After breaking down the computer-heavy categories first in Sound and Visual Effects, next on the list of Oscar categories to tackle are the three categories that involve work mostly done the old-fashioned way.
Best Achievement in Production Design
- “Anna Karenina” – Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
- “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Dan Hennah; Ra Vincent; Simon Bright
- “Les Misérables” – Eve Stewart; Anna Lynch-Robinson
- “Life of Pi” – David Gropman, Anna Pinnock
- “Lincoln” – Rick Carter; Jim Erickson
This year, Best Art Direction has be renamed Best Production Design, but what’s in a name? It won’t change much of how the Academy looks at it. Last year’s winner was “Hugo,” which took home most of the production/technical awards with five total.
If you look at past winners in Art Direction, The Academy has leaned on the fantastical, especially in the 21st Century. The last three winners were “Hugo,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Hugo.” With that in mind, you might be more inclined to take Life of Pi or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey more seriously.
Going back to the “Lord of the Rings,” only “Return of the King” won the Oscar, suggesting it road the wave of recognition for that final film because quite frankly, the art direction was the same on all three films. As for “Pi,” the rich landscapes and the extent of the digital effects work has to make it a serious contender. Considering its 11 nominations, “Pi” could do as well as “Hugo” did last year but not win any major awards.
Lincoln is definitely the odd man out. No straightforward period film without a fantastical or artist bend has won this award in the last 20 years except “The Aviator” and Spielberg’s films have been ignored in this category except “Schindler’s List.”
Anna Karenina and Les Misérables are two intriguing choices as well. The set detail in “Les Mis” was extraordinary, but the same was the case with Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” which obviously lost to “Alice.” At the same time, this category has favored musicals when they are nominated, with “Moulin Rouge!” “Chicago” and “Sweeney Todd” all winning the award (“Dreamgirls” lost to “Pan’s Labyrinth,” understandably). Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer have now been nominated a third time for working with Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement”), but never won. The entire film is set in a theater and it’s deserving of a win to be sure.
Prediction: Les Misérables
Best Achievement in Costume Design
- “Anna Karenina” – Jacqueline Durran
- “Les Misérables” – Paco Delgado
- “Lincoln” – Joanna Johnston
- “Mirror, Mirror” – Eiko Ishioka
- “Snow White and the Huntsman” – Colleen Atwood
Period films have dominated this category to an oft-humorous degree, with the exception being “Alice in Wonderland” two years ago. As such, we have three period films and two fantasy films among the nominees.
You always have to take a Colleen Atwood nomination seriously, so no writing off Snow White and the Huntsman, and they were indeed good costumes. There’s also a story driving Eiko Ishioka’s nomination for Mirror, Mirror as the Oscar winner died last January.
All the other nominees are first-timers except Jacqueline Durran, who like her production designer counterparts, has yet to win despite nominations for other Joe Wright films. Anna Karenina is the lone fancy-shmancy period film on the list (perhaps I mean Victorian?), so that has to be a good sign, even though it’s not specifically about dead monarchs.
Les Misérables had good costumes as well, but Tom Hooper spend to much time focusing on the faces of his actors that they were rather unmemorable. I was much more impressed by Lincoln, but Johnston has never previously been nominated despite all her work on Spielberg films.
Gosh, this year is incredibly tough.
Prediction: Anna Karenina
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
- “Hitchcock” – Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel
- “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane
- “Les Misérables” – Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell
The transformation of Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock definitely warrants the most attention in this also-renamed category which now includes hairstyling. But that in mind, you have to look even closer at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for all the work it did with those funky dwarf beards.
Fantasy and aging of actors is always given the most attention in this category. Although Hugh Jackman was aged really well in Les Misérables, that film is on the outside looking in.
This is definitely “The Hobbit’s” best chance at an award, and “The Lord of the Rings” won twice in this category, but is Hopkins as Hitchcock enough to overtake it?
Prediction: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey