'Grand Budapest,' 'Interstellar' dominate Oscar's craft categories

Posted by · 1:32 pm · January 15th, 2015

Well, there we went. The Oscar nominations are in and, in a nice change of pace, the crafts categories were revealed on the air. Let's see what the last several months of build-up has left for us. A few trends come to mind…

The (Near) Shut-Outs
Oh how the mighty have fallen. A measly sound editing nomination for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” shows that the novelty eventually does wear off. Goose eggs for “Noah” (despite a strong push), “Nightcrawler” (given its precursor run), “Gone Girl” (you would have thought it had great chances in film editing and original score), “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (given the sound branch's love of this series) and “Big Eyes” (given the pedigree) have also got to be considered disappointing. And even though it garnered two nominations, I can't imagine that there aren't some long faces regarding “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with no design or sound nominations to show for itself. Similarly, earning only a nomination for original score cannot be all that “The Theory of Everything” was gunning for. Ditto “Selma” in original song.

Though many may not have noticed it, “Mr. Turner” got a nomination in every conceivable crafts category. It should be proud. Ditto “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (unless you bought the notion that it had a shot at sound mixing). Once again, however, the branches spread the wealth this year, and virtually all other contenders missed a spot or two where they might have scored as a true “sweeper.”

The In-Betweens
So clearly “The Imitation Game” did well. But where are its sound mixing and costume design nods? And surely “Birdman” cannot complain, unless you're its production designer or film editor, that is. And “Unbroken” did respectably given its overall reception, but it's not exactly earth-shattering with only three nominations (random: the same three “Batman Forever” earned). “Interstellar” also did well, with five nods, but a few months ago, everyone thought cinematography and film editing were sure things.

Turning to the particular categories…

Best Cinematography

I managed to pin this category down exactly, with Emmanuel Lubezki (“Birdman”), Robert Yeoman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Dick Pope (“Mr. Turner”) and Roger Deakins (“Unbroken”) getting their very predictable nominations and Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (“Ida”) scoring with this branch's affinity for black-and-white films and foreign films. Óscar Faura (“The Imitation Game”) and Hoyte Van Hoytema (“Interstellar”) were likely very close to nominations given how well their films did overall. They will have to wait for their first nods, alas.

Lubezki looks to be in great shape to win this category for the second year in a row, with his fellow nominees either too small (“Ida,” “Mr. Turner”), not loved enough (“Unbroken”) or likelier to find favor in other categories (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Best Costume Design

The nominations for Milena Canonero (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Colleen Atwood (“Into the Woods”) and Jacqueline Durran (“Mr. Turner”) should have surprised no one. We also accurately predicted that “Maleficent” would earn Anna B. Sheppard her third nomination and Jane Clive her first. I thought Mark Bridges' work for “Inherent Vice” would prove too stylized to earn him his second nomination. I'm glad I was wrong. The result is that titles such as “The Theory of Everything,” “Selma” and “The Imitation Game” were left out as the branch sought to really “go back in time” from a historical perspective.

I suspect Canonero will be tough to beat but let's not rule out Atwood and Durran just yet.

Best Film Editing

Billy Goldenberg (“The Imitation Game”) and Sandra Adair (“Boyhood”) predictably ran with Best Picture nominations to the final five. Barney Pilling's nomination for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” shows just how much AMPAS loved this movie. With “American Sniper,” Joel Cox and Gary Roach finally return to the fold for a Clint Eastwood film, 10 years after “Million Dollar Baby.” And as for Tom Cross and “Whiplash?” I'm glad the Editors Branch avoided the riots that would have accompanied his omission. John Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”), meanwhile, suffered the fate of his film while Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione coming up short was one of few instances where “Birdman” missed a plausible nomination.

This is actually quite an interesting race for the win as cases can be made for any contender.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

This is the most original and creative of Academy branches so color me slightly surprised that they went predictable with “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” This is an instance where all three films could make a run for the win. Had “The Theory of Everything” made the nomination stage, it likely would have been leading the charge now.

Best Music (Original Score)

Alexandre Desplat has finally earned two nominations in a year, predictably scoring for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game.” I suspect Jóhann Jóhannsson might ultimately prove an obstacle to the win, however, with his lovely “Theory of Everything” score. Hans Zimmer is also back in the game for “Interstellar,” a year after a surprising snub for “12 Years a Slave.” I figured the music branch was going to go somewhere creative in the final spot, I just didn't guess where, as Gary Yershon earned an inspired nomination for “Mr. Turner,” leaving the likes of Thomas Newman (“The Judge”) and Marco Beltrami (“The Homesman”) on the outside looking in. Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross seem like the sort of duo unlikely to garner regular nominations, as they came up short for “Gone Girl.”

As mentioned above, I think Jóhannsson has the edge over Desplat, an edge which is not going to be lessened with Desplat's multiple nominations.

Best Music (Original Song)

From 1996-2001, it appeared as though Dianne Warren could do no wrong in this category. Now she's finally back, with “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights.” The nomination for “I'm Not Going to Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me” was also appropriately touching. The other nominees were totally predictable: “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie,” “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again” and “Glory” from “Selma.” The more famous Golden Globe nominees were shut out, as is becoming an annual tradition.

As the only nominee from a film with another nomination (Best Picture!), “Glory” will be tough to beat.

Best Production Design

As in Best Cinematography and Best Makeup & Hairstyling, I batted 1.000 here, with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game” and “Into the Woods” being utterly predictable, “Interstellar” having a BAFTA nod in addition to ADG support to make its cause and the art-infused sets of “Mr. Turner” being an irresistible completion of the category over about 10 films that were making a claim for the final spot.

One would hope/expect “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will win this walking away. It's rare that a set becomes a character like we saw in this film.

Best Sound Editing

The two sound categories were tremendously hard to predict this year beyond “American Sniper,” though I correctly surmised “Unbroken” and “Interstellar” would find a home here. “Birdman's” sound clearly struck a chord as it earned a nod here as well as in Best Sound Mixing. That the “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” managed to earn its film's only nomination here shows that the branch really respected the undeniably impressive sound work on the feature. My “Noah” prediction was always a shot in the dark but I did really expected “Guardians of the Galaxy” to score. Oh well…

“American Sniper” will be tough to beat.

Best Sound Mixing

Again, “American Sniper” was an easy get. As predicted, the branch also recognized the genius of “Whiplash” and the subtle strengths of “Birdman.” I thought the branch would go for “Unbroken” and “Interstellar” in the sound editing category, and the fact that they saw fit to nominate them here too is quite something, particularly in the case of the latter, what with all the complaints leveled towards it.
Again, I was surprised that “Guardians of the Galaxy” failed to make the cut. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” ends its franchise's golden run in this category.

As in Best Sound Editing, “American Sniper” has a real leg up.

Best Visual Effects

I always wondered if the Middle Earth saga would follow the “Star Wars” saga and fail to go 6/6 in Best Visual Effects. Lo and behold, it happened, as “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the major snub here. “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” on the other hand, finally earns its franchise a first nomination in the category. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” meanwhile, also capitalized on its great reception for a deserved, albeit also somewhat surprising, nod.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Interstellar” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” will now battle it out for the win. In the absence of a Best Picture nominee among the final five in this category, any of the three could take it.

So that's that. Tune in over the next few weeks as we speak to more nominees and continue to analyze the races!

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