TECH SUPPORT: Analyzing the nominees

Posted by · 11:53 am · January 28th, 2011

So the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations were finally announced this week, and I did fairly well in handicapping the nominees. Outside of Best Sound Mixing, I never missed more than one nominee in a category. Unfortunately, there were no categories where I scored 100% (apart from Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay). Oh well.

The massive overall tally for “The King’s Speech” resulted from a plethora of nominations in the crafts fields. “True Grit” and “Inception” got all but one plausible tech nomination (with one very notable exception for each, discussed below). “TRON Legacy”’s tally, on the other hand, has got to be considered a disappointment as must, to a lesser extent, those of “Black Swan” and “127 Hours.” The complete shut-out for “Shutter Island” was also somewhat of a surprise, but other branches saw fit to make Oscar nominees of some unlikely titles.

Regardless, it was nice to see many deserving crafts artists get their due. With the throat-clearing out of the way, I’ll now give short reactions to – and previews of – each below-the-line field.

Best Art Direction

Four of the nominees here were totally expected.  Stuart Craig ultimately managed to sneak in for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” I still do not understand how this branch has decided when and when not to cite him for this series, but this is now the only category where the franchise has managed three nominations. I very much doubt he’ll be able to win but perhaps next year he’ll get his due? The return to Gringotts will likely help.

As for the race to win, it seems as though a potential sweep factor gives “The King’s Speech” a huge advantage in this category, though the fact that “Inception” has done so well in the precursors and “Alice in Wonderland” in many ways has the most noticeable art direction means that things aren’t over yet.

Best Cinematography

Here the nominees mirrored those of the ASC exactly, which is rare.  I thought Robert Richardson’s work on “Shutter Island” would manage to sneak in over Jeff Cronenweth’s on “The Social Network” (the branch is usually not generous to digital work), but I was hardly surprised to be wrong. The only other mildly surprising omission is Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak for “127 Hours.”

As for the win, the comparative nomination tallies for “Inception” and “True Grit” mean that Roger Deakins may *finally* earn his first statuette this year.

Best Costume Design

Nominations for veterans Jenny Beavan and Colleen Atwood were totally expected and they will be battling it out for the win. Atwood’s work in “Alice in Wonderland” is showier, and she is beloved in the industry.  But the prestige surrounding royalty, and the massive nominations tally for “The King’s Speech,” lead me to believe that Beavan will be winning for the first time in 24 years.

Mary Zophres got her first nomination for “True Grit” after years of working with the Coen Brothers. Sandy Powell, on the other hand, earned her ninth citation, for “The Tempest.” This may seem somewhat surprising on the surface given the film’s reception, but it is not when you consider: a) we are talking about Sandy Powell; b) this branch often does not care about a film’s reception; and c) Julie Taymor’s movies are now 4/4 in this category, even though only one of them managed to score outside of it.

A total surprise, however, was Antonella Cannarozzi’s nomination for “I Am Love.” The costumes, though delightful, were contemporary, on a small, atypical film with no nominations and no precursor support in this category.

Best Film Editing

I predicted that the five nominees in this category would come from six titles, and I was right. But I could not have predicted what would be left out. For the biggest snub of the entire day – even more than Christopher Nolan’s absence from Best Director, if you ask me – has to be the astonishing omission of Lee Smith for his work on “Inception.” This film was an incredible feat of editing, where time frames played an essential role in the plot. I thought Smith was going to win this category. I guess not.

I do not mean to take anything away from Andrew Weisblum (“Black Swan”), Pamela Martin (“The Fighter”), Tariq Anwar (“The King’s Speech”), Jon Harris (“127 Hours”) and likely winners Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (“The Social Network”) – but they should be counting their lucky stars.

Best Makeup

Once again, the makeup branch surprised us, by omitting the perceived frontrunner in this category (“Alice in Wonderland”) in addition to two Best Picture contenders (“The Fighter” and “True Grit”).

Instead, for the first time in more than 20 years, each of the nominees in this category is the sole representative of its film – “Barney’s Version” (showing this branch’s love of aging), “The Way Back” (keeping alive the Peter Weir’s streak of always earning at least one nomination lately) and “The Wolfman” (another Rick Baker transformation key to the plot of the film). I think strong cases could be made for any of these three films as the winner, which I will develop more over the next few weeks.

Best Music (Original Score)

The three films I most expected to score here managed to follow through: “Inception” (Hans Zimmer), “The King’s Speech” (Alexandre Desplat) and “The Social Network” (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

Danny Elfman didn’t make it for “Alice in Wonderland,” but I am hardly surprised. John Powell, however, finally earned his first nomination for his lovely “How to Train Your Dragon” score and A.R. Rahman returns to the race for “127 Hours” two years after winning this award.

I must say I’m quite pleased with these nominees and look forward to seeing the winner. I suspect the race will be between Desplat and Reznor/Ross.

Best Music (Original Song)

This category only produced four nominees this year, three of which were utterly predictable. The “Golden Globe curse” recommenced, however, leaving out “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque.” “Bound to You” from “Burlesque” also was not nominated and Paramount’s strong campaign for “Shine” from “Waiting for Superman” did not pay off either, with the last spot going to “Coming Home” from “Country Strong.”

I’d say the battle for the win will be between “If I Rise” and “We Belong Together.” But who knows?  You can read Kris’s dissection of the field in today’s Oscar Guide.

Best Sound Editing

I correctly predicted “Inception” and “True Grit” to get nominations both here and in Best Sound Mixing and “Toy Story 3” and “TRON Legacy” to score here despite missing there. What I did not expect was that for there to only be a 2/5 matchup between the two categories – usually it is 4/5 so I thought 3/5 was a risky prediction.

It was “Unstoppable” that ultimately surprised somewhat (I had mentioned it before as an outside shot), giving Mark Stoeckinger his third nomination in this category. I’ll add that Stoeckinger and “TRON Legacy”’s Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague are the first nominees in this category to be the only nominees from their first films since “Minority Report” eight years ago.

Despite its inexplicable misses from Editing and Directing, I still think “Inception” is well-poised to triumph in this category.

Best Sound Mixing

Again, “Inception” and “True Grit” led the way here, and I see no reason to revisit my belief that Nolan’s film will triumph. I also correctly predicted that “The Social Network” would take its sweep into this category, as it did at the CAS, but could not have expected “The King’s Speech” to do the same.  Oh well.  I think I would take it over “Shakespeare in Love” scoring here a dozen years ago.

Finally, we see a more inspired unexpected choice in Scott Millan and Greg P. Russell finding a home here for “Salt.” The mixing on this film was very well done and these two are beloved by the branch. The film also becomes the first to receive its sole nomination in this field since “The Mummy” 11 years ago.

Best Visual Effects

As noted above, the tally for “TRON Legacy” has got to be considered a disappointment, not only because of its absence in Best Sound Mixing but even more so because of its absence here. The de-aging of Jeff Bridges may have been criticized but I thought the look of the film would have overcome that. I guess not…

Instead, the Academy’s effects branch chose to look to Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” as the final nominee, joining a quartet of the generally expected.

I’d say “Inception” is all but assured to win here. Then again, I thought the same for “Transformers” three years ago.

So there you go. We’ll discuss the race, and its contenders, more in depth over the next few weeks.

[Photos: Warner Bros. Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures]




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25 responses so far

  • 1 1-28-2011 at 12:16 pm

    Pablo (BOG) said...

    I personally hate the song from 127 hours. It’s a bit annoying. I thinks it’s going to be Toy Story (Newman has not won since Monsters Inc).

    Art Direction is great. I love Harry Potter and really hope Part 2 gets nominated in at least 5 categories (which will be pretty hard with Tintin being released in september).

    I dont personally think Deakins is locked for Cinematography. I know people say it’s what the Academy loves but I’m certain of that. TKS love could sweep or maybe they will surprise us like last year and go modern (Black Swan or Inception).

    Costume Design probably will go to TKS. My favourite is I Am Love but that aint happening.

    Score should go to Zimmer or TSN. Desplat has been better before.

    Both sound categories should go to Inception.

    Visual effects will probably go to Inception but we could be surprised. Dont think so but its probable.

  • 2 1-28-2011 at 12:26 pm

    Yogs said...

    Art Direction
    Will win: The King’s Speech
    Should win: Inception

    Costume Design:
    Will win: Alice in Wonderland
    Should win: Alice in Wonderland

    Cinematography:
    Will win: True Grit
    Should win: True Grit or The Social Network
    (i love Deakins and i love the film (TSN), so it’s hard for me to choose one)

    Best Film Editing
    Will/Should win: The Social Network

    Best Makeup
    Will win: The Way Back (i don’t know, i think that because is the more ‘respectable’ film of the bunch)
    Should win: i have no idea

    Original Score
    Will /Should win: The Social Network

    Original Song:
    Will win: the Randy Newman one
    Should win: none

    Sound Mixing and Editing:
    Will/should win: Inception

    Visual Effects:
    Will/Should win: Inception

  • 3 1-28-2011 at 12:39 pm

    Hans said...

