The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, are rapidly approaching on Sunday, February 28, 2015. Who or what will walk off that stage with an Oscar? On this website, I’ve been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2016 Awards Tracker. Those results have been my data trends to predict what films are going to win. Through several editorial features, here is my analysis to formulate my official Academy Award predictions. In this third post, we look at the visual and artistic categories which include Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hair-Styling. Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!
The nominees: Ed Lachman for “Carol,” Robert Richardson for “The Hateful Eight,” John Seale for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Emmanuel Lubezki for “The Revenant,” and Roger Deakins for “Sicario”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 13- Lubezki, 13- Seale, 6- Lachman, and three others with one win each.
Who was snubbed: I think the right five best are here, but an argument could be made for Dariusz Wolski’s work from “The Martian” (and also “The Walk” for that matter) or Spielberg’s go-to lenser Janusz Kaminski for “Bridge of Spies.” Other personal favorites from this past year were Adam Arkapaw’s fire and mud from “Macbeth” and Yves Belanger’s romantic palette from “Brooklyn.”
Happy to be there: By far, the weakest nominee of this bunch is Robert Richardson. I feel like he’s here for the 70mm novelty alone that boosted up the hype for “The Hateful Eight.” Sure, the screen is big and pristine, but they left the money shot vistas outside for much of three hours.
Who should win: Someday, for the love of the film gods, Roger Deakins needs to win this award. He’s been nominated 13 times for this award and never won. “Sicario” has everything from a cinematography standpoint, the detailed and shifty interiors equaled by the sprawling exteriors. Half of the film’s intensity is it’s uncomfortable closeness provided Deakins’s perfect camera.
Who will win: A month ago, I would have told you John Seale was a lock, but “The Revenant” is surging on all fronts. When Emmanuel Lubezki has his name called you will witness a piece of Oscar history. Other than Walt Disney himself winning ten Oscars across eight straight years, only two other Oscar categories (Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects) have ever had someone win the same category in three consecutive years. Lubezki will follow his prizes from “Gravity” and “Birdman” to add a third. He won this award from that opening long-take battle scene on. Be mindful of his three possible 2016 releases (“Last Days in the Desert,” “Knight of Cups,” and “Weightless”) when he goes for four straight next year.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The nominees: “Bridge of Spies,” “The Danish Girl,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 13- “Mad Max: Fury Road,” 3- “Brooklyn,” 2- “Carol,” and three others with one win.
Who was snubbed: I don’t give Quentin Tarantino’s film “The Hateful Eight” very much credit for anything, but I will tip my hat to the immense nooks-and-crannies detail that was poured over that Minnie’s Haberdashery setting of his revenge western. You could spend days dissecting all of the items in the background of that ramshackle place. The same goes for the superb professional work from three-time Oscar winner Dante Ferretti for “Cinderella” and its sheer volume of fantasy decadence.
Happy to be there: I know production design/art direction is about lighting and locations and more than just set creation. That said, I still cannot rank “The Revenant” as an Oscar nominee in this category. It technically deserves the opposite of this award for using all exterior locations and zero artificial lighting.
Who should win and will win: The data doesn’t lie here. This is the perfect award to give “Mad Max: Fury Road.” All of that film’s look is sprung from pure and wild imagination from the cars and sets to the exotic locations. The film has it all and deserves this award.
BEST FILM EDITING
The nominees: “The Big Short,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant,” “Spotlight,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 17- “Mad Max: Fury Road,” 2- “The Big Short,” and four others with one win
Who was snubbed: “Sicario” is a lean and mean machine with not an ounce of wasted celluloid fat on its pace and product. I know documentaries never have a shot in this category, but I would have also happily voted for the massively composition that streamlined all of that raw chronicle footage from “Amy.” Never before has 90-odd minutes felt like a full portrait of an entire life.
Happy to be there: I’m sorry, but if you’re film is tipping the scales closer to three hours than two, you didn’t edit enough. Thankfully, “The Hateful Eight” was properly left out, but “The Revenant” is still here. In many categories, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film was granted extra technical and artistic nominations without real merit on its way to its field-leading 12 nomination. Give it cinematography all day, but not film editing.
