PART 3: THE VISUAL AND ARTISTIC CATEGORIES
This hostless and apparently commercial-hampered and time-constrained 91st Academy Awards arrive on Sunday, February 25th. It’s time to breakdown each category and put some stone cold predictions into digital ink. Throughout the busy awards season, this website’s 2019 Awards Tracker has been my workspace to tally all the early award winners. That prognostication data is cited in these predictions. This column examines the visual and artistic film categories of visual effects, makeup, hair-styling, costumes, sets, editing, and camerawork. As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!
The nominees: Lukasz Zal for Cold War, Robbie Ryan for The Favourite, Caleb Deschanel for Never Look Away, Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, Matthew Libatique for A Star is Born
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 28- Cuaron, 2- Zal, 1- Libatique, 1- Monika Lenczewska for Under the Tree
Who was snubbed: I highly notice and enjoy good cinematography. Two superior choices and one for-the-fun-of-it pick stand out for me as better choices. La La Land cinematographer winner Linus Sandgren deserved a crack at another trophy with his pastoral and claustrophobic work on First Man. Rachel Morrison became the first-ever female nominee in this field last year for Mudbound and she could have been here again with Black Panther. Lastly, a wild and shake the old fogeys nominee could have been Benjamin Loeb for his demonic neon on Mandy.
Happy to be there: Other than almost being cut from the broadcast, everyone not named Cuaron gets there “it’s an honor just being nominated” certificate to the clear frontrunner on the data table.
Who should win: The winner is a near-certainty and easily a worthy best, so I’ll add a wish and vouch for another contender in Matthew Libatique’s work on A Star is Born. I loved the movie’s POV to stay intimate and not float higher around the celebrity sphere it was depicting. The orbiting tightness was really striking and unique.
Who will win: In my review, I called Alfonso Cuaron manning his own camera (over longtime collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki) on Roma the best cinematography work I saw last year despite not having a speck of color on it. Cuaron’s edge to edge and front to back depth of action is on another level.
The nominees: John Ottman for Bohemian Rhapsody, Yorgos Mavropsardis for The Favourite, Barry Brown Alexander for BlacKkKlansman, Patrick J. Don Vito for Green Book, Hank Corwin for Vice
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 6- Alfonso Cuaron and Adam Gough for Roma
3- Tom Cross for First Man, 2- Eddie Hamilton for Mission: Impossible — Fallout, and eleven others with one win.
Who was snubbed: While I think its stunning depth of timing and movement was more about its cinematography, I cannot deny the subtle perfection of Roma’s editing, but that’s not my real personal pick. That distinction goes to Searching for seamlessly and creatively blending the layers of apps and windows in its screens-only dramatic thriller. The movie took ten times longer to edit than shoot, which remarkably shows the effort to achieve it’s look and effect. If the Academy wanted something larger than Searching, First Man was a very deserving piece of work as well.
Happy to be there: Nothing about the simplistic Green Book screams editing achievement. It’s about as standard and simple as films get compared to the other far more challenging pictures.
Who should win: This movie is getting flak for the editing that happened in the screenwriting office, but what isn’t disputable is the clean transitions and concert recreation construction of Bohemian Rhapsody. That LiveAid finale concert alone is stunning editing.
Who will win: Without the three most-honored editing winners (Roma, First Man, Mission: Impossible — Fallout) not included for the Oscars, this becomes a guessing game category. The Vegas odds and my gut says this is the one bone all night thrown in the direction of Vice if only for the cleverness of putting its memory bounces together with skill and a fourth-wall narrator. It won an Eddie Award along with The Favourite, so toss a coin.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The nominees: Hannah Beachler for Black Panther, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas for First Man, Fiona Crombie for The Favourite, John Myhre and Gordon Sim for Mary Poppins Returns, Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez for Roma
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 7- The Favourite, 5- Black Panther, and five others with one win
Who was snubbed: I love seeing Black Panther on here, but this traditionally a category where comic book movies and their wild creativity get overlooked. I’d take Aquaman or Avengers: Infinity War in this final five, even over the eventual winner.
Happy to be there: Much like its sound nomination, this feels like a padded stat for Roma. The movie was sharp with its period design, but not one of the five best of the year.
Who should win: There is no doubt in my mind that Black Panther is the best of this category. The incredible mergers of African textures with futuristic flourishes to create the many wonders of Wakanda is second to none. This shouldn’t even be close and I hate what it’s going to lose to.
Who will win: This happens way too often, but the stuffy and dusty period piece is going to win. The Favourite is straight-up robbing from the masses.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The nominees: Mary Zophres for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Ruth E. Carter for Black Panther, Sandy Powell for The Favourite, Sandy Powell for Mary Poppins Returns, Alexander Byrne for Mary Queen of Scots
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 4- Black Panther, 2- The Favourite
Who was snubbed: Much like production design, I think comic films get the shaft. I’d put Aquaman here over any of the five except for the “should win” pick coming soon. The barnacled and bronzed armors and textures matched with the sea-faring sleek were too good to ignore.
Happy to be there: Two costume design veterans are here by reputation alone. Three-time nominee Mary Zophres and 14-time double 2019 nominee (and three-time winner) Sandy Powell are poaching spots from new blood.
Who should win: For the second category in a row, this should be a Black Panther certainty. Just like the sets, the combination of tribal and modern was striking on all kinds of details and levels.
Who will win: But once again, it’s going to lose to the puffy dresses and corsets of a period piece. Expect The Favourite to steal another one. I’d love to see this change.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR-STYLING
The nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 1- Vice, 1- Black Panther
Who was snubbed: I say this every year, but it is asinine that the Academy can’t give this category a full five nominees each year. There is no harm in adding two more honorees. Put Aquaman and Black Panther in this field.
Happy to be there: Border is your obscure underseen film that gets a “excuse me, which one?” headscratch from even ardent film fans.
Who should win and will win: If all we have are these three, go ahead and give golden credit to the remarkable transformations given to Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, and Tyler Perry in Vice. That’s your one bone thrown to Adam McKay and company.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 6- Avengers: Infinity War, 4- Black Panther, 3- Annihilation, 2- First Man, and four others with one win
Who was snubbed: Feel free to rename this third Oscar Prediction article the “Aquaman Admirers and Academy Antagonizers Assembly.” Director James Wan let the Oscar powers-that-be have it when his superhero blockbuster didn’t even make it past the shortlist. I’d be pissed too, especially considering the “happy” pick next.
Happy to be there: They nominated the wrong CGI bear to put the unremarkable Winnie-the-Pooh from Christopher Robin over the zest and fat better work of Paddington 2. This reeks of another Disney fix to the conspira was theorists.
Who should win: I admire when a film can use traditional and newfangled techniques that are not all CGI to create its visual adornments. That’s First Man with its LED-lit backgrounds and subtle layers making the moonscapes realities.
Who will win: Volume and pizazz win with Avengers: Infinity War. Voters will probably rave about the performance capture of Josh Brolin as Thanos, which is hypocritical in my eyes after failing to reward three Planet of the Apes remakes for superior work in the same field over the last decade. But then, I check the label and see Disney above Avengers and know why this bet is safe.
NEXT: The writing and directing awards
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