Just as soon as we reached the end of the Critical Pile-Up, we hit Guild Mania. Awards season is a chain leading us to Oscar. Like SAG, the various guilds don't have as much overlap with Oscar as people think. Generally speaking the size of the Academy (just under 6,000 last I heard) wouldn't even fill one of the guilds and that includes all types and not just one profession. But it's still quite interesting to see what various artists think of their peers -- it's especially interesting when they look beyond Oscar buzz, which they sadly do less of than they should.
So what did the production designers get excited about this year... at least enough to scribble it's name on a ballot? Let's see...
THE ARTIST Laurence Bennett
HUGO Dante Ferretti
THE HELP Mark Ricker
ANONYMOUS Sebastian Krawinkel
TINKER TAYLOR SOLDIER SPY Maria Djurkovic
This is the category people tend to get most excited about given that it's the one that most closely corresponds to Oscar's way of thinking. Some are already griping that War Horse missed the list but doesn't the cozy pretty storybook look scream "fantasy" rather than "period" -- perhaps they couldn't choose where to put it? Even the barb wire battleground looks less flesh-tearing tangible than gothically spooky movie fantastical. I understand what the film is going for but the choice sometimes feel odd -- especially all the coy looking away at the horrors of war, though that's a directorial thing and has nothing to do with the sets.
On the other hand it's not like Hugo and Anonymous prefer realism to fantasy and they're present so let's move on.
Nice to see Djurkovic score here as her consistent but rangey interiors work is the absolute best think about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -- all those sad beige boxed-in prisons stuffed with information, from cubicles to shafts to bedrooms to libraries to board rooms.
Great Looking Period Films They Didn't Nominate:
A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, The Tree of Life, and W.E.
HARRY POTTER 8 Stuart Craig
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Rick Heinrichs
THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN Recipient TBD
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES John Myhre
COWBOYS & ALIENS Scott Chambliss
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: PART TWO! is, I suspect, Hugo's Dante Ferretti's only competition for the Oscar. Though Stuart Craig has won plenty of Oscars, he's never won for the Harry Potter franchise. I am not the biggest fan of those films as you know but if anyone from the franchise deserves a prize for a decade's worth of work, it's 150% him.
I was super happy to see Captain America here and am quite surprised about Cowboys & Aliens but to be fair to Mr. Chambliss I haven't seen it so perhaps this is a brilliant recognition of fine work within a film people aren't crazy about (a combo I always endorse since the opposite is too often the case, where mediocre work within a great movie is honored, quality by proximity you know).
Very Art-Directed Fantasies They Passed On: The Muppets (Steve Saklad), Thor (Bo Welch) and Hanna (Sarah Greenwood... doing her usual stellar work. She's a gutsy one!)
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Donald Graham Burt
THE DESCENDANTS Jane Anne Stewart
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE K.K. Barrett
DRIVE Beth Mickle
BRIDESMAIDS Jefferson Sage
The contemporary category is where the guild tends to be most heartbreaking, demonstrating their reliance on Oscar buzz in a general sense rather than their own eyeballs in a craft specific sense. I do totally get the inclusion of K.K. Barrett who embraces the magpie like qualities of Extremely Loud's protagonist and though I had a fierce argument about the Drive sets and color palette the other day, but I love them (obviously).
Notably Well Designed Films They Skipped:
Beginners (Shane Valentino), The Skin I Live In (Antxón Gómez), Martha Marcy May Marlene (Chad Keith) and Young Adult (Kevin Thompson) any of which I'd glady argue were equally strong (or stronger) examples of art direction contributing to the emotional DNA of their film.
Could you live inside any of these well-appointed films?