What used to be referred to as ‘The Coffee Table Awards’ back in the earlier days of Oscar watching have become much more extravagant and interesting. The 90s, chock full of prestigious period pieces like Shakespeare in Love, Restoration and The Madness of King George dominated the Production Design (then Art Direction) category. The 00s made room for musicals with contained set pieces like Chicago, Sweeney Todd and Moulin Rouge! to win, the action-fantasies of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and classics biopics like The Aviator. The 10s have already seen a wide range of films and production styles win the Oscar with no clear type or style dominating. The heavily CGI production design of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland started off the decade and most recently the elaborate world of Wes Anderson finally snagged an Oscar win with The Grand Budapest Hotel.
This year sees tremendous range continuing with classic, fantasy, science fiction and period pieces galore all vying for those five spots. Right now the top three vote getters (Carol, Suffragette, The Danish Girl) also have comfortable slots in Best Picture and the acting categories so that makes predictions here safe bets. The WWII Cold War era of Bridge of Spies seems safe but the lack of passion in that film has dropped it from predictions across the map. Maybe the announcement of its World Premiere at the New York Film Festival this morning will boost its chances.
The buzz on the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, has shown us that not all big sci-fi films need to use CGI to pad their production design and employs a lot of old school, physical and tactile art direction like the first film did. Will the Academy respond to the craftsmanship even though it’s made it clear that it can and will award sci-fi films who art direction is primarily CGI like Avatar and Gravity?
The $200M blockbuster Cinderella is chock full of the kind of production design the Academy just loves and the success of the film could buoy it into the top 5. That it’s designed by 3-time Oscar winner Dante Ferretti (Hugo, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator) doesn’t hurt.
Cinderella feels like an easy choice here. With 3-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria, The Aviator, Shakespeare in Love) behind the sewing needle, these are some of the most extravagant, colorful and eye-popping costumes of the year. The trifecta of Carol, Suffragette and The Danish Girl show up here again but also Macbeth. The film, which is being dumped in December by The Weinstein Company before being given a VOD death sentence is just the type of film to earn a single Oscar nomination in a category like Costume Design. Think The Tempest a few years ago. With Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) at the helm and a as a nominee just this year for Mr. Turner, this could easily happen. A few outside shots and scattered votes for Bridge of Spies, the elaborate Tale of Tales, the 80s-infused Joy and coming to America film Brooklyn finish off the Gold Rush Gang’s list.
Perhaps one of the most competitive of the tech categories as its filled with some of the biggest names in this group. Emmanuel “El Chivo” Lubeski, who has won this award for the last two years in a row (Birdman this year, Gravity in 2014) is the far away favorite for The Revenant. Using natural light and lots of single takes (as he did in Birdman and Children of Men) the film looks visually breathtaking and if Lubeski were to win again he could be a record-holder in a class by himself. Roger Deakins, who has 12 Oscar nominations in his 40-year career has no wins to his name. A tragedy, to be sure. His lensing has been a part of a Best Picture winner (No Country for Old Men) as well as his being the only nomination from the film (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Prisoners). His range is among the most respected and varied in his field. His Sicario lands him at #2 this month and even though the film is in the running in other tech categories like Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing this could still end up being a sole nomination for the film.
Don’t forget, you can always get up to the minute Oscar predictions from the Gold Rush Gang on all of our 2016 Oscar Prediction Charts:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
BEST FILM EDITING
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
BEST SOUND EDITING
BEST SOUND MIXING
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS