PART 3: THE VISUAL AND ARTISTIC CATEGORIES
The short turnaround 92nd Academy Awards arrive host-free for the second consecutive year on Sunday, February 9th, barely a month after nominations were announced. The pace has added excitement and urgency right on down to my website’s 2020 Awards Tracker. Let’s start calling some winners. As always, that prognostication data is cited in these predictions. This column examines the visual and artistic categories of designs, editing, effects, and more. As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!
The nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Who should be here: I’ve got two picks for you where one is indie and one is mainstream. On the big end, I thought Hoyte van Hotema’s work in Ad Astra deserved recognition. On the smaller end, Claire Mathon’s dazzling natural beauty for Portrait of a Lady on Fire has won the second most cinematographer awards this season and did not get a nod.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Like much of the talent involved with The Irishman, Robert Richardson is a rightful legend in his field, but other than a few Scorsese specialty long tracks and slo-mo moves, nothing about his camera work is special in the crime epic. His inclusion feels, again like just about all of the The Irishman nominations, like a token resume inclusion.
Who should win and will win: This one is not even close and it’s going to Roger Deakins for 1917. His long takes combining monstrous crane, tracking, drone, and Steadicam work is beyond comparison and some of the insane best in history. That entire movie is a jaw-dropping “how did they do that” reel and it starts with Deakins’ open lenses.
The nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite
Who should be here: Even if the single-take fakery is a gimmick for 1917, it’s a pretty damn well executed one in terms of economy and hidden smoothness from editor Lee Smith. Less is more and he should be there. More in the “more” department, the massive work it took to take thousands of hours of footage and hone the perfect documentary Apollo 11 also deserved consideration. It’s hard for documentaries to crack this category and I’ll never understand why because editing is everything in that medium.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Take all the things I said about Robert Richardson in cinematography for The Irishman and repeat it here for Thelma Schoonmaker. We get it. She’s a legend working for a legend on a big deal film, but, goodness gracious, that movie is night tight, taut, or sharp in editing. There’s a lot of fat on steak, no matter what truck it fell off of.
Who should win: Much like the sound categories, I think this is a spot where Ford v Ferrari should prevail. The work to merge the second unit shots, stunt performances, and acting inserts with practical sets and props over CGI is incredible. It deserves this outlier consideration for the win.
Who will win: I’m going to be daring here and say this one is going to Parasite. Many people love to point to Best Editing as being married to the Best Picture winner, but that only happens about 60% of the time (including last year with Green Book). A Parasite win here could rile some TV viewers up about Parasite’s Best Picture chances, and rightfully so. However, with no 1917 in here, this award goes to the next best and that’s Parasite and, luckily, the craft of the reveals of its thriller match the award itself in a fair way.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Parasite
Who should be here: Even if 80% of the film takes place in a single location, that macabre mansion in Knives Out created by production designer David Crank and his team would have been a fun and eclectic addition to this field. For the single location vote, it looks like Parasite got that spot.
Who should feel lucky to be there: I don’t think any of these five finalists are inferior to the craft and category. Any of them would be excellent winners, even with the Knives Out wish.
Who should win: If my jaw was dropping from the camera work of Roger Deakins in 1917, the trait that dropped it even lower was the towering desolation and created destruction of the outdoor locations and sets for 1917 by Dennis Gassner. He wowed us with Blade Runner 2049 and 1917 is just as good from the guy who cut his teeth carving a baseball field in the corn for Field of Dreams. He’s got an Oscar in his living room from Bugsy but has deserved two or three more.
Who will win: Barbara Ling is a first-time nominee in this category for crafting Quentin Tarantino’s 1969 for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. The industry loves celebrating its golden past and this award is a perfect bouquet thrown to Tarantino’s fairy tale to go with Brad Pitt’s future win. From the cars to the ashtrays, the look of the movie was positively dreamy. This is a worthy winner.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Who should be here: There is no question Black Panther Oscar winner should be there to defend her title, so to speak, with her flamboyant work on Dolemite is My Name. Her work has won more costuming awards this season than any other film. This counts as a slight.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Here’s one more for The Irishman and its parade of resumes. Three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell soaked up the era beautifully for Scorsese’s film, but we’ve seen this work before. Solid as it may be, it’s not a standout. That’s where a swap for Carter would have fit.
Who should win: Movies are a chance to really play with changing looks and characterization. The double volume of on-screen show-within-the-show roles and off-screen main characters in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was outstanding. Like the production design, not a stitch was out of place and always just garish enough to let the actors have fun. It could still win, but we know older period pieces get more love.
Who will win: .That’s why, and it’s not a bad thing, that Little Women finally wins an Oscar during this ceremony and party. Jacqueline Durran is a veteran with solid work who won back in 2012 for Anna Karenina. This is where finery gets its due.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR-STYLING
The nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917
Who should be here: If I were to ask you to close your eyes and picture Elton John, the eyebrows would raise and the wild looks being remembered would be a hoot. That flashy variety in Rocketman should have earned a nomination.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Angelina Jolie and her enhanced cheekbones were enough to get Maleficent: Mistress of Evil a spot in the final five as the weakest of the bunch.
Who should win: It’s not massive, but I really want to put Joker here and not just for Joaquin Phoenix’s frightening look. I think the dinge and class warfare of the movie looked incredible for this award. Give me the daring over the attractive.
Who will win: That’s because attractive is going to win. All you need to do is show a picture of Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly and this category is wrapped up for Bombshell. If you needed a second dose to convince you, try to find John Lithgow inside of that Roger Ailes facade. Game, blouses.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The nominees: Avengers Endgame, The Irishman, 1917, The Lion King, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Who should be here: I’ve dropped this title before and here’s another. Ad Astra has won the second most visual effects awards of the year and it was omitted from the finalists.
Who should feel lucky to be there: So help me God, if The Irishman and its crappy de-aging effects actually win, I’m going to break something. When free software fit for YouTube can do a better job that a nine-figure budget, your work shouldn’t be here to win.
Who should win: Call it lifeless all you want, but when you realize that every shot but one (the opening sunrise, in fact) in The Lion King is completely created from a marriage of CGI and cinematography innovations, you have to bow to that newfangled royalty. Their work and detail is staggering.
Who will win: I’d love to see the 1917 train keep going (and it could), but I’m going to push wishful thinking that the saga-capping effects of Avengers: Endgame take the statuette. I think there’s something worth rewarding with the volume and culmination that is its big ending. I’ve been burned here before in this category when I constantly thought the Planet of the Apes reboot effects would and should win. I think with Marvel it’s different. If it wins, I need ABC to cut to Martin Scorsese for a reaction shot of his magnum opus being beaten by the non-cinema MCU “roller coaster.” Take that, you old coot.
NEXT: The writing and directing awards
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