In Contention


TECH SUPPORT: ‘Inception’ dominates below the line

Posted by Gerard Kennedy · 8:47 am · February 28th, 2011

So, the morning after a terrible prediction record at this year’s Oscars, I’ll try to make some sense of what the Academy told us, and what it means for the crafts artists we got to know along the circuit this year.

As the evening went on, many people began to wonder if “The Social Network” would triumph in Best Picture. While Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall managed to take Best Film Editing (on their second nomination), the very deserved win for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in Best Original Score was somewhat surprising. The work trumped Alexandre Desplat for “The King’s Speech,” despite the latter film’s wins in the major categories. Desplat, with four nominations under his belt, could now be considered due, I think.  (Alas, Tom Hooper’s later win for Best Director removed doubts about the Best Picture winner.)

The Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects categories unsurprisingly went to “Inception,” making Oscar winners of Nolan’s usual crew of Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick, Richard Kind, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, and company. I congratulate them and wish them the best for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

They were joined by a mildly surprising winner in Wally Pfister in the Best Cinematography category. I’m thrilled for him and feel that the sheer logistics of pulling off “Inception” were astonishing. I do also suspect, however, that this might slow down the rate at which the branch sees fit to nominate him. As for poor Roger Deakins, his spot in film history is undeniable. Alas, he seems to have the worst luck in the world in this category. He’s going to have to win one of these years, right?

Hopefully Randy Newman gave Deakins some comfort this year. His second Oscar was for a fairly mediocre tune (as was his first), but I cannot complain too much given how much he has contributed to films, and the “Toy Story” franchise in particular, over the years. “127 Hours” going home empty-handed was not altogether shocking.

Best Art Direction was the sole category where even my alternate didn’t win, as “Alice in Wonderland” trumped “The King’s Speech” and “Inception.” Robert Stromberg is an amazing talent, but I thought his work here was over the top.  Tim Burton’s films are now 4/4 when nominated in this category.

As soon as “Alice in Wonderland” won Best Art Direction, I was certain that it would win Best Costume Design, as Colleen Atwood tied Sandy Powell with a career total of three wins. The two of them are undeniably at the top of their field, and I am pleased that we’ll continue to see them working for years to come.  Jenny Beavan remains a one-time winner and, while I cannot predict the future, I have a feeling she’ll remain one.

The category that five weeks ago I thought would belong to “Alice in Wonderland” – Best Makeup – became a toss-up when Valli O’Reilly was not nominated. While I gambled on “Barney’s Version,” I cannot really object to Dave Elsey and the great Rick Baker winning for “The Wolfman.”

Elsey’s nod to his certainly legitimate thrill of winning an Oscar with Rick Baker was heartening to see. I think that reflecting on Elsey’s comment to his co-winner is an appropriate note to end on. After all, it demonstrates the commitment of these artists to excellence in their crafts, and how they seek to emulate that excellence. But it also shows their respect of each other. I’m sure this goes far beyond these two.

So that’s it, eh? I should congratulate all of these artists, and am sure they will look back on this as one of the highlights of their career. As for the Academy, they will be back, trying to marshal the best of the work of those who improve our films in immeasurable ways behind the camera.

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




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→ 18 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Tech Support

18 responses so far

  • 1 2-28-2011 at 8:58 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m pretty much resigned to seeing Roger Deakins in the company of Dante Spinotti, Michael Ballhaus and Caleb Deschanel at this point.

  • 2 2-28-2011 at 9:10 am

    Maxim said...

    No love for Gordon Willis, Robert ;) ?

    I have absolute no qualms with Randy Newman or his being a two time winner. Yes, he should have won for better songs (like the ones in The Princess and the Frog) but his tune was exactly right for a movie like Toy Story. And you really cannot accuse them man for campaigning for himself or anything like that.

    “I do also suspect, however, that this might slow down the rate at which the branch sees fit to nominate him.”

    I’m not sure how this makes any sense but, in any case, they guy has certainly been noticed. I admit that I am still smarting over him getting a nomination for Batman Begins over, some of decade’s best lensing work in Munich. That one really hurts, still.

    But hey, even I can’t really argue against his work in his latter films.

  • 3 2-28-2011 at 9:13 am

    Roman said...

    Please, make some year-in-advance predictions in technical categories…

  • 4 2-28-2011 at 11:01 am

    Nelson said...

    Ouch Gerard, 11/24, sorry man

  • 5 2-28-2011 at 2:00 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Huh, I think “If I Didn’t Have You” is a lovely, extremely infectious tune. “We Belong Together” isn’t as strong, but it’s okay.

  • 6 2-28-2011 at 2:01 pm

    James The Greatest said...

    Eh, was “We Belong Together” even in the film or just over the closing credits? Because I don’t remember it contributing anything to the film at all while “If I Rise” at least had a purpose and function in the body of the movie. Should Newman have won for “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”? Yes. This song, though? Eh.

    Truth be told… it was a sad, slow year for music in film. This branch need a reboot. Fast.

  • 7 2-28-2011 at 2:41 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***“If I Rise” at least had a purpose and function in the body of the movie. Should Newman have won for “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”? Yes. This song, though? Eh.***

    “I See the Light” had the MOST purpose and function.

    As for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” unfortunately that was the same year as “Colors of the Wind.” Toughie.

  • 8 2-28-2011 at 3:31 pm

    James The Greatest said...

    Maybe it was just me, Speaking, but I thought “I See The Light” was the least interesting song in all of “Tangled”, though. (I do agree with your comment, though.)

    I know it was the only song they submitted for consideration, but still… “Mother Knows Best” and “When Will My Life Begin” were both so much more charming.

  • 9 2-28-2011 at 3:42 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I love all the songs (huge fan of the film), but “I See the Light” played in THE key moment of the film, the classic Disney centerpiece sequence. Therefore it’s inherently imbued with the most resonant context.

  • 10 3-01-2011 at 10:38 am

    Zac said...

    With Inception’s 4 Oscars, that means that Christopher Nolan will be working with at least 13 Oscar winners on The Dark Knight Rises:

    Christian Bale
    Michael Caine
    Marion Cotillard
    Morgan Freeman
    Chris Corbould
    Andrew Lockley
    Pete Bebb
    Paul J. Franklin
    Richard King
    Lora Hirschberg
    Gary Rizzo
    Ed Novick
    Wally Pfister

  • 11 3-01-2011 at 10:53 am

    Andrej said...

    Christopher Nolan should be in that list already :(

  • 12 3-05-2011 at 7:58 am

    DarkLayers said...

    Hans Zimmer is on the crew, too.

  • 13 3-05-2011 at 2:19 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Not to mention all the Oscar nominees.

  • 14 3-05-2011 at 7:46 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Yeah? Anne Hathaway, Lee Smith, Nolan himself, Art Direction, Emma Thomas for producing. As far the crafts areas go, Guy mentioned the Children of Men DP is doing Tree of Life. So far, the images are awesome. Plus, they skew pretty. Maxim mentioned War Horse. All of the tentpoles this year, and we should have some in visual effects.

  • 15 3-11-2011 at 7:18 am

    sam said...

    Any song from burlesque should have been at least nominated — it’s insane that the music branch won’t even support a musical.

  • 16 3-11-2011 at 7:22 am

    jake said...

    One more reason for the oscars to move back to March — all the talk of a kings speech sweep ended up not happening and the biggest shockers — when the pianist racked up all those unexpected awards was when the show was in late march — because voters can actually think about their choices and actually see the movies. I think it would have been just wrong for the kings speech to win for art direction (which looked like some cheap play house) or for costume design — as much as I thought speech was good (although I thought network and inception and the fighter were better), it should not win awards that it doesn’t deserve to win just because the academy can check off whatever they want without having seen any of the films. So please academy — this year’s predictable race should just be more proof to you not to move sooner but to move back to March.

  • 17 3-11-2011 at 8:13 am

    JJ1 said...

    If anything, I think they should be moved up to the end of January. Move SAG to February.

    Start prestige films in July and August. And get screeners out to AMPAS earlier.

  • 18 3-11-2011 at 9:51 am

    DarkLayers said...

    JJ1, I’d love to see that stuff all year round, and I’m frustrated by slim pickings post-Awards Season.

    But Mark Harris made a compelling case years ago that it’s not financially beneficial to the studios as a result of moviegoers’ habits.

    See “An Oscar Season in Hell, Part 2″, EW, Final Cut, 2007.

    “The other fallacy of the”It’s the studios, stupid” argument is also financial: As much as we may say that we want grownup movies all year around, we don’t put our money where our mouths are. Just look at the movies that opened between Labor Day and Thanksgiving: The Last King of Scotland, despite reviews that unanimously touted Forest Whitaker’s performance, grossed less than $4 million. Babel got notices touting it as an Oscar contender and has taken in about $20 million — remember, it stars Brad Pitt — in three months. Flags of Our Fathers opened in October and, despite very good reviews, didn’t get nearly the first-weekend sampling Paramount and DreamWorks needed it to get. Little Children, For Your Consideration, and Running With Scissors barely got a look. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Sherrybaby, and Catch A Fire didn’t get a look. Put together, every movie I just mentioned grossed about as much as Saw III. Whatever you may think of these films individually, the pattern is pretty clear: Given that The Queen and Volver were the only two small movies to get real attention from discerning audiences in three months, why shouldn’t the studios continue to back-load the year? (And let’s not even talk about spring and summer, when deserving indies like Brick, The Proposition, and Half Nelson could hardly find a pulse at the box office.) ”

    He advocated what 16 argued.

    My issue with moving to March is that it gets exhausting by that point, as we saw last year.

    I would argue that what is needed is for precursor groups to disagree more. There’s something troubling about all getting in line. This may be a challenge with guilds, because they often have a similar point of view. And they’re prone to a lot of the same “momentum” shifts.

    Still, it’d be nice if the “precursors” could be more like LAFCA, NYFCC, and NSFC. Instead of yawning because we know who’s going to win, we count on them to be their rebellious selves. Would be nice…