Who should win and will win: Normally, I’m not a fan of the Michael Bay-like hyper-editing of cuts and speed, but, for the second category in a row, I can’t argue with the absolute energy and momentum of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Unlike last year with “Whiplash” winning for editing, there isn’t a little virtuoso movie that shines sharper than the big budget behemoths.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The nominees: “Ex Machina,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 8- “Mad Max: Fury Road,” 2- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” 2- “The Walk,” and five other films with one win.
Who was snubbed: When you read “Happy to be there” next, you will see there is room for two changes. The phenomenal shrinking effects of “Ant-Man” and the rampaging dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” deserved the places being hogged by two Best Picture nominees. I could even offer “The Walk” as a better work than the two below.
Happy to be there: Here we go again, because a pattern is now forming. “The Revenant” simply does not belong in this class. One impressive bear attack and a couple of cheap visions of floating DiCaprio and spouse are not good enough for Best Visual Effects. I will also say the same for “The Martian.” A few space scenes and one good dust storm are not Top 5 material. “Ex Machina” deserves to be here, but is still happy that it’s micro-budget polish can be honored next to the tentpole blockbusters.
Who should win and will win: This award is a tight race and a coin toss between “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Both used stellar CGI effects when necessary, but both did as much work as possible with practical, live effects, props, and materials. Their respective authentic looks leapfrog everyone else. With a late win from the Visual Effects Society (VES), I’m going against the data and jumping on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The nominees: “Carol,” “Cinderella,” “The Danish Girl,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Revenant”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 5- “Mad Max: Fury Road” and three others with just one award.
Who was snubbed: Three contenders that stand out in my mind are the 1950’s stylings of “Brooklyn,” the heavy western coats and garb of “The Hateful Eight,” and the period piece finery of “Far From the Madding Crowd.” All three were replaced by somewhat equal nominees of bigger names. “Carol” cancelled out “Brooklyn” from the same era. “The Danish Girl” got the period piece nod and “The Hateful Eight” lost to “The Revenant” of the same century. Speaking of that…
Happy to be there: I hate to keep piling on, but it’s true. “The Revenant” shouldn’t be here. It’s not as pushy of an extra nomination inclusion as it is in other categories. That said, “The Hateful Eight” was better and should have taken its place.
Who should win: Costume designer Sandy Powell is the best in the business. She is a three-time Oscar winner (“The Young Victoria,” “The Aviator,” “Shakespeare in Love”) and 12-time nominee. She’s a double nominee this year for both “Carol” and “Cinderella,” two entirely different examples of gorgeous work. “Carol” would be my vote. She will be splitting her own vote, allowing the eventual winner to pass her by.
Who will win: The data backs this one up, even if Oscar history trends say otherwise. The Academy rarely awards costume design to fantasy/genre films. No one will ever admit that it’s just as beautiful, just as difficult, and even more iconic to design a Darth Vader (“Star Wars” was one exception in 1977) as it is to produce powdered wigs and cravats. “Mad Max: Fury Road” and its ferociously imaginative outfits will take the trophy.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR-STYLING
The nominees: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared,” and “The Revenant”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 7- “Mad Max: Fury Road” and three other films with one win.
Who was snubbed: Exemplary aging makeup to transform a star always tends to get action in this category. One nominee counts as that, but it’s far from a big name. One could argue for “Black Mass” and “Mr. Holmes” adding shapes and years to both Johnny Depp and Ian McKellen as worthy nominees. As usual, I have no idea why this category only gets three nominees. What’s the harm in two more to complete a legitimate field.
Happy to be there: The obscure festival favorite foreign film “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” has to be shocked to be at the Oscars. To even be noticed and remembered is its own reward. I might as well complete my post-long questioning of “The Revenant” in this category too. With so few characters, even if they looked great, there wasn’t a big enough body of makeup and hair-styling work to call it one of the three best of the year. It stole another spot.
Who should win and will win: Without question, this is the final and arguably the most deserving technical/artistic award for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The volume, originality, and difficulty on display is off the charts. Fantasy or not, this is one of the best makeup displays in decades on film.