Saturday, December 05, 2015

December Oscar Predictions: The Visual Categories

We continue on with predicting the six visual categories, those categories that with annoying frequency end up being simply about whether the film is nominated for Best Picture or not and less about what categories deserve to get another nomination (The Man from UNCLE being missing from the Best Costume race is already bumming me out and it hasn't even happened yet).  However, there's still a little bit of a skill involved (if nothing else, we have 8-9 Best Picture nominees we have to sort through), so let's begin alphabetically, shall we?


The great question everyone is pondering right now is whether Emmanuel Lubezki can become the first person ever to win this category back-to-back-to-back.  It'll be a bit of a tall order, but if anyone can do it it's the man who made Gravity and Birdman so iconic.  The Revenant will surely net him his eighth Oscar nomination, as the trailers look fantastic and the Cinematography is being paraded as one of the standouts of the film.  On the other side of this argument, though, is Lubezki's frequent competitor Roger Deakins, who is 0/12 at the Oscars in his long career, and could well be back for Sicario, even if the film itself may not score many other places right now (witness how Deakins got in for Prisoners as the movie's sole nomination as an argument for this prediction).

There are a lot of famous names being thrown about this year in this category in addition to Lubezki and Deakins.  Robert Richardson has three Oscars to his name, and has already been twice-nominated for Tarantino pictures so The Hateful Eight's snowy mountains could help him add to that count.  On the opposite end of the climate spectrum is John Seale's scorched desert of Mad Max: Fury Road, a film so enticing that George Miller managed to convince the Oscar-winning Seale to abandon his self-imposed retirement.  Janusz Kaminski is also always a threat, and working with Steven Spielberg has resulted in all but one of his nominations so don't discount him for Bridge of Spies even if it isn't his showiest work.

You don't have to necessarily have an Oscar or Deakins' nomination count to score here, though, as at least a couple of contenders are shooting for their first trophies.  Dariusz Wolski, who has an ASC nomination but nothing with Oscar, could finally make the club with The Martian (the effects-driven work hasn't hurt contenders in the past here), while Yves Belanger's beautiful shots of Ireland and 1950's New York are highlights in Brooklyn.  I would be remiss if I didn't point out Edward Lachman, who could score his second citation for a Todd Haynes film with Carol (he was previously noted for Far From Heaven).  Finally, in what could be the most historic moment of the year, Maryse Alberti's inventive cinematography in Creed could result in her breaking down one of Oscar's biggest glass-ceilings: no woman has ever been nominated in this category, the only non-gender specific category to still hold that distinction.

My Predictions: Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario


Sandy Powell has done it before, and she seems likely to do it again.  The costume designer in 1998 beat herself with Shakespeare in Love besting Velvet Goldmine, and it appears she'll be nominated for both Carol and Cinderella, both of which surely are the frontrunners to win this trophy (it's worth noting if she were to win that this would be the first year ever that she or Colleen Atwood won without having to beat the other as Atwood has no films out this year (somewhere Guillermo del Toro is wishing he had hired her for Crimson Peak so that he could get at least one nomination as Kate Hawley seems like a non-entity at this turn).

Outside of Powell, there's three (likely losing) slots to be had, and one of them will probably be Paco Delgado who will follow up his Les Miz nomination with another outfitting of Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl.  The film may be losing steam, but it should still have enough to win for what may be some of the most eye-catching costume work of the year.  Brooklyn is also a major period drama, and Odile Dicks-Mireau could become the annual "first-time nominee" if the movie is selected, though it's still a little hard to gage how strong the film is in terms of Oscar with such little actual discussion about the picture coming up.  Jane Petrie (Suffragette), Daniel Orlandi (Trumbo), and Courtney Hoffman (The Hateful Eight) are also possibilities, but this category isn't kind to first-timers, and Dicks-Mireau is the most likely one to make the list.

