Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Art Direction

I always thought, and a comment from Walter (The Silver Screening Room) confirmed that the art directors along with the cinematographers are responsible for a great deal in the cinematic process. The two, after all, are responsible for how the film looks. For some reason, too, this category is often stuffed with Best Picture contenders (whether that’s because the contenders in that category are period heavy or because art directors love them, it’s anyone’s guess.)

The Nominees: The Artist; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Hugo; Midnight in Paris; War Horse

The Artist (Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould)
A recreation of movie sets and a special emphasis on production design for black-and-white cinema is what the art direction duo of The Artist is tasked with doing. The work is good and credible, but with so many particularly strong contenders in this field I feel that it is, perhaps, not assured a win even though if appreciation for the film teems over within the academy this is one of those below-the-line categories where it could take the prize. I’m tentative on that end, though, since it was the same situation which led to a number of us predicting The King’s Speech (which had, I thin, better work in a weaker field but which lost out to a much more flashy contender albeit not a better one.) Bennett is celebrating his first nomination, and Gould his second after losing for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (one of the many eviscerated by the steamroller that was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan)
I shall not lie, I love Stuart that much more because he and his creative partner McMillan won their last Oscar for their low-key, but outstanding work on The English Patient. The work on Harry Potter has never been expressly low-key, but it’s always more subtle than you’d expect, I think. The scenes outside of the magical realm have as much attention to detail as those in the Hogwarts’ castle, and after working on eight of these perhaps voters might want to give the series a goodbye wave? It’s unlikely considering the strong competition, but it would not be unlikely.

Hugo (Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo)
Snubbed! How did these two not get cited for their work on Shutter Island last year? Absolute bollocks that was. But, here they are again with just as beautiful and precise work. Hugo is significantly about the visuals, and sure I sometimes can’t tell where the photography ends and the visual effects or the production design starts but the work is stunning. And, it’s been a good while since the two won for their excellent work on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and their work here is perhaps even more excellent.

Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel and Hélène Dubreuil)
Perhaps, the surprise of the category, but not a complete shocker. It’s the first nomination for both, and the work is as good in the past as it is in the present. Gil’s hotel room is expertly crafted, as are the more obvious elements of good art direction in the Paris sequences which do such a fine job of creating that enchanting, heaven-like world that is less real and more a figment of Gil’s imagination.

War Horse (Rick Carter and Lee Sandales)
This nomination does strike me as a bit odd, at first, considering that the majority of its scenes occur in the open but that doesn’t necessarily make the details of the set any less noteworthy. Carter won for his work on Avatar and Sandales is celebrating his first nomination and in a film where the exterior sequences with a certain super horse play out as elements of fantasy the indoor set design ends up playing a role in rooting the film in realism, oddly.

Projected Winner: Hugo
Alternate: This is, I think, the single category Hugo will not be unseated. But, assuming that it’s possible I say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

What say you on this slate of nominees?


Amir said...

I agree with you on Shutter Island. The interiors of the prison were flawless.

As for the winner, I think you're right on the money. I think will end up winning 3 or 4 awards, but even if it wins only one, it will probably be this. I actually think the alternate is The Artist.
If anyone wants to vote for flashy, they'll vote Hugo and not Potter, whereas The Artist is a completely different alternative, visually speaking.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

amir i actually wonder if war horse has more chance of being upsetting here than the artist. although, i'm just cross fingers that hugo wins to make up for the alice in wonderland win last year (it deserved the costumes' bid, but the production design win was insane.)