I am already having withdrawal symptoms from this year”s Oscar race. I don”t need to repeat the litany of reasons this has become a unique year in Oscar history. I”ve loved (almost) every minute of it. SO many categories are exceptionally tight races. The crafts categories are no exception and there are many below-the-line artists to cheer for this year.
I think the Oscar Guides have been superb this year, and I don”t mean to duplicate them, so I”ll try to cut to the chase as I give a final preview of the 10 crafts categories set to be awarded at Sunday’s 85th annual Academy Awards.
An absolutely gorgeous Best Picture nominee with BFCA and BAFTA victories, it will be hard to deny “Life of Pi” and Claudio Miranda a victory, especially given the recent triumphs of 3D Best Picture nominees “Hugo” and “Avatar” in this category. This is an even more impressive feat behind the camera.
But Roger Deakins”s extraordinary lensing of “Skyfall” wowed virtually everybody, including his fellow cinematographers, who gave him his third ASC win. This masterful DP is on his 10th nomination without a win. If they were the only people voting, I”m guessing he”d triumph. But they aren”t.
Janusz Kaminski could well win a third Oscar one of these years but “Lincoln” would have had to have been a bigger player in the Best Picture race for it to be the one. Seamus McGarvey (“Anna Karenina”) and Robert Richardson (“Django Uncahined”) will also have to be content to enjoy the show.
Prediction: “Life of Pi” (alt. “Skyfall)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
CDG-, BFCA- and BAFTA-winning Jacqueline Durran looks poised for a win for her gorgeous period threads for “Anna Karenina.” But beauty and period wasn”t everything – the memorable use of colors and styles showed us quite a bit about the characters. The film may not be the most respected on the whole (not that it was critically maligned), but this category hasn”t minded going its own way in recent years. See: “The Young Victoria,” “The Duchess,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and “Marie Antoinette.”
If there is an upset, it will almost certainly be from “Les Misérables” outfitter Paco Delgado. This also is prestige, period work across many social classes. The film could upset in Best Production Design, to which this category used to be tied at the hip. But Durran seems such a likelier winner, and the two categories have actually gone in different directions in five of the past six years.
Joanna Johnston can celebrate finally being an Oscar nominee for “Lincoln” but as painstakingly detailed and effective as her work is, I can”t see it trumping the other gorgeous and showy films. AMPAS favorite Colleen Atwood is usually either firmly in the race for the win or a happy to be a nominee. She”s in the latter camp this year. It is lovely to see the late Eiko Ishioka get a final nomination for “Mirror Mirror,” but she”s not winning for a March-released children”s movie with no other nominations, posthumous guild award in the fantasy category or not.
Prediction: “Anna Karenina” (alt. “Les Misérables”)
BEST FILM EDITING
With BAFTA and ACE wins behind him, I think William Goldenberg will be very difficult to stop for his suspenseful cutting of “Argo.” Best Picture winners have a major advantage in this category by virtue of that status alone. Goldenberg”s editing fits the mold of a winner on top of that. This is probably just behind Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song in terms of locked up crafts categories.
Goldenberg’s principal competitor is likely himself for “Zero Dark Thirty,” which he co-edited with Dylan Tichenor. The early favorite/BFCA winner faded with the film but it has some of the showiest editing in it’s final act. “Showy” was enough for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” last year. But last year didn”t feature a film like “Argo” in contention.
“Lincoln” (Michael Kahn), “Life of Pi” (Tim Squyres) and “Silver Linings Playbook” (Jay Cassidy & Crispin Struthers) would need to be the beneficiaries of some sort of unexpectedly big night for their films. Not impossible, but not likely.
Prediction: “Argo” (alt. “Zero Dark Thirty”)
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
I”m sticking with my intuition from the Oscar Guide that “Les Mis” will ride its Best Picture nomination, and now BAFTA win, to a victory here. But it”s not a sure thing. Despite being period and featuring aging, it actually has the least “look-at-me” work of the three nominees. We”ll see what favors hairstyling does. And that”s normally bad news in this category.
I could easily see either the ode to old Hollywood that turned a famous star into a Hollywood icon (“Hitchcock”) or the fantasy movie with lots of monsters (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”) winning. Both those tricks are Academy favorites.
Prediction: “Les Misérables” (alt. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”)
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
This is not an easy category, but I”m continuing to go with Mychael Danna largely for reasons I stated in my Oscar Guide. Like the cinematography and visual effects, music was key in building the mood for this film. And he”s won the Golden Globe, albeit just the Golden Globe. And being a newcomer in this insular category shows a lot in and of itself. A newbie usually wins when nominated.
But no one can be ruled out. Alexandre Desplat could triumph if “Argo” pulls a sweep of sorts. John Williams”s BFCA-winning “Lincoln” score may be subtle but I”ve remained convinced for years he”s got to win once more, no? And Dario Marianelli”s lush compositions for “Anna Karenina” surely demand the admiration of more ears than just mine.
However, it”s ultimately Thomas Newman, who I originally assumed was a filler nominee, who I”m guessing may have the best chance of pulling off an upset. The film”s music is obviously highlighted by Adele”s song. But Sam Mendes”s insistence on Newman”s work being featured is a nice bonus. Plus, surely some voters must know he”s on his 11th nomination without a victory? He”s already won a BAFTA.