    I would love for the Inception snubs to translate into some sort of sympathy tech sweep for the film (not that it would be undeserving), but that’s probably wishful thinking.

    Transformers: ROTF I believe was a sole nominee in Sound Mixing last year.

  • 4 1-28-2011 at 12:55 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I’ve actually been thinking that the Inception snubs WILL equate to a lot of tech love. Just feel it.

  • 5 1-28-2011 at 1:07 pm

    The Great Dane said...

    Transformers not winning was a joke. “The Golden Compass” only won because of the Academy giving an anti-vote to Transformers.

    Hey, I’m no Transformers fan an couldn’t even get through the second one, but the effects in the first won were almost historic. Guess Michael Bay is THAT unpopular.

    How many Academy members even SAW “The Golden Compass”? No one in their right mind would be able to explain why the effects in Golden Compass were better than the effects in Transformers…

    I agree with won thing: Inception should have won editing this year. Cutting back and forth between the “dream layers”, the slow motion, the action, was this year’s best feat in that category. HOW did this happen? Inception is well-regarded (unlike Transformers). Admitting you hated it is almost like admitting you didn’t understand it, and the box-office, the reviews, the sensation… HOW DID IT GET OVERLOOKED FOR EDITING?

  • 6 1-28-2011 at 1:15 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Inception isn’t a perfect film. But it is my editing win by a considerable margin. TSN is my 2nd. I really don’t know how it missed a nom. That’s still stunning to me.

  • 7 1-28-2011 at 1:20 pm

    Hero said...

    I’ve just got to say that I saw 127 Hours today, and I’m shocked that it missed out on Sound Editing. I’m thinking in one of your earlier Tech Support columns you mentioned that even lay people notice the sound in that movie, and I’m living proof of that truth. Then again, maybe the sound experts know better and are looking for something I’m not sophisticated enough to recognize, because sound is hardly something I know a lot about, but damn I loved the sound in 127.

  • 8 1-28-2011 at 1:54 pm

    ann said...

    The Hollywood reporter asked the president of editing branch to explain the inception editing snub — he said that it was not a surprising snub as it want over many people heads.

  • 9 1-28-2011 at 2:15 pm

    Hans said...

    I’m dumbfounded when I hear statements like that. Inception was not a hard movie to follow at all, and could have been much worse without Lee Smith at the helm.

  • 10 1-28-2011 at 2:22 pm

    darklayers said...

    Ann, I saw the same story. He did say it went over people’s heads, but was it the president of editing branch. I thought it was a former ACE president who won ACE and the Academy? (Alan Heim).

    Also, in their words, he offered his theories.

  • 11 1-28-2011 at 2:30 pm

    Paul said...

    This was the quote:

    Speaking of Inception, he says, “The film was so incredibly complex, I think a lot of it went over the heads of people,” although he adds, “it was dazzling, and the editing was terrific.”

  • 12 1-28-2011 at 2:49 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Well, that makes no sense. Isn’t it editors who vote for best editing! ? Yet, the ACE president said “it was dazzling, and the editing was terrific!”. What am I missing?

  • 13 1-28-2011 at 3:00 pm

    Andrej said...

    I just saw Hereafter. One word review: awful.

    But about the nod it has… wow. I respect how challenging it could have been simulating in 3D that tsunami through the city (though you could tell it was CGI from a mile away), but that’s all why it got a nod? Really? It’s just for the first 10 minutes and then it’s quickly forgotten. I feel like it’s a waste of a good nod that could have gone to Scott Pilgrim, if they weren’t so keen on TRON: Legacy anyways.

    Just… lame. I don’t know why they’d expand the visual effects category if they were putting love for Eastwood ahead of visual execution and statement.

  • 14 1-28-2011 at 3:02 pm

    Justin said...

    Off topic, but… the ten best picture nominees in lego form:

    http://gawker.com/5744988/the-best-picture-oscar-nominees-in-lego/gallery/

  • 15 1-28-2011 at 3:36 pm

    Hero said...

    “The film was so incredibly complex, I think a lot of it went over the heads of people,” although he adds, “it was dazzling, and the editing was terrific.”

