grit when they fill out their ballots” because no cinematographer’s name appears on the actual AMPAS form, and (b) Average Joe Oscar voters “won’t care one way or the other.”

Feinberg’s lament: “It has always struck me as bizarre that Academy members are only considered to be qualified enough to vote for the nominees in their specific field, but somehow ‘become’ qualified enough to vote in every category during phase 2 of voting. This, to me, offers a clear explanation for why people like Deakins (who was nominated for two different films in the best cinematography category three years ago but failed to win for either of them) and Kevin O’Connell (a sound mixer who has been nominated for a sound-related Oscar a record 20 times without actually winning) get nominated so frequently but never win: their peers appreciate the magnitude of their accomplishments, but the rest of the Academy does not and instead votes rather ignorantly.

“For these reasons, I’m inclined to predict that the Best Cinematography Oscar will, once again, go to someone other than Roger Deakins, most likely Pfister for his fine work on Inception, or, if Academy members really, really like The King’s Speech, to Danny Cohen.”