Prediction: “Life of Pi” (alt. “Skyfall”)
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
I said basically everything that needed to be said in the Oscar Guide. Though maybe I didn”t say it succinctly enough: This is Adele”s. Big star, big hit, great song, easiest place to cite a clearly admired movie? She won”t lose.
Prediction: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (alt. n/a)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
BFCA and ADG winner “Anna Karenina” seems like a great bet: lush, period, foreign, noticeable. It also feels like the right time to award Sarah Greenwood. But is it losing steam? I fear so. While I remain confident that it will hold on in Best Costume Design, I feel less assured here.
Eve Stewart”s recent win at BAFTA for “Les Misérables””s very impressive sets could be a sign that momentum is shifting, or at the very least, an indication of how a wide body views this field. Stewart”s very noticeable period work is also the sort that usually does quite well in this category.
“Life of Pi””s fantastical creations are also a possibility (think of the categories that “Avatar” won), especially in light of its guild win in the fantasy category. But it just doesn”t seem right in the face of the two other nominees. But I”ve never understood the big deal about David Gropman”s work here.
“Lincoln””s painstaking detail is likely too subtle in the absence of a Best Picture victory. And “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a just along for the ride.
Production: “Anna Karenina” (alt. “Les Misérables”)
BEST SOUND EDITING
It takes a special sort of cinephile to get truly excited about the race for Best Sound Editing. But I sure am. Of the 10 crafts categories, this is the most open in my view. This week alone, I”ve had three different films in my head as the projected victor.
Both “Argo” and especially “Life of Pi” are plausible winners. The former could benefit from a sweep overall while the latter could pull a “Hugo” mini-sweep in the crafts categories (it even has “Hugo””s sound editors!), especially with the effects created by the water and the animals. Kris made a very convincing case for it on Tuesday.
I do have a hunch – and I can”t explain it as any more than that – that Paul N.J. Ottosson could earn his third golden guy this year for “Zero Dark Thirty.” I admit this could be bias, but I found the sound effects stuck out in this film, in a good way. I had a similar hunch about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” winning Best Film Editing last year and that panned out. And while AMPAS likely does not feel obliged to give the film a win, this is its best chance, in my opinion.
Instead, though, I”m going to go with my original intuition: “Skyfall.” A prestigious action flick sticks out in a category otherwise occupied by Best Picture contenders, but none of which have clearly established themselves as a favorite. It won a big prize at the MPSE Awards on Sunday, and the film is clearly respected. It fits the mold of a winner. I also continue to have a perverse intuition that the movie will win Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing, but lose its other three nominations, where Roger Deakins, Thomas Newman and Greg P. Russell have 37 nominations between them without a win. A more poetic reason to win, as the golden anniversary of Bond is celebrated, is that this franchise”s first win was in this category”s predecessor as “Goldfinger” won Best Sound Effects in 1964.
Finally, Wylie Stateman knows a thing or two about continual nominations without a win. He has more nominations than any other nominee this year (six), but he”s one of only two without a victory. (All eight nominees have been nominated before.) I think he”s least likely to win, alas.
Prediction: “Skyfall” (alt. “Zero Dark Thirty”)
BEST SOUND MIXING
I desperately want to predict Greg P. Russell to win this category for “Skyfall.” Not only do I think the mixing that he and Scott Millan created was the best of the nominees but this is the sort of prestigious action film that can triumph in this category (think “Inception” or “The Bourne Ultimatum”). The film is clearly respected in the industry beyond its crafts elements, which differs this title from many of the films for which Russell has been nominated before.
Alas, Russell knows what it”s like to lose to musicals (“Chicago,” “Ray,” “Dreamgirls”). “Les Misérables,” with a crew anchored by Andy Nelson, has already won the CAS and BAFTA awards. Plus, unlike most musicals, it features not only music – sung live at that – but also the noises of a failed revolution. Nelson is also nominated this year for “Lincoln,” the one film in this category to have no chance whatsoever of winning. But his one previous win (“Saving Private Ryan”) also came in a year when he was double-nominated (“The Thin Red Line”). Like William Goldenberg (the year”s other double-nominated crafts contender), Nelson looks likely to reach the winner”s circle.
Remember this, however: “Walk the Line” missed the win after winning both the CAS and BAFTA seven years ago, as did “King Kong,” a prestigious blockbuster from an Oscar-winning director at that!
“Argo” would need to benefit from the film sweeping. I don”t think that will happen. Does anyone really think this was the year”s best sound mix? But it”s possible. The wins of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Last Emperor” (to go way back) spring to mind. And “Life of Pi””s extraordinary water noises could lead it to a victory, especially if, as noted above, it accumulates a tally of wins similar to “Hugo.”
Prediction: “Les Misérables” (alt. “Skyfall”)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
See best Original Song, except moreso. Everything that needs to be said I said in the Oscar Guide for this category. In fact, I likely overstated the chances of the four nominees not titled “Life of Pi.”
Prediction: “Life of Pi” (alt. n/a)
Well that”s it. I don’t feel exceptionally confident in my predictions of the major categories this year and feel only slightly better about the crafts…I love it!
So, in summation: two categories (Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects) are locked with the key thrown away. Two more (Best Film Editing and Best Costume Design) may seem locked but I feel the key is around somewhere. Four (Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing and Best Production Design) have easily discernible favorites that I won”t bet against but I still have doubts. And then two more (Best Makeup and Hairstyling and especially Best Sound Editing) are COMPLETELY open.
What do you think? What are your predictions in the crafts fields? Your hopes? Your fears? Let us know below!