Tag Archives: production design

Oscar Predictions – Tech Fields: Cameras, Costumes, Makeup, Design, and FX


Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is part 2 in a 6-part series, in which you will find a quick breakdown of each category, accompanied by ranked predictions. Also be sure to check out the complete OSCAR PREDICTIONS page (in the menu up top), which will be continually updated throughout the week. This is your grand guide to this Sunday’s big night!

Best Cinematography

Gravity‘s Emmanuel Lubezki is long overdue. He has several nominations in his belt but no wins. Even with his amazing career, this is his best work to date. The film is the strongest contender for Best Picture, and it’s tech-work has swept everything so far. Oh and 3D movies have won this award 3 out of the last 4 years (and there was no 3D nominee the year Inception won.) This win is almost the surest thing of the night, but if there’s a spoiler, here’s how that might play out: Inside Llewyn Davis only got 2 nominations, despite its critical respect. This might be the best place to vote for it for those who think it deserves something. Black and white photography often has an advantage when it’s in play, and while Nebraska‘s lens-work is highly notable for more than just the medium, voters may just “vote for the B&W one.” Roger Deakins has more nominations without a win than any cinematographer, and just about any living person ever. But as its only nod, Prisoners won’t get him his first win. The Grandmaster is just happy to be here.

1. Gravity
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. Nebraska
4. Prisoners
5. The Grandmaster

Best Costume Design

In the tech categories “best” is often misinterpreted as “most”, and in Costumes (as in Production Design) there is now film with more on screen than the extravagant The Great Gatsby. Despite the film’s overall lukewarm (and that’s being kind) reception, it has been leading the charge. It has major competition, though, from huge Best Picture players and nomination leader. American Hustle is jam-packed with outlandish, scene-stealing disco-era threads. And 12 Years a Slave, while more modest, just surprised with a Costume Designers Guild Award. The Invisible Woman is full of the kind of great Victorian outfits that win here all the time, but did anybody actually see it? Again, The Grandmaster is just happy to be here. Also, let’s take a moment to remember that the best costume work of the year by far wasn’t even nominated: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should be at the top of this list.

1. The Great Gatsby
2. American Hustle
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. The Invisible Woman
5. The Grandmaster

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This should be pretty cut and dry. The Lone Ranger did have some quality work, but it was a box office failure. With the entire Academy voting on the category, movies that actually lose money are rarely rewarded. Bad Grandpa actually had very impressive makeup. The old man prosthetics not only looked authentic – Johnny Knoxville quite literally disappeared into his role – but were able to hold up to the brutality of the Jackass-style stunts. It could be a dark horse. But in the end, only one of these is a respected movie and a Best Picture nominee. Add to that the recent news that Dallas Buyers Club‘s impressive makeup work was done on an absolutely minuscule budget of only $250. If American Hustle‘s iconic hairdos were in the mix it might be a tighter race, but as it is, I think we have a pretty clear winner.

1. Dallas Buyers Club
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. The Lone Ranger

Best Production Design

This may be one of the most wide open races this year. Any one of these could conceivably win. All three major Best Pic contenders, and 4th strong nominee are duking it out, but again it seems The Great Gatsby’s opulence might have a slight edge. It won the Art Director’s Guild Award, along with Her and Gravity. But the latter 2 didn’t have to compete with Hustle or Slave. Slave might have a slight advantage there if Hustle loses votes to Gatsby. Personally I think the amazing near-future designs of Her should take this, but realistically it’s probably closer to the back of the pack. Gravity probably has the most subtle work in this arena, but even it could take the award in a sweep. This is a tough one!

1. The Great Gatsby
2. 12 Years a Slave
3. American Hustle
4. Her
5. Gravity

Best Visual Effects

And from wide open to completely closed, locked, bolted, and shuttered: This is by far the easiest category to call. This award was sealed within the first 10 minutes of Gravity’s first premier way back at the Telluride Film Festival. Nothing else even comes close, so ranking is a bit pointless. I would’ve put Pacific Rim at a distant #2, if it hadn’t been surprisingly and unfairly snubbed.

1. Gravity

7. Iron Man 3
8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
9. Star Trek: Into Darkness
10. The Lone Ranger


Check out the other parts of the Oscar Predictions Series here:
Part 1 – Animated, Foreign, Doc, and Short Films
Part 2 – Technical Categories (Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Production Design, and Visual Effects)
Part 3 – Sound and Music
Part 4 – Storytelling (Editing and Screenplays)
Part 5 – Acting
Part 6 – Picture and Director

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Review – Her


In the near future, a lonely sad sack falls in love with his artificially intelligent computer operating system. From a description of the synopsis it would seem Her’s thesis is all about our increasing connection to our technology, but in fact it has far more to say about the very nature of relationships. The film examines their very concept and how we form them and what it means to fall in love. It explores the expansive grey spectrum between platonic and romantic.

In doing so, writer/director Spike Jonze completely reinvents the romance genre. Up to now “Romance” has mostly become a tired, clichéd amalgam of tropes that rarely provides its passions with a foundation of true heart or warmth or depth, and hasn’t had anything new to say in ages. But Jonze digs deeper and uncovers a world of untapped beauty and complexity. His characters – despite the ostensibly “fantasy” setting – ring truer than most as they hold up a mirror to those of us sitting in the audience.

Joaquin Phoenix gives a remarkable performance. He is on screen the entire movie, and in a sense he has to carry the emotions of two characters in his face, as Samantha the operating system doesn’t have a face to express. That said, Scarlet Johansson finds a way to telegraph those wordless emotions expertly through a voice-only performance. Amy Adams, as the best friend, is fantastic as well. (I far prefer her here than her super-sexualized role in American Hustle.)

Arcade Fire’s score is more subtle than I would’ve expected from them, and perfectly complements the tone and atmosphere. But the real behind-the-scenes star is the work by production designer K.K. Barrett. It’s a simple subtle vision of the near future. Fashions, with the exception of a penchant for high-waited pants, aren’t all that different from today as you would expect from a “futuristic sci-fi.” Art and décor has a minimalist beauty. And the technology mixes modern and natural, from a brown leather-backed pocket computer to a gorgeous sleek wood-paneled desktop monitor. (Apple, get on this – I want that desktop for myself!!!)

Her received 5 Oscar nominations for Original Screenplay, Production Design, Score, Song, and Best Picture. All are richly deserved, and I would be excited if any of them won.

When I published my Top 10 list at the beginning of the year, this was the film I was most concerned about possibly leaving out, but it hadn’t opened in St Louis yet. Now that I’ve seen it, I know my concerns were warranted. If I can change my list (and I can, because it’s mine!), Her would tie with Nebraska for #2, right behind The Wolf of Wall Street and ahead of Gravity.

Tagged , , , , , , ,