Art Directors’ Guild wins for ‘Swan,’ ‘Speech,’ ‘Inception’

Posted by · 6:36 am · February 6th, 2011

In a busy night for industry awards, the Art Directors’ Guild also dished out their trophies yesterday. “Inception” claimed its second Guild prize in one night as it triumphed in the Fantasy category — fending off fellow Oscar nominee “Alice in Wonderland,” which would be a surefire winner for “most art direction,” in the process.

I’m pleased the elaborate-but-ugly stylings of the latter film weren’t rewarded, though I’m struggling to get critic Mike McCahill’s description of “Inception”‘s production design as resembling a “revolving Best Western” out of my head.

The other two categories were more predictable, as “The King’s Speech” took Period honors, while “Black Swan” triumphed in the Contemporary field — a win that places at least some balm on the wound of last week’s Oscar snub. (Rewatching Darren Aronofsky’s film a few days ago renewed my dismay that the Academy’s bias against modern-day work in this category struck again: I just can’t see how Stuart Craig’s work on the latest “Harry Potter” chapter is more inspired than Thérèse DePrez’s intricately coded melding of stage, domestic and psychological spaces.)

Anyway, before you narrow down the Oscar race in this category to “The King’s Speech” and “Inception,” bear in mind that the Academy and the Guild have parted ways on several occasions — most recently in 2007, when the Oscar went to “Sweeney Todd” over the Guild’s choice, “There Will Be Blood.” It’s interesting that the discrepancy involves a Tim Burton title: three of his previous films have been nominated for the art direction Oscar, and have won each time out. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of “Alice” continuing that pattern.

[Photo: Fox Searchlight]

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21 responses so far

  • 1 2-06-2011 at 6:48 am

    Andrej said...

    I agree with you about Harry Potter 7 P1. I’m not sure why it got an art direction nod when the cinematography’s where it’s at for that movie.

    BTW, I know it’s all in the books, yes, but I didn’t really like how they traded Hogwarts for an outdoor excursion. It really took a whole lot of personal appeal I have for the series.

  • 2 2-06-2011 at 7:33 am

    JJ1 said...

    Well, Black Swan is my 3rd favorite film of the year. I think it’s set/prod. design is very good; aiding the story/characters well.

    But I think it’s the least impressive component of BS (directing, acting, writing, editing, cin, costumes, make-up, sound, fx).

    And I’m always astounded by Stuart Craig’s detail. So I don’t begrudge the Harry nom, myself.

  • 3 2-06-2011 at 7:35 am

    Alex in Movieland said...

    well, I wish Inception would win the Oscar for this, even though I’m quite sure it will be King’s Speech.

  • 4 2-06-2011 at 7:59 am

    Matt King said...

    I like the production design in Black Swan, but, like the whole film actually, it’s just so annoyingly blatant and obvious in its metaphors and symbolism. It’s weird to me, because I quite like the film, it’s #7 in my top ten from last year, but, like all of Aronofsky’s movies, I’m having trouble with the distinct lack of any subtlety in the film. That movie is a hit-you-over-the-head with-its-symbols-style movie, and I don’t like those types of movies usually. It’s just cheap and manipulative. Yet, I still like the movie a lot. It’s my favourite of Aronofsky’s movies. That weirds me out. I just wish Aronofsky would stop with the, “Do you get it yet?!” in his movies.

    I do quite like Inception’s design, and the art direction of Harry Potter 7 PT 1 is, as always with Stuart Craig, quite excellent, with a few new sets looking quite nice and interesting. The thing about Potter’s design is that it fills out that magical world. It’s not theme or anything, it’s detail, it’s showing different aspects of the world, and also, if it’s the home of a person, such as Malfoy Manor in the newest, it reflects certain characteristics. Though at times, this is also guilty of on-the-nosery.

  • 5 2-06-2011 at 8:15 am

    DylanS said...

    I just wanted to share an interesting Oscar fact with everybody. TKS would be the first film since 2003’s “Return of the King” to even be nominated for Art Direction.

  • 6 2-06-2011 at 8:18 am

    Graysmith said...

    Three very deserving winners.

  • 7 2-06-2011 at 8:24 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    DylansS: I assume you mean “the first Best Picture winner.” Not that surprising when, as has been frequently noted, the Best Picture category has been given over to contemporary films since 2003 — with the exception of No Country for Old Men, whose 1980 setting wasn’t exactly catnip to this branch either.

  • 8 2-06-2011 at 9:01 am

    The Dude said...

    Honestly, I think these three all deserved the win. I, too, am sort of upset that Black Swan didn’t score an Oscar nom for this, but at least it got its due here. Here’s to hoping anything BUT Alice in Wonderland takes home the Oscar (it’s got some nice work, sure, but it also has absolutely no restraint, which is a big turn-off for me).

  • 9 2-06-2011 at 9:42 am

    Hans said...

    Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeney Todd were all period and eloquently and tastefully art-directed, IMO. Alice in Wonderland is a classic example of “more is less”, so hopefully the Academy’s overall lukewarm reception to the film (only 3 nods) will reflect this. This is an easy “should win” for Inception.

  • 10 2-06-2011 at 9:52 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hans: If you’re referring to the three Burton films that won in this category, Ed Wood isn’t one of them — it wasn’t even nominated. Batman won in 1989.

  • 11 2-06-2011 at 9:57 am

    Hans said...

    Oh gosh, how embarrassing, my bad. Ed Wood won for Costume Design, no? Or Makeup? Anyway, I still consider that Batman tastefully art directed, so hopefully my point still stands.

  • 12 2-06-2011 at 10:02 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ed Wood won for Costume Design, no? Or Makeup?

    It won for Makeup. Wasn’t nominated for Costume Design either.

  • 13 2-06-2011 at 10:06 am

    Matt King said...

    I definitely agree that Black Swan should have been nominated for the Oscar though.

  • 14 2-06-2011 at 12:49 pm

    Edward L. said...

    For me, a film that really deserved an Oscar nomination in this category but didn’t get one was The Ghost Writer.

  • 15 2-06-2011 at 1:24 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Agreed — that the ADG didn’t even nominate it in their contemporary category is a joke.

  • 16 2-06-2011 at 1:24 pm

    ryan said...

    I think describing Inception’s art direction as a “revolving Best Western” is a bit unfair. Yes, the revolving/vertical corridor is meant to look like a hotel, but wouldn’t it be odd to have it look any other way?

    Also, don’t forget all the other aspects of Inception’s art direction… mainly, Saito’s Japanese castle in the beginning, the world of limbo (hey, if Avatar can all their world “art direction”, so can Inception, haha), and the hospital on the mountain (including the awesome hospital room at the end).

  • 17 2-06-2011 at 2:56 pm

    matsunaga said...

    Well the Inception’s art direction is good especially the limbo…

    I agree with all the love for Harry Potter Part1’s art direction… And there really isn’t lots of Hogwarts scene in the first half of the book… Art Direction, Cinematography, Music and VFX were the categories of the films…

    Though I bet and hope Alice In Wonderland gets this… If Avatar gets it last year why not Alice, though I’ll be fine with Inception… Maybe they’ll give it to Nolan film for consolation? No?

  • 18 2-06-2011 at 3:59 pm

    JJ1 said...

    How Polanski (and AD team) got The Ghost Writer to look like it was set in Massachusetts – when it wasn’t – is beyond me. I agree that the snub(s) there are crazy.

  • 19 2-06-2011 at 9:19 pm

    Jeremy said...

    Forgive the question, Guy, but did you see “Harry Potter 7”? I seem to recall you saying a few years ago that you’d sworn off seeing the rest of the films in the series.

    Regardless, I’m a huge fan of “Black Swan” (and “Inception”), but given a vote, I’d give Stuart Craig the Oscar. It isn’t just the cinematography — the variety and detail of the environments in the movie are staggering.

  • 20 2-06-2011 at 10:01 pm

    j said...

    How many Baftas do people think King’s Speech will win? I believe the record is 9.

    If Baftas just go for the ones that Kris thinks will win at Oscar, that would be 8.
    British Film I would not guess, since for the last decade Baftas haven’t gone for the British Film nominee that they nominated in (or gave the award outright for) Best Film overall for whatever reason.
    Carter I am guessing for Sup Actress.
    I could see TKS winning Makeup; Victoria won last year. Elizabeth won too.

  • 21 2-07-2011 at 3:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Jeremy: I’ve decided to see everything that gets Oscar-nominated, otherwise I’m stymied when it comes to writing up certain categories. Harry Potter is one I caught up with post-nominations. Next up: The Wolfman. Joy.

    I just don’t get Craig’s nomination for this particular instalment. Half the film takes place in a marquee.