That leaves perhaps someone getting in on name alone, and without Atwood in the race, one must wonder if Jacqueline Durran, who has both Macbeth and Pan to compete, could be the name.  If not her, Janet Patterson's work in Far From the Madding Crowd or Jacqueline West's fur coats in The Revenant could be contenders.  Or, if the Oscars really go hog-wild for it, it's hard to imagine that Mad Max gets a slew of nominations without bringing along Oscar favorite Jenny Beaven, who could score an astounding tenth nomination for Fury Road if she manages to make the cut.

My Predictions: Brooklyn, Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road

Film Editing

This is the category where you need to go with the Best Picture frontrunners, and occasionally a prestige action picture, which makes it arguably the least fun to predict as any showy Best Picture contender is on the list.  That surely means that The Martian, Spotlight, and The Revenant are almost certain to be nominated, while Carol and Brooklyn (the category isn't kind to female-driven pictures) are more likely than not to be left in the dust for having too much estrogen.

The rest of the category is interesting as you've got obvious contenders in the form of other likely Best Pictures (Bridge of Spies, Joy, Room, and The Hateful Eight all deserve mention), but I'm starting to think it will be two other films that seem to be both in the Best Picture hunt AND are showy action films.  It's hard to imagine Creed, considering its buzz and its boxing movie cuts not making it in this race if the Academy takes it seriously, and the same has to be said for Mad Max: Fury Road, which is kind of born for this category considering that critics loved it and it has a lot of interesting setpieces.  Star Wars 7 would be a threat in a normal year, and could still make it, but it's hard to imagine the Academy giving up any of its three Best Picture contenders to get George Lucas into the race.

My Predictions: Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Spotlight

Makeup and Hairstyling

The Oscars weirdly don't have a five-wide field here (it continues to be so strange considering Visual Effects and Sound Effects Editing both went five-wide in the past decade and here it still sits all alone at three), so the competition is always a little fiercer since makeup is such an integral part of the cinematic experience.  Toward the top of this list is The Danish Girl, which continues the past few years' tradition of a period movie that manages to also have some prestige behind it (though it won't have a Best Picture nomination, which could hurt a bit).  Still, Eddie Redmayne's transformation seems like the sort of thing the Oscars would go for, and I think it'll be in the race.

The rest of the field is looser-Mad Max: Fury Road certainly has intensely memorable effects, but will they be too gross (I was uncomfortable with some of the creations that came out of the team's mind) for Oscar's tastes?  Star Wars has been here before (it was the only nomination that Revenge of the Sith managed to grab, it's worth noting), but effects-driven films occasionally get tossed out with the bath water in favor of more prosthetic or practical makeup effects.  Black Mass surely falls into this category, and Johnny Depp is a bit of a good luck charm here, but will AMPAS remember this film long enough to get here as well as Best Actor?  The same goes for Mr. Holmes and Ian McKellen's aging-up.  Carol is one of those movies where it could be remembered, but it's fairly subtle work for the Oscars and will they pick it alongside The Danish Girl-they usually want a bit more creepy-crawly nominees than classical looks.  Rounding out the list is likely The Revenant, which is a series of blood and gore, which again isn't exactly what the Oscars usually go for, but the Makeup branch is famously erratic, and occasionally you can't tell what sort of mood they'll be in so the Best Picture aura will surely keep it in the list until at least the bakeoff.

My Predictions: The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Production Design

This category frequently borrows from the Costume branch (they used to be connected, though no longer), and so it's safe to assume that once again Cate Blanchett will rule supreme.  Her films Carol and Cinderella feel again like the top of the heap, though it's difficult to tell at this point which one may be the actual frontrunner for the trophy.  However, since we're just going with nominations right now, let's assume they both make the cut and move into the other three slots.

