Categories One-by-One: Production Design

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Production Design

Postby ksrymy » Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:37 pm

AMPAS is a sucker for period pieces, and, with all the color and Baz Luhrmann behind it, I think Gatsby's a lock.
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Mister Tee
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Categories One-by-One: Production Design

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:12 pm

I’m surprised no one has grabbed this category, since I think it at least has potential to be one of the evening’s most interesting.

The nominees:

American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave

I say “potential” because of course there’s the possibility the category could go quickly and easily to The Great Gatsby; Sabin has already indicated under costume design that he believes this will be the case. There’s a clear argument to be made for it: Martin’s lavish designs are hard to miss, and she’s already won for similar ostentation a decade back. The difference: that year, with Moulin Rouge!, she was working on a best picture contender; snatching two prizes in that situation wasn’t a big stretch. Not to say she couldn’t take both costumes and design for an also-ran – films like Restoration, Memoirs of a Geisha and, recently, Alice in Wonderland have done just that. But I’ve watched other visual knockouts go in with hopes of taking both prizes and walk home with only one – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, and last year’s Anna Karenina. Costume design seems a lot easier get for films out of the best picture race.

And the slate with which Gatsby is competing is reasonably formidable. Probably in last place, sad to say, is her. It’s one of the most creative pieces of work on display, but the very thing many of us love about it – its subtle shading of a contemporary city with futuristic touches – is what will likely cost it support in a category that likes some level of in-your-face. Anyway, her is hardly the strongest best picture contender itself (it would very likely have been left out in a five-film-year), so maybe we ought to count it fortunate to have received the nomination.

Anna Karenina’s loss last year was to Lincoln, and that causes some to analogize to 12 Years a Slave, set in the same period. The problem with the comparison is, Lincoln had a lot more interior settings than Slave, and even the outdoor backdrops gave off more an air of construction. Slave feels like it was simply filmed on location at a surviving Southern plantation, and, though there are early scenes in various locales, much of the film seems to take place in a few spots, most of them outdoors where the set decoration is primarily (and rightly) trees. The film can still win here; a period piece always has a shot. If it does, though, I think it would indicate a far stronger best picture run than is currently envisioned.

That’d be even more the case with American Hustle, which isn’t the sort of film that normally wins this prize. Its settings aren’t ornate; befitting the milieu, they’re gloriously tacky. But they do constitute an overall vision that’s essential to the film, so I rate it a sleeper contender. And, if it should win, we’d need to reconsider the “Hustle could go home with nothing” theory, and wonder if it could accumulate a package of, say, production design, supporting actress and original screenplay, and maybe stay in contention for that big prize at the end.

Gravity is an example of why this category got a renaming a few years back. The vast panoramas we behold throughout aren’t the work of art directors; they were largely created in a computer. But Avatar was of course concocted the same way, and won this category easily. Gravity doesn’t have the variety of images Avatar did, but its achievement – creating a believable outer space for Bullock and Clooney to fly through – could take the prize, anyway. If voters are checking off the film in multiple below-the-line categories, they might make this part of the package.

I think anything but her is a genuine possibility here; this’ll be one of the last categories I finalize.

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