Categories One-By-One: Production Design

Mister Tee
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Re: Categories One-By-One: Production Design

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:17 am

Thanks, dws, for starting this thread up (and for doing a good bit of the heavy duty this year; I've been lax). It was, I believe, our only tech category not so-far covered.

I won't repeat what both of you have eloquently said, but might add two things:

I think the reason so many of the Derby-ites are picking Shape of Water here is a variation on what BJ says: they're buying into the notion that Deakins will finally win in cinematography, and think Shape of Water will have to win one of the two. I don't necessarily agree, but I see the reasoning.

The two choices (and I agree: in my mind, it's down to those two) also offer stark contrast -- even though both involve visual magic, Shape of Water is largely old-fashioned brick and mortar work, while Blade Runner is dominantly virtual. It's like the movie version of Barnes & Noble battling Kindle. (It's only in recent times that this branch even wanted to consider movies constructed in the computer like Blade Runner is.) The Academy will to some extent be voting on the past vs. the future.

As far as dws' larger point, about the way people at other sites seem to want every category to be without suspense...I probably noted it here at the time, but, sometime in the past few years, after BAFTA or SAG didn't numbingly repeat every category, someone at Awards Watch wrote "I was hoping they would settle this" -- and my thought was, why would you want anyone but AMPAS to settle things? Is winning your pool that important to your life?

Besides, we really need to keep in mind that things that for all the world SEEM settled sometimes turn out not. We all of course recall the big shocker at the finish line last year...but we don't give enough attention to the fact that two other categories we thought were nailed shut -- sound mixing and film editing -- went unexpectedly elsewhere. So entertaining doubt where others are falling in line is always worthwhile.

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Re: Categories One-By-One: Production Design

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:00 pm

I'm mostly in agreement with dws on the state of this race, as well as the fact that these are a very typical set of nominees. (In fact, this was the only category other than Best Actress I predicted perfectly.)

Dunkirk's chances at winning seem higher in literally every other category. It's clearly a nominee for being a big-scale production -- with all those period-specific boats and planes colliding with each other throughout the film. But the design just isn't beautiful enough to prevail.

Darkest Hour is on the respectable-but-drab side too, and it doesn't even have the big scope of something like Dunkirk. I assume that if The King's Speech (which I did predict in this category in its year) couldn't prevail here with the heat of being a Best Picture winner, something this small in scale without that level of overall enthusiasm doesn't have a chance. (Also, the war sequences looked pretty cheap.)

In another year, Beauty and the Beast might have been a film like Alice in Wonderland (or The Great Gatsby, or Memoirs of a Geisha) that was so glamorous it picked up both Production and Costume Design trophies despite not being a major candidate overall. And there's obviously a lot of flashy work on display, from Belle's storybook village to the Beast's haunted castle, that will likely get it some votes. But I think it faces two genuine knockouts in this arena, and will likely come up short.

Both The Shape of Water and Blade Runner 2049 would be excellent winners -- both films offered one stunningly inventive set piece after another, that all felt like they fit as part of a cohesive cinematic vision. As I said in the Cinematography thread, I could see both prizes going to the same film, or a split in either direction. If you pressed me on which outcome I think is LEAST likely, it would actually be the split the LA Critics made -- Blade Runner in Production Design, Shape of Water in Cinematography, partly because I think if Deakins can't win his category with the overdue factor in his corner, it's harder to imagine Blade Runner then topping Shape of Water here. Plus, I do think Shape of Water will have to win something for its visual look -- if del Toro is such a strong director candidate for the film's overall vision, it would seem a little crazy for it to be completely denied tech prizes -- and I'd probably lean toward predicting it in this category for that reason, as its strongest shot to take home some kind of design trophy.

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Categories One-By-One: Production Design

Postby dws1982 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:40 pm

The nominees:
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water


The list of nominees isn't all that unusual or surprising. It's mostly the usual types of nominees. But I think it's also a more interesting race than it might seem at first glance. The Art Directors Guild went a bit crazy this year, putting Logan in Contemporary, and putting The Shape of Water in Period. Both of those could've been in Fantasy easily, and based on the concept of the film, I could see a case for Downsizing going there as well. Their rules don't make a lot of sense, honestly, but I'm glad they did this, because by allowing Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water both to win their category, I think they've managed to inject some suspense into a race that might have ended up as just another consensus prediction.

Yeah, the Art Directors Guild putting The Shape of Water in Period means that Dunkirk or Darkest Hour got boxed out of an award they might have otherwise won, but if they had won, I doubt it would've had much impact on the conversation around this race. Which is to say, they're both nice, respectable nominees that recreate a specific time and place (essentially they recreate the same time, but in different places), but they aren't the flashy type of nominee that wins this award unless it's on Best Picture strength. HOWEVER, Lincoln did take this award five years ago, an outcome that I found utterly surprising, because it seemed to be exactly the type of non-flashy Best Picture also-ran that always gets nominated but never wins this category. That said, Lincoln didn't face a very strong lineup; I think Dunkirk and Darkest Hour both have better shots in other tech categories: Darkest Hour in Makeup, Dunkirk in all of them, especially Editing and the Sound awards.

Beauty and the Beast is certainly an eye-catching and opulently-designed movie. But much of it is designed with intentions of evoking the 1991 movie. Alice in Wonderland, which won this category several years ago, and which helped get the "let's remake our animated films" ball rolling, covered much different visual ground than the animated film. Plus, it faced a much weaker ballot, where it really stood from the crowd. I could be wrong, but I don't see it having a great shot here.

Like I said, I'm glad they separated The Shape of Water and Blade Runner 2049 at the Art Directors Guild. If they had both in fantasy, and The Shape of Water had won, it would've turned into an easy consensus pick, one of those categories where absolutely everyone is going to predict the same winner without a second thought. And maybe everyone is still going to predict it. I definitely think it has a really good shot at winning. It's not necessarily a vote I would make, but it wouldn't be a bad winner--Del Toro's dreamworld may not be my thing, but his films certainly create a unique, fully realized world, and the visual environment of the film certainly contributes to that. It seems to be the overall consensus pick--I see Goldderby's "Experts" going for it by a large margin--but I'm not ready to call this race over yet. I think Blade Runner 2049 has a real shot. No, it doesn't have a Best Picture nomination, but it's the kind of movie that most Oscar voters WILL have seen, and it's a visual stunner. I'd probably rate it higher to win Visual Effects and Cinematography, but I could see voters giving it the award here as well.

I will admit that this could just be old-fashioned stubbornness on my part: Whereas the Oscar-blogging world seems to want every race to be over and without suspense, maybe I react too far in the other--over-thinking and and over-analyzing races that aren't really races. This is one of several categories where I still haven't finalized my pick.


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