Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One Category at a Time: Best Art Direction

I have to congratulate all the production designers and set decorators who did outstanding work in the movies this year. They gave the art direction branch of the Academy an abundance of films from which to choose the nominees. It's a shame that only five could be nominated, there just wasn't enough room for fine contenders like Harry Potter, The Road, or Inglourious Basterds, any of which would have been good enough to win.

Not that they would have, mind you, because Avatar should take this one easily. Robert Stromberg's spectacular and imaginative environments are undoubtedly alien yet unnervingly familiar, as are Rick Carter's monstrous mechanical eye-sores of the intruding humans, all of which were ingeniously designed.

The simplicity of John Myhre's central set piece for Nine allowed Gordon Sim to custom decorate it for each character's musical sequence, wherein lies one of the film's conceptual strengths.

I'll even extend some generosity to two of my least favourite films of the year. Dave Warren and Anastasia Massaro maybe went a bit overboard with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (though I'm more inclined to believe Gilliam's over-ambition was responsible for that), but I'll gladly acknowledge their vivid imagination. I'll also tip my hat to Patrice Vermette's more subtle designs for The Young Victoria, which are refreshingly more reserved than the film's costume overkill.

And finally, Sherlock Holmes, the holiday season's pleasant surprise, made a strong impression with Sarah Greenwood's grimy Industrial-era London and Katie Spencer's appropriately quirky set dressing. It adds a lot to the film, and it may be the only nominee that could possibly challenge Avatar's stranglehold on the category, but don't hold your breath.

Will win: Avatar
Should win: Sherlock Holmes

Should have won: Harry Potter

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