Saturday, March 8, 2008

One Category at a Time - Part 6 - Art Direction

The topic of the day is art direction, let's take a look:

Australia (Catherine Martin)
Six years ago, Catherine Martin won two Oscars for her lavish sets and costumes in Baz Luhrmann's brilliant Moulin Rouge!, and now she returns to design the sets for his next big-scale undertaking, Australia. True, this film will feature a lot of outdoor scenery and open wilderness, but I don't think that'll hurt Martin's chances. It didn't stop Jack Fisk and Jim Erikson's nomination for There Will Be Blood this year, and recreating the bombed city of Darwin for this film should be quite a feat itself.

Indiana Jones (Guy Dyas, Larry Dias, Alyssa Winter)
What fun it must be for production designers to work on the Indiana Jones franchise! And what a great opportunity to show your stuff. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy's off on another whirlwind adventure that will take him, as usual, to all sorts of exotic corners of the globe, from Mexico City to the Peruvian rain forest (can you say, “ancient Mayan temples”?). Hopefully, producer George Lucas can resist the temptation to completely digitize all the settings.

Prince Caspian (Roger Ford, Kerrie Brown)
Roger Ford and Kerrie Brown (previously nominated for Babe) were sadly overlooked two years ago for their magnificent work in the first installment of the Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for which they had to convey the dreariness of war-torn England and the serene beauty of a wintry Narnia in their set-pieces. Perhaps the Academy can atone with a nomination for Prince Caspian as the token fantasy film in this category.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo)
David Fincher's production designer of choice, Donald Graham Burt, will be responsible for capturing the changing face of upper-class Baltimore from 1860 to 1930 (according to the original F. Scott Fitzgerald story). Having historically accurate period sets is one thing, but having them evolve with the times makes the effort much more noticeable. I think a first career nomination may be in order.

Red Cliff (Timmy Yip)
The sheer size and scope of this project should be enough for John Woo's film to make the cut. Just watch this trailer:

Production designer Timmy Yip also designed the costumes for this historical epic, and could well be nominated in both categories, much like he did in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (he won for art direction). Of course, if the movie bombs, he could be completely ignored, since foreign films don't get nearly enough exposure in North America. All the same, I bet Timmy Yip will double dip.

Was your mind set on other sets? Which contenders should I have included.

Next up, best animated feature.


Anonymous said...

I think you're missing one film in the Art Direction catagory: "Wall-e."

The Oscar Nazi said...

The production design for WALL-E sure looks impressive from the trailers, but I doubt those curmudgeons at the Academy will nominate a film in which no sets were physically constructed.

Anonymous said...

Why not? The same amount, if not [most likely] MORE work was done.

And "Lord of the Rings" was half fake.

The Oscar Nazi said...

The amount of work done is easy enough for you and me to appreciate, but Academy voters are generally more old fashioned. As soon as a film is labelled as "animated", its chances in visual tech categories shrink dramatically.

I've seen dozens of animated films over the years that I felt deserved to be nominated for art direction, but I'm not the least bit surprised that they weren't. I hope that someday this will change, I just don't think it'll be this year.