Categories One-by-One: Production Design

For the films of 2014
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Production Design

Postby dws1982 » Sat Feb 14, 2015 1:28 pm

I think the only reason this hasn't gotten any response is because your analysis covers it all so well that there's nothing to add. The sets of Grand Budapest, and the world they create, are such an essential component to the film that they're almost an additional character. Into the Woods and Mr. Turner would be acceptable winners based on what they usually go for, and in another year they might have a shot, but this year there's no other choice: Grand Budapest. Most of the design and technical categories are probably going to be pretty close this year, but this is one I'd more or less bet the farm on.

Mister Tee
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Categories One-by-One: Production Design

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:31 pm

Production design is the one visual category no one’s yet taken up -- I guess because most of us view it as a pretty sure thing. But let’s give it the quick once-over, anyway.

The nominees:

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

While the top choice is easy to pinpoint, it’s hard to decide just which one of the other four is least likely to win. Probably The Imitation Game grabs the bottom spot – in recent years, especially, voters have favored the flashy in this category: films like Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby. Lincoln would be the last major exception, but even there you had far more elaborately constructed sets (not to mention a century-and-a-half’s time distance). Despite being a perfectly solid more recent period recreation, Imitation Game doesn’t offer any wow factor. I expect this will be one of the film’s (probably many) losses.

Interstellar has its ice planet-scape, and outer space shots have of course won prizes from Star Wars to Avatar. But much of this film’s design (in that first hour, especially) is drabber than tends to win here. The irony: I think the parched look of that first hour is maybe the high point of the film’s design achievement; it had a touch of Bound for Glory, and felt very lived-in, besides. But not in a Oscar-y way.

Mr. Turner is, as we’ve said under both costumes and cinematography, a visual feast, and its design goes deep: It’s not just a couple of nice-looking sets; it’s an entire, coherent environment. It too, though, suffers (in voting terms) from being too scrupulously faithful to its somewhat drab time period; capturing the feel of dusty London and environs impresses the Academy less than would a series of elaborate settings -- of which the film has a few, but not enough. So, I think it's far less likely to score here than in the other categories that reward prettiness.

Without the front-runner involved, Into the Woods might be the leader here: it’s got a forest, castles and an impressive beanstalk. The fantasy realm isn’t the sure-bet you’d think in this category – recently, only the final Rings movie and Alice in Wonderland really fall into that slot – but I think Into the Woods is a solid contender.

It’s moot, however, since The Grand Budapest Hotel is on the slate, and pretty much dwarfs anything else. When I saw the film, almost a year ago, mindful of the difficulty of a film being remembered so long, I was chary in my Oscar touting…but I did note the production design was so outstanding I couldn’t believe it’d be forgotten. Even so, I’m pleasantly surprised that, in the end, it’s become a prohibitive favorite – enough there’d be consternation were another name read out. Let the film stand for all the Wes Anderson films denied production design nominations in the past.

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