The past two years has seen a strange trend toward nominations for more naturalistic space films, with Gravity and Interstellar both gaining nominations in this category.  While I wonder a bit when that trend will end, The Martian has been too big of a hit and is too high on my Oscar predictions not to give it a lot of opportunity in this race, and I suspect the Academy will want to ratchet up its nomination count.  Both The Danish Girl and Brooklyn should be under consideration considering the Academy's love of drawing rooms and immaculate period dramas in this category, though with Cinderella and Carol already taking up two slots, will they go once again for two of these dramas (if they do, will it matter that Eve Stewart, who designed Danish is an Academy favorite while Brooklyn's Francois Seguin hasn't ever been in the competition before?)?  Speaking of period, Bridge of Spies' Adam Stockhausen is an Oscar-winner and since I think pundits are underestimating this film, he might well make it onto the list once more.

Then there are a few films where it's hard to gage.  It's difficult to see the kind of nomination run that I'm predicting for Mad Max (so far I've included him in every visual category) without it also making Best Picture, a title I'm not quite ready to guess, but the desert and some of the roaming machines certainly feel iconic in the film.  Star Wars didn't get in for any of the prequels, but no one actually liked those films except the Effects branch, and so this could be a return for the series if it makes a large impression on AMPAS.  Crimson Peak seems to have, well, peaked (sorry-couldn't resist), but the film's house is mesmerizing and if it's more popular than I expect this would be the place it randomly showed up (the same could be said for the garish Pan).  Finally, if they actually decide to go with a contemporary film (nearly unheard of here), Room's title chamber is memorable enough and featured enough that it could make it on that alone.

My Predictions: Bridge of Spies, Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, The Martian

Visual Effects

We end with perhaps the weirdest year in Visual Effects in a long time, as it's questionable over whether there's an actual frontrunner here.  While yes, Star Wars 7 is definitely a film that will be nominated (it's too big of a deal not to, and could in fact be a landmark in special effects depending on how things turn out), the prequels were very impressive for their day and couldn't make the cut to actually win-will the seventh entry in the series really elicit that kind of a win?  Mad Max: Fury Road is the prestige favorite, but it's not the kind of showy CGI that usually wins this award.  And finally there's The Martian, which would continue the trend of a Best Picture nominee that also has a robust amount of effects (Avatar, Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, Gravity), but the past two winners in this category have been lost-in-space epics, both of which had considerably stronger visual effects than the Ridley Scott film-will AMPAS give out another win for a film that would arguably be the weakest winner here in eight years?

Beyond that field, all of which at least feel like nominees, there's a huge slate of potential contenders that could make it but have big asterisks next to their names.  Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron seem like solid bets for the final two spots (this is the blockbuster category, and these made mountains of money), but the former film it was pretty universally agreed was inferior to its twenty-years-old predecessor in terms of effects and the latter felt pale in comparison to the first movie three years ago in every capacity.  Beyond them, though, the list gets even sparser.  Will AMPAS want to sign on for the 3-D effects of The Walk, a film that feels already like it will be lining the discount bins at a Wal-Mart near you?  Ex Machina was sleek and gorgeous, but it was under-seen and the effects are extremely subtle for this group.  Tomorrowland was a big spectacle that randomly got lost after it bombed, a fact that doesn't always affect this category but can Disney actually land a nomination for it? In the Heart of the Sea is a late-breaking film for the year, and could be in the conversation I suppose, but giant waves of water don't always sell here (remember The Impossible?).  Finally, Nathaniel Rogers over at the Film Experience is perhaps the only person who has kept this candle alive, but I do think there's something to be said for Furious 7, a film which will probably be the "peak" of that insanely successful franchise, making it in in a weak year (acknowledging the ridiculous amounts of money that have been given to the series), but will enough people realize this could be a good idea at AMPAS to actually pick it?

My Predictions: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

And there you have it folks-Mad Max is currently predicted for five (and it was my sixth place choice in Production Design)-do you agree with me that this is the film that will dominate here, or are you more behind something like The Martian or Cinderella?  Share your thoughts (and predictions) below!

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