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Sunday
Oct 06 2019

The Best Production Design Oscar Race

By Cláudio Alves

Will a Tarantino movie finally be nominated for Best Production Design?

Let's take a look at the Best Production Design Oscar race.While period pieces and fantasy extravaganzas dominate the costuming category,production designers are more open to other styles,too,like sci-fi,contemporary excellence,and even superhero movies.That said,at least in regards to the films that have already opened,the major contenders are roughlythe same as with the Best Costume Design Oscar race.

THOSE WE'VE ALREADY SEEN

Rick Heinrichs designed Dumbo's spectacular sets.

Rick Heinrichs won an Oscar for a previous collaboration with Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow) and his designs forDumboare quite good,like nightmare visions of an Art Deco Disneyland.I'm less enchanted with Gemma Jackson's pseudo-Arabian designs,but it would be foolish to countAladdinout of the race...

The likeliest contender seems to beOnce Upon a Time… in Hollywood.Barbara Ling beautifully recreates the Los Angeles of 1969 as well as several movie sets whose fakeness is as deliberate as it is delightful.It's about time a Tarantino movie was nominated for the Best Production Design Oscar.

Ad Astra is a triumph of design.

Ad Astra,another Brad Pitt movie,is a staggering achievement of futurism married to a disarming sense of mundanity.Kevin Thompson's sets feel both alien and familiar.The same could be said ofJoker,whose early 80s urban landscape is an echo of the New York of yore but also seems wrong,like a corrupted memory.Considering all the buzz surrounding the movie,I wouldn't be surprised to see the talented Mark Friedberg nominated (except for the fact that they've yet to honor him).

Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight (2008) were both nominated for Best Production Design.

Unlike the Venice winner,Downton Abbeydoesn't ever try to make its audience uncomfortable.It's an exercise in meeting the viewer's expectations and giving them exactly what they want – elaborate drawing rooms and royal dinners,military parades and busy kitchens.Its greatest obstacle will probably be the snobbery of the Academy when facing a production that started on TV.

In Parasite,social hierarchies are materialized by architecture.

Moving on from the historical past,we haveParasite.Bong Joon-Ho's masterpiece has,without a doubt,some of the best production design of the year.Still,you can't be too confident about a Korean film set in modern times getting into the craft categories,despite the unanimous critical acclaim.

LIKELY CONTENDERS WE'VE YET TO SEE

Can The Aeronauts soar to a nomination?

Little WomenandThe Aeronautsboth promise 19th century environments and,in one case,an ostentatious balloon.For the 20th century we have two war-time films.1917's Denis Gassner,an Academy favorite working within a genre this category has generously appreciated in the recent past.Jojo Rabbitis also a possibility but Oscar is tricky to predict when it comes to comedic designs.

What the Academy seems to love without reserve is good midcentury sets,so don't be surprised to seeThe Irishman's Bob Shaw,Ford v Ferrari's François Audouy orMotherless Brooklyn's Beth Mickle among the eventual nominees.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodis also a strong contender.

Never doubt the power of nostalgia.

Finally,we haveCats.There's always some visual effects extravaganza nominated for Best Production Design and this branch's love for movie musicals is almost as intense as the Golden Globes'.We should also consider that all of Tom Hooper's movies sinceThe King Speechhave been nominated in this category and he's once again working with Eve Stewart,one of the best.At four nominations and no wins she's heading into overdue territory.Will this be her time to win,at last?

Cats looks terrifying but that might not deter Oscar's adoration.Which films do you think they'll go for?

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Reader Comments (2)

Ad Astra would be a fantastic choice.All those space stations are incredibly well designed,and it'd be exciting for a James Gray film to finally get nominated somewhere.I have no doubt in my soul that Cats will get nominated,and it brings me no happiness.

October 6,2019 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

Whenever we think of production design,we always think of sumptuous and elegant sets,forgetting that dirty places and arid landscapes are the work of an artist,as in Parasite.The Academy nominates and even awards bad/not so great movies if they think that "specific item"in that given movie is deserving.Suicide Squad,whatever you say about it,has a highlight in its makeup work.Other films that don't have a high reputation today and even at the release time had ruthless reviews but garnered Oscar nominations I can remember three - I saw them: Two with Brooke Shields,very young and gorgeous: The Blue Lagoon,1980 (nominated for the cinematography by the master Nestor Almendros),a box office hit.The other is Endless Love,1981,with the Oscar-nominated eponymous song with the voices of Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross that played extensively throughout the 1980s and is more remembered than the movie.A third is an end-of-the-world flick with Paul Newman,Jacqueline Bisset and William Holden,When Time Ran Out,1980,terrible and brainless but worth a peek for the cast of stars,a Towering Inferno with a volcano on a paradise island.A rare example of contemporary Oscar nominated film for Costume Design.Despite the terrible reviews and disaster also at the box office.

October 6,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

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