TECH SUPPORT: Final preview special, part one

Posted by · 10:53 am · January 21st, 2009

Tech Support at In ContentionFive months of Tech Support reach their climax on Thursday morning.

This Canuck is, like the rest of the world, celebrating a new American President today. The fact remains, however, that a new set of Oscar nominees will greet us tomorrow and I can’t help but share my final thoughts on the categories.

This is the first part of my review, including the categories of best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and best Makeup.  We’ll chart the final five fields later today, so be sure to check back.

Best Art Direction
Starting with the most difficult category, there is only one film I would give the title “lock,” and it’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I’d be stunned if Donald Graham Burt’s exquisite sets failed to make the cut.

I suspect that Michael Corenblith is a solid bet for his detailed and realistic sets for “Frost/Nixon.” If “American Gangster” could get in last year, I would surprised if Corenblith did not score, especially considering his past success when working with Howard. James Murakami also seems a solid bet for “Changeling” for what were detailed and memorable designs of 1920s Los Angeles. His guild and BAFTA nominations suggest people remember the work.

The other two ADG period nominees were Bill Groom for “Milk” and David Gropman for “Doubt.” While nominations are certainly possible, I still would not bet on them. Their fellow period nominees have the sort of work this branch tends to embrace more often.

Rather, I’d look to Nathan Crowley to find a nomination for “The Dark Knight.” Though his sets are less fantastical than those on “Batman Begins” (for which he was not nominated), he has once again received BAFTA and guild nominations.  And this film seems poised for a high nomination tally. I think it will be difficult to deny him a nomination.

Also earning an ADG Fantasy nomination was Guy Dyas, for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” The incredibly showy work featured prominently and I’d normally say he’s set for a nomination. That said, the film’s performance this awards season has been very disappointing and Dyas has had trouble in getting a first nomination. I wouldn’t bet that this will get him attention.

And while Kristi Zea did score a BAFTA nomination for her work on “Revolutionary Road,” the lack of a guild nomination, and seemingly underwhelming response to the film, suggests to me that she won’t show up Thursday morning.

Instead, I am going out on a bit of a limb and predicting a contemporary film to score here: Mark Digby’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” The BAFTA-nominated and likely guild-winning work featured numerous castes and areas of India and truly brought the film to life. I suspect the Best Picture frontrunner status will result in a surprising (to many) nomination.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Cinematography
This category seems to have a likely set of nominees: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Reader,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”  That said, I’ll concede to being skeptical that the guild and Oscar nominees will match perfectly for the second consecutive year.

The most vulnerable would appear to be one of the titles on which Roger Deakins worked – “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader” (which was primarily shot by Chris Menges). Even Claudio Miranda could be vulnerable if they do not like his use of digital photography on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

As potential alternatives, I’d look to Mandy Walker for “Australia,” Harris Savides for “Milk,” Eduardo Serra for “Defiance” or Tom Stern for “Changeling.”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Reader”
“Revolutionary Road”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Costume Design
Like in the field of Best Art Direction, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is the only film I would call a lock in this category.

Elsewhere, Michael O’Connor strikes me as a solid bet for “The Duchess,” as do, to a lesser extent, guild nominees Deborah Hopper (for “Changeling”) and Albert Wolsky (for “Revolutionary Road”). I doubt Danny Glicker will be able to convert his guild nomination into an Oscar citation for “Milk,” however. The 1970s is not this branch’s preferred era.

Thus, I predict that this is the one category where “Australia” will show up with a nomination for Catherine Martin. Martin won this award for “Moulin Rouge!” without a guild nomination while she also scored an Oscar nod for “Romeo + Juliet” without being cited by her guild.

Alternatively, I’d look to Lindy Hemming for “The Dark Knight,” Sandy Powell for “The Other Boleyn Girl” (always a threat, even though the guild does not like her), Ann Roth for “The Reader” and maybe even Eiko Ishioka for “The Fall.” But a true surprise would really be no surprise to me. Not many people saw Albert Wolsky coming last year for “Across the Universe.”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Best Film Editing
This category, which historically has a huge crossover with Best Picture, seems like it could go 5/5 this year with Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Lee Smith for “The Dark Knight,” Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley for “Frost/Nixon,” Elliot Graham for “Milk” and Chris Dickens for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The guild went for the same five the Drama category. I see little reason to bet against this lot, though if there were a surprise, look for it in Dan Lebental for “Iron Man” or even Pixar vet Stephen Schaffer for “WALL-E.”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Makeup
After an incredibly strong lot of seven nominees in the bake-off, this is honestly a category I could see going any way. Nonetheless, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is the film I’m most confident in scoring a nomination, given the incredibly important role the aging makeup played in the film, as well as its status as an across-the-board player.

The makeup on “Tropic Thunder” was frankly incredible in my opinion. I’m not just talking about Downey here but also Tom Cruise, “The Fatties” and, most impressively, the ultra-realistic looks of men on the battlefield. Now that it has made the bake-off, I suspect it will find a home among the nominees.

“The Reader” and “Synedoche, New York” both showcased one of this category’s favorite features: aging. That said, I’m not sure which film would have the advantage. The work was done better on Kaufman’s film but Daldry’s is the bigger across-the-board player.

“The Wrestler”’s makeup was also super realistic but not nearly as showy as some of its competitors which makes me think that it will ultimately fail to make the cut.

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” certainly deserves a spot but I’m skeptical the sequel will score where its predecessor failed. But perhaps increased respect for Guillermo Del Toro will push him through?

Rather, I’m still banking on “The Dark Knight” to get the last spot. I’ll admit that the makeup is fundamentally confined to The Joker. However, what iconic makeup! This is not to mention the fact that the film is clearly loved in the industry. (Plus, I’ve been predicting it all year and don’t want to stop now.)

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Tropic Thunder”

Stay tuned for part two later today!

→ 4 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Tech Support

4 responses so far

  • 1 1-21-2009 at 11:34 am

    N8 said...

    Very solidset of predix, Gerard. For the most part I’m in agreement.

    My rule of thumb for makeup is:
    -one slot for detailed aging work
    -one slot for a fantasy picture
    -one slot for a comedy picture

    To that end, I’m going with Button, Hellboy, and Tropic Thunder.

  • 2 1-21-2009 at 12:47 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Am I the only one who thinks Claire Simpson may bizarrely pop up in the Editing field for “The Reader”? I have no idea where the hunch came from, not least because it’s not particularly notable work, but I can’t shake it.

    By the way, Martin got an Art Direction nod for “Romeo + Juliet,” not Costume Design.

  • 3 1-21-2009 at 3:50 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Honesty, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the prospect of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button being nominated for Best Editing. Cinematography, yes. Art Direction, costumes, makeup, and visual effects, absolutely. But the film was NOT well-edited at all. I don’t know if this is likely, or even possible, but Andrew Weisblum would be a far more deserving nominee for his great work on The Wrestler (particularly the way the staple gun match was assembled).

    I’m also hoping against hope that Mark Friedberg and Lydia Marks get some recognition for their excellent work on Synecdoche, New York. The ADG should be ashamed of themselves for failing to even nominate it for their awards (Gran Torino? Are you f—–n’ kinng me?)