    Oh good grief. I hate fanboys (and that’s exactly what the guy is being here) who think that anyone who doesn’t love what they love as much as they love it must be too stupid to get it. Inception may or may not have deserved an editing nod, but these kinds of statements turn my stomach.

  • 16 1-28-2011 at 4:50 pm

    Marc R. said...

    I’m not a hige fan of Inception (though i did enjoy it), but the fact that The King’s Speech and The Fighter got a best editing nod, but Inception didn’t just makes no sense, plain and simple. Inception’s editing was more integral to the film in terms of comprehension and quality than any film this year. For me, Smith is the only truly baffling snub of the year.

    As for best cinematography, i think the academy would show some balls and brains if they chose not to give the Oscar to Deakins. I want him to win eventually just as much as anybody, but it should be for more deserving work than True Grit. They should wait for some truly sublime work like Assassination of Jesse James (which he deserved the win for). As for who should win, why not Black Swan?

  • 17 1-28-2011 at 6:48 pm

    RHS said...

    I agree completely with Marc R.’s comments about Roger Deakins and “True Grit.” I can’t wait for Deakins to win an Oscar (and he definitely should have for his astonishing work on “Jesse James”) but I have to admit that I will be somewhat disappointed if he wins this year. “True Grit” is not the best work for which he’s been nominated. Once again, it all comes down to timing. As for Sound Mixing, a win for “The King’s Speech” seems like a likely surprise to me in terms of the focus on radio, recordings, etc. Might be my “dark horse” prediction of the year.

  • 18 1-29-2011 at 1:15 am

    Blake said...

    Usually the film that wins the Visual Effects Oscar also has a nomination for art direction. A 1/3rd of the time, a film wins both (Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar). This can maybe explain why The Golden Compass won over Transformers, or why What Dreams May Come won over Armageddon. Or maybe they just don’t want to award a Michael Bay film.

    Only one film in the past decade has won visual effects without a correlating art direction nomination, Spider-Man 2; and in a year when no film was nominated for that award.

  • 19 1-29-2011 at 7:50 am

    A.J said...

    Transformers didn’t get an “anti vote” or whatever the hell that is. The Golden Compass had so much unwarranted controversy surrounding it from the conservative media the liberal academy felt they had to do something.

  • 20 1-29-2011 at 3:15 pm

    Danny said...

    Interesting stat about the Art Direction/Visual Effects correlation. Also interesting that, had the category been 3 nominations, the (presumably) three frontrunners (Inception, AiW, and HP) all would have still had an Art Direction nod. I am very pleased, btw, with HP’s Art Direction nod. With all due respect to Gerard, this was the first film to take place primarily outside of Hogwarts, and Craig did a great job with a new palette of locations, so that’s probably why the branch rewarded him.

    Oh, I just realized this means Kris has to watch HP7! haha

  • 21 1-29-2011 at 5:38 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Isn’t it editors who vote for best editing! ? Yet, the ACE president said “it was dazzling, and the editing was terrific!”. What am I missing?

    The fact that the ACE president is just one man with his own opinion? He’s not speaking for his entire craft here.

  • 22 1-29-2011 at 11:03 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Huh, the third person to run this site that doesn’t think “I See the Light” will win? What’s the deal here, folks? Something I don’t know about?

  • 23 2-05-2011 at 12:34 am

    Kevin said...

    In response to Andrej, I don’t share your opinion that it felt CG from a mile a way. Here and there maybe there were some slightly cg qualities, but overall, it was truly solid. And pretty much the entire tsunami scene is a visual effects shot, with only a handful of exceptions. Which really took me by surprise. So there is a ton of “invisible” work throughout. And throughout the whole movie, they did things like reshape the main kid’s performance so he cried and had different facial expressions so he wasn’t so stiff. Take that, Clu! Seriously, though, I think this film is under-appreciated and could very well pull an upset if enough people realize just how much work went into this.

  • 24 2-05-2011 at 12:35 am

    Kevin said...

    In response to Andrej, pretty much the entire tsunami scene is a visual effects shot, with only a handful of exceptions. Which really took me by surprise. So there is a ton of “invisible” work throughout. And throughout the whole movie, they did things like reshape the main kid’s performance so he cried and had different facial expressions so he wasn’t so stiff. Take that, Clu! Seriously, though, I think this film is under-appreciated and could very well pull an upset if enough people realize just how much work went into this.