Editor’s note: Welcome to the twenty-first of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Mike of Spaghetti Sauce and Sweet Peas.
Achievement in Art Direction
Changeling, Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight, Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
The Duchess, Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road, Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt
It feels like any category without a Slumdog nomination is a huge relief for the other films. Especially, a film like Benjamin Button, which may get shut out (though I think that’s unlikely). The Art Directors Guild announced their winners last week. They were the following:
Best period film design: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best fantasy film design: The Dark Knight
Best contemporary film design: Slumdog Millionaire
Even before the guild announced their winners, Button was the frontrunner in this race. This should only further establish that. On a side note, I’m still trying to figure out why The Dark Knight is a fantasy film. I personally think this should be one of the less dramatic categories of the night.
Changeling would be more of a threat if the film was better received within the Academy. I also think it’s comparable to Button and that film’s art direction is superior. Anyway, this is Murakami’s second nomination (’84 for The Natural) and Fettis’ second as well (’90 for The Godfather: Part III). Both are looking for their first win. When you watch this film, it just feels like a standard 1920s LA re-creation.
Button is the frontrunner in this category and rightfully so. It’s very epic and the film spans almost a hundred years. That’s a lot of different worlds to create and they should be rewarded for it. This is actually the first nomination for both Burt and Zolfo. I feel like if Button can only win this award, then this should be it.
The Dark Knight presents a different type of art direction. It’s not a period film, but a comic book adaptation (or a fantasy film according to the ADG). The city of Gotham is dark and creepy at times. This is the second nomination for Crowley (’06 for The Prestige) and first for Lando. The last couple years the Academy has gone with more fantasy in this category (Pan’s Labyrinth and Sweeney Todd), so that could bode well for Knight. I just don’t know how much the Academy really likes this film. It was shut out of Best Picture, but landed all these technical categories. I feel like this film could either take home like five Oscars or one. This film could be a real wild card.
The Duchess is a classic period piece that almost always gets nominated for this category. This is the first nomination for both Carlin and Alleway. I saw this film and couldn’t really get into it. The art direction and costumes were great, but will the quality of film hurt its chances? For costumes the film’s quality hasn’t mattered recently (Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth: The Golden Age), but I don’t see it winning here at all.
Revolutionary Road recreates classic 50s suburbia. This is the second nomination for Zea (’97 for As Good As It Gets) and first nom for Schutt. Like The Duchess, I don’t like this film’s chances. I love the 50’s, but this film is greatly misunderstood by many people. It definitely is not liked within the Academy as it failed to get nominations for both Kate and Leo. It will suffer from that and the chances of a film like this winning would seem slim to none.
I expect Button to win this category. I wouldn’t say it’s a lock, but I’m fairly confident. A lot of people don’t like this film, but obviously the Academy likes it enough to give it 13 nominations. While I don’t see it winning anything major on Sunday, it should still win a few Oscars. Look out for possibly The Dark Knight, but I would consider that to be an upset.