Tech Support: 'The Artist,' 'Hugo,' 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'War Horse' feature heavily in Oscar's crafts categories

Posted by · 1:12 pm · January 24th, 2012

This morning, many crafts artists in Hollywood (and elsewhere in the world) found out that they are heading to the Kodak Theatre for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The thrill they are experiencing must be difficult to describe.

The reaction of many to the nominations has simply been “wow.” While I wasn”t as floored as some, I confess to being surprised by many of this morning”s events, and the crafts categories proved no exception.

Before embarking on analysis of the individual categories, two trends should be noted: first, in the vast majority of categories, previously nominated veterans were tapped over up-and-comers. Second, with a few exceptions – notably “The Artist,” “Hugo” and “War Horse” – films either tended to be embraced across the board or confined in their nominations to one or two branches.

So now, on to the individual categories…

Best Art Direction

Nominations for “Hugo,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and “The Artist” should surprise no one, as I called them the three locks in this category. Nonetheless, the omission of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” does pain me. Not only had the guild and BAFTA recognized this superb accomplishment, but the LAFCA gave it a second place prize behind “Hugo.” Nominations for “Midnight in Paris” (I expected a fourth nomination somewhere) and especially “War Horse” could admittedly not be considered all that surprising. “The Help””s omission, though – just like its failure to score in screenplay or any crafts category – makes one question how deep support runs for it.

“Hugo””s massive nomination tally, and the extraordinary nature of the sets, will make it difficult to beat.

Best Cinematography

I was able to correctly predict that “Hugo,” “The Tree of Life,” “The Artist” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would be able to translate their guild nominations into Oscar success. I also foresaw “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” being the one guild nominee not to transfer to Oscar. My no guts, no glory prediction of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” did not pay off, however, as the typical Oscar nominee “War Horse” scored. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose.

Now that it is nominated, I expect “War Horse” to battle it out with “The Tree of Life” for the win.  Steven Spielberg”s film is the most “typical” winner and the last time Emmanuel Lubezki was nominated in this category (for “Children of Men”) was the only time in the last 20 years when the Oscar winner (“Pan”s Labyrinth”) was not guild-nominated.?

Best Costume Design

This is the one category where I was most confident in my predictions: “The Artist,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “Jane Eyre,” “My Week with Marilyn.” Oops! I”m thrilled Mark Bridges pulled off his first nomination for “The Artist” and that Michael O”Connor earned his second nomination for “Jane Eyre.” It is also delightful, if unsurprising, to see Sandy Powell back in the race for her rich threads on “Hugo.” However, “My Week with Marilyn” and “The Help” were omitted in favor of “Anonymous” and “W.E.”  Three films — “Anonymous,” “Jane Eyre” and “W.E.” — were not nominated in any other categories. I say good on this branch for looking past the quality of the films in coming to their nominations.?

As far as the race for the win is concerned, it seems to me as though the three solo nominees don”t have much of a shot against the two Best Picture frontrunners. Powell”s work is more obviously showy but Bridges”s intricate threads were cited by the BFCA and I think his film will ultimately triumph in the big category. So this could go either way.

Best Film Editing

The category that traditionally most corresponds with Best Picture did not disappoint, with Kevin Tent managing to make it in for his subtle work on “The Descendants.” Nominations for “The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion), “Hugo” (Thelma Schoonmaker), “Moneyball” (Christopher Tellefsen”) and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall) were all expected as well.

The big story in this category, however, is who Tent knocked out: Steven Spielberg”s longtime collaborator Michael Kahn. It seems very surprising that the one place the film scored a guild nomination, for Oscar”s all-time leader in editing nominations (a stat now matched by Schnoomaker), would fail to translate to Oscar.

The race for the win is complicated and I could frankly see strong cases being made for any of the nominees except Tent.

Best Makeup

The weirdest, and often most independent category did not disappoint again this year with only “The Iron Lady” making it of my predicted nominees. The branch also overlooked great aging and prosthetics on “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” and Best Picture frontrunners “The Artist” and “Hugo” for “Albert Nobbs,” despite its small scale, and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” even though none of its seven predecessors were nominated in this category. Best Makeup joins Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects as the sixth category to embrace the series.

It would be foolish to bet too much on predicting the winner in this category, though it is impossible to watch “The Iron Lady” and not immensely admire its makeup. Barring vast feelings of sentiment arising for “Harry Potter,” I expect it to take this category.

Best Music (Original Score)

I was very curious to see how much the music branch had been missing John Williams. The answer was evidently “a lot” as he scored two nominations for “The Adventure of Tintin” and “War Horse.”  Also nominated, as I predicted, were “The Artist””s Ludovic Bource and “Hugo””s Howard Shore, finally earning a nomination outside the “Lord of the Rings” context. My primary alternate, Alberto Iglesias for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” managed to get in over Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” This is just fine in my opinion, though given how well Reznor and Ross did in the precursors, it could be indication that they need a real nominations magnet (like “The Social Network”) to score with this fairly insular branch.?

I”ve long been of the opinion that John Williams would need both a score and film to be beloved before he”d win here again. I”m not sure “War Horse” is that score/film, though I”d nonetheless call it the biggest challenge to “The Artist” for the win.

Best Music (Original Song)

Oy. Best Original Song. My worst prediction record in eons, as I predicted (wait for it) zero of the eventual nominees. In all fairness, they only nominated two tunes. Moreover, I did think Bret McKenzie would be nominated for “The Muppets,” just not for “Man or Muppet.” And I certainly did not see “Rio””s “Real in Rio” coming. Major snubs include other “Muppets” songs “Life”s a Happy Song” and “Pictures in My Head,” Alan Menken”s song-and-dance number “Star Spangled Man” from “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Mary J. Blige”s “The Living Proof” from “The Help” and Glenn Close and Brian Byrne”s “Lay Your Head Down” from “Albert Nobbs.”

I assume McKenzie will take this as a tip of the hat to him and the film.

Best Sound Editing

Last week I referred to Best Sound Editing as “probably the category in which I have the least faith in my predictions.” It turns out I had good reason to be apprehensive. Every year, I bomb one category.  And this year, in addition to my atrocious record in Song, I only foresaw one of the eventual five nominees here: Steven Spielberg”s “War Horse.” Animated films “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Rango” both came up short, as did blockbusters “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (admittedly somewhat of a bold prediction) and “Super 8.” Speaking of which, the snubs of “Super 8” both here and in Best Sound Mixing are disgraceful.

Instead, we saw “Hugo” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (admittedly my two primary alternates) and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which I had thought was likelier in Best Sound Mixing, but dismissed there after it failed get a guild nod notwithstanding a very good record across the guilds. Lastly, “Drive” found its only nomination here. I”m kicking myself for not mentioning this last week, as this possibility had crossed my mind, and I mentioned it way back in October, but…argh.

After my abysmal luck in predicting the nominations, I”m going to refrain from opining on the race for the win for now.

Best Sound Mixing

I did do slightly better in Sound Mixing, foreseeing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (Greg P. Russell again scores despite a guild snub), “War Horse” and “Hugo.” For reasons stated above, I missed “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for “Super 8” and also predicted that “Hanna” and not “Moneyball” would survive the transition from guild to Oscar.

There”s no obvious frontrunner here in my opinion; only “Moneyball” strikes me as out of the running.

Best Visual Effects

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was a lock in this category since it opened, while “Harry Potter” managed to survive the snafu that occurred at the bakeoff.  I also correctly predicted that “Hugo””s overall success would carry the day and that “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” would benefit from its huge tally at the Visual Effects Society.

I was not all that confident in “The Tree of Life” here, though I am somewhat surprised that it failed to score when it made it into the Best Picture category. In any event, I never would have predicted “Real Steel” to make it instead. Though not shocking (Kris had a hunch this might happen), it is still somewhat surprising.

Well, there we have it. The craft nominees for the 84th Annual Academy Awards! Check back in on Thursday for my discussion with Stephanie McMillan and Stuart Craig about their experience on the “Harry Potter” series.

Check out the full list of nominees here.

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