Friday, March 27, 2015

Early Oscar Predictions: Design Categories

With the script finished and the project green-lighted, the next stage is setting the stage, as all the elements that will comprise the onscreen world of the movie need to be designed and built in pre-production. The Academy's production design, costume design, and makeup/hairstyling branches have traditionally favoured achievements in these fields that evoke period settings or more imaginative fantasy worlds. Movies that manage to straddle both of those design realms must always be considered formidable.
That may bode well for one contender that's already been released this year to fairly respectable reviews, Disney's Cinderella. Three-time winners Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti may find themselves in the running for Oscar #4 for their colourful costumes and sets. Powell, in particular, feels like a strong bet. It's hard to imagine the costume branch passing over a legend of her stature for such lavish work.

Fairytale revisionism also comes to us this summer in the form of Joe Wright's Pan. While the whole premise seems iffy to me (I mean, Peter Pan has been done sooo may times), there's no denying that Wright is a guy who knows how to make his films look sensational. His regular collaborator Jacqueline Durran is on board for the costumes. Could she and her fellow designers bring a fresh enough take on Neverland and its iconic characters to garner Academy love?
Sometimes good old-fashioned period detail (even if it's not showy) combined with a well-liked movie can lead to nominations here. Fox Searchlight hopeful Brooklyn will aim to score a nod or two for its romantic depictions of mid-20th century Ireland and New York.

Production designer Adam Stockhausen has had the hot hand lately, scoring back-to-back nods (and a win) for 12 Years a Slave and The Grand Budapest Hotel. He gets to further exhibit his range with the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, but will the setting be too low key for a category that often favours stylistic excess?
Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea was bumped from an initial Spring release to land in late December, right in the middle of awards season. Whether the Oscar-y epic turns out to be an Academy hit or just another looked-good-on-paper pretender, at least it certainly promises to be a craft showcase.

Other titles with potentially awards-friendly design elements include (but are far from limited to) Carol, Crimson Peak, The Danish Girl, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Hateful Eight, Jupiter Ascending, Macbeth, The Revenant, Star Wars -- Episode VII, Suffragette, Tomorrowland, and that's just skimming the surface.

My official early predictions are:

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
Crimson Peak

Best Costume Design
The Danish Girl

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
In the Heart of the Sea
Star Wars -- Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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