There are so many ways to interpret how voters will approach a category like production design; will they go for period recreations that evoke memories and nostalgia like the art deco of Nightmare Alley or midcentury redesign of New York City that West Side Story do? Will they appreciate the stark and sparse value of The Power of the Dog? What about the German expressionism-inspired creations of The Tragedy of Macbeth, which is entirely design on sound stages? Or will it be the complete world-building of a sci-fi/fantasy epic like Dune?
With 10 nominations and a chance to lead most of the below the line wins, Critics Choice, Art Directors Guild, Set Decorators Society and BAFTA winner Dune should be able to take this. While I think Nightmare Alley is a contender here as well (and a longer shot for West Side Story), either would be quite an upset.
There are historical arguments to be made that Production Design and Costume Design (everything from 2001’s Moulin Rouge! to 2013’s The Great Gatsby to 2018’s Black Panther) can often go hand in hand or that Cinematography and Production Design can (2011’s Hugo, 2016’s La La Land and Mank last year) but plenty of years see splits and Dune has shown some weakness in being able to dominate in other below the line with some guilds, and Nightmare Alley was a hit with critics, the Art Directors Guild and anonymous Oscar voters.
Here are my ranked final Oscar predictions in Production Design.
- Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – CCA, BAFTA, SDSA, ADG
Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
- Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – CCA, BAFTA, SDSA, ADG
Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
- West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – CCA, BAFTA, SDSA, ADG
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) – SDSA, ADG
Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
- The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – SDSA
Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards