Tech Support: 'Grand Budapest' and 'Whiplash' lead Oscar's craft categories

Posted by · 12:10 pm · February 23rd, 2015

Well, we're done. Another Oscar ceremony ends, and with it, another awards season and another year of Tech Support here at In Contention.

On the whole, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” came out the big winner, taking four of the 10 crafts categories. “Whiplash” came up with two more while “Birdman,” “Interstellar,” “Selma” and “American Sniper” got in on the love-sharing with one apiece. Crafts category shut-outs for “Mr. Turner,” “Unbroken” and “The Imitation Game,” despite their impressive nomination counts, were unsurprising.

It was also a year of repeat victors. Winners in Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound Editing and Visual Effects had all won previously.

There was one big first-timer, though, in Alexandre Desplat – more on him in a moment. Others are still waiting for their first wins, alas. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, songwriter Diane Warren and sound mixer Frank Montaño immediately jump to mind.

Emmanuel Lubezki's triumph in Best Cinematography for the Best Picture winner surprised precisely no one. His second straight Oscar does leave the great Roger Deakins still waiting for his first statuette, which I'm convinced is coming in the next few years, but it also puts him in exclusive company.

“Birdman's” absence was most conspicuous in the category of Best Film Editing, as it became the first film since “Ordinary People” to win the top prize without a nomination there. Sandra Adair, despite her ACE Eddie win and 12-year commitment to “Boyhood,” was unable to fend off “Whiplash's” Tom Cross. A deserved win, expect Cross' cutting of the film to put him on the radar of many great producers and directors.

“Whiplash's” good fortune continued into Best Sound Mixing as Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won on their first nominations. “American Sniper” could not break out for Gregg Rudloff, John Reitz and Walt Martin, whereas “Birdman” proved too subtle for Jon Taylor and Frank Montaño (double-nominated for “Unbroken”) and Thomas Varga to ascend the podium.
Meanwhile, in Best Sound Editing, Bub Asman and Robert Alan Murray managed to repeat their win for “Letters from Iwo Jima” with an “American Sniper” win. It was the obvious place to reward the film. And like that other Eastwood effort, it turned out to be the only place.

Best Visual Effects was another predictable category as “Interstellar” racked up another Oscar for Christopher Nolan's below-the-line team, led by Paul Franklin. Joe Letteri and his “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” crew can take heart that their achievements on this franchise will live in film history.

“Glory” from “Selma” was also a predictable Oscar winner, as the sole Best Picture nominee and winner of most of the precursors. While I did have a soft spot for Glen Campbell, if Common and John Legend did not win after that incredible performance, well… I don't know what would have happened. The other nominees were all first-timers except Diane Warren, who can celebrate having returned to the race but is still waiting for that first statuette.

Costume designer Milena Canonero won her fourth Oscar, for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” over other past winners Colleen Atwood, Jacqueline Durran and Mark Bridges. That, too, was foreseeable and deserved. She's a classy, stylish lady and it was wonderful to see her with another Oscar. “Maleficent's” Anna B. Sheppard, it appears, will have to wait.

“Grand Budapest's” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier also earned a predictable but deserved win for Makeup and Hairstyling. Coulier's statuette becomes his second (joining “The Iron Lady”).
But it was the third design win for “Grand Budapest” that truly delighted me as Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock took home the Production Design trophy. They crafted the most “Wes Anderson” of Wes Anderson worlds and were deservedly rewarded for it.

Original Score was the category where “Grand Budapest's” luck was truly going to be tested, and it managed to continue its streak. Which brings us back to Alexandre Desplat. Edging out Jóhann Jóhannsson for “The Theory of Everything,” Desplat's victory was an inspired choice, capping off, as he himself recognized, an incredible decade. His genuine happiness was wonderful to witness.

At Tech Support, we seek to shine a light on the men and women who make our films what they are through their below-the-line contributions. Last night, the Academy honored a truly special group of them. While it's always possible to quarrel with some choices, it was hard to find too much fault this year and difficult to say anything bad about the winners. As for those who came up short? Their accomplishments will endure and the Academy may well give them their due in time.

It's been a pleasure going through the race with you once again. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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