Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
—William Butler Yeats
Previously on the Oscar Blitz, I looked at what we hear at the movies. For Valentine’s Day, I take on what we see.
Of the nominees below, the only films I haven’t seen are Kong: Skull Island and Wonder. I don’t really have an interest in either one and don’t think they are likely to win, but please feel free to indicate what you think of their look and/or their chances in the comments.
With that said, let’s examine the technical categories involved in making a movie look and feel “right”—of its time and place, accurate for its context, or simply really, really cool.
The nominees are…
Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
Bruno Delbonnel for Darkest Hour
Hoyte van Hoytema for Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison for Mudbound
Dan Laustsen for The Shape of Water
As I said in my Oscar nominations post, this is one category that the Oscars got right. This is a great list and I could make an argument for any of these films winning. To start with, the cinematography of Blade Runner 2049 was absolutely stunning. Even critics that didn’t like the movie pretty much agree with that assessment. The Darkest Hour had me wondering how much they storyboarded it because there were so many interesting and creative framing choices throughout. I found the “air” scenes in Dunkirk to be extraordinary in IMAX and I applaud the technical ambition of it, but I actually would have preferred a wider image for the rest. The entirety of Mudbound looked like a living, breathing Wyeth painting. Gorgeous light. This is the type of movie that would have been a shoe-in in this category fifteen or twenty years ago. The Shape of Water is probably the least impressive to me. I saw someone on Twitter call the movie mediocre Jean-Pierre Jeunet and, yeah, that’s about right.
One quirk of this particular list of cinematographers is that no matter who wins it will be for the first time—love that. Roger Deakins is a long-time favorite and fourteen-time nominee who is basically known for never winning. Bruno Delbonnel has been nominated five times in this category including for Amélie and Inside Llewyn Davis. Hoyte van Hoytema, Dan Laustsen, and Rachel Morrison are first-time nominees (except for Morrison, whose win would be the first win by a woman in this category, that probably works against them). The bookmakers heavily favor Blade Runner 2049, with Dunkirk next in line.
Will Win: Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
Should Have Been Nominated: Andrew Droz Palermo for A Ghost Story. From a story perspective, this was a hard movie to make work visually—and to further complicate things, it is shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. But it works beautifully. This is one of the few categories I even see one of my favorite movies of 2017 fitting in. And since, per my own rules, I have to replace something on this list to do so, I’d replace The Shape of Water.
Best Production Design
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, Beauty and the Beast
Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola, Blade Runner 2049
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, Darkest Hour
Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis, Dunkirk
Paul Denham Austerberry, Jeff Melvin, and Shane Vieau, The Shape of Water
Production design rewards the art direction and set decoration, which is why there are usually at least two people for each film nominated. In general, this category rewards films with stunning interiors, often period dramas, or sometimes fantasy films with elaborate sets. However, the last two winners have been Mad Max: Fury Road and La La Land, so who the hell knows anymore.
Including both nominations here, Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer have been nominated six times, mostly for their work with Joe Wright, the director of Darkest Hour. Dennis Gassner also has six nominations to his credit; Alessandra Querzola is a first-time nominee. Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis have each been nominated four times, but for different films. Paul Denham Austerberry, Jeff Melvin, and Shane Vieau are all first-time nominees.
I really don’t love this list. Beauty and the Beast just looked cheesy and fake to me. Blade Runner 2049 seemed a little inconsistent in this regard. Darkest Hour was believable but a bit dull, while I don’t even see how Dunkirk gets on here, except due to the fact that Crowley and Fettis both have great reputations and have been nominated separately multiple times before. The Shape of Water does not deserve thirteen nominations, but this is one of the few awards I would give it, and it is justifiably favored here, with Blade Runner 2049 running a close-ish second.
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: The Shape of Water
Should Have Been Nominated: Their Finest. I mean, if you are going to nominate a period film about Dunkirk, why not this one, where there were actually sets within sets! To replace Dunkirk, obviously.
Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran, Beauty and the Beast
Jacqueline Durran, Darkest Hour
Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
Luis Sequeira, The Shape of Water
Consolata Boyle, Victoria & Abdul
As was the case with Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer above, including both nominations here, Jacqueline Durran has been nominated six times, mostly for her work with Joe Wright. This is the third nomination for both Consolata Boyle and Mark Bridges. Luis Sequeira is a first-time nominee.
Beyond Phantom Thread, which is heavily favored to win, this is another list that I don’t love, but looking at the 2017 movies I’ve seen, there are not many other obvious choices out there. I’m surprised something like The Greatest Showman or Murder on the Orient Express isn’t here, but I haven’t seen either of them so I can’t really speak to those absences. I just didn’t watch any of these films and think “Great costumes!” Sure, the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast had incredible ball gowns, but the rest was sort of meh. [Side note: That movie did not have one scene that elevated it above the original animated version, so I’d be a bit bummed if it got any Oscar validation. Let it be content with simply earning a bajillion dollars.]
Will Win: Phantom Thread
Should Win: Phantom Thread
Should Have Been Nominated: [Insert your egregious snub here]
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Kazuhiro Tsuji, Darkest Hour
Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard, Victoria & Abdul
Arjen Tuiten, Wonder
I know there is some reason this category only ever has three nominations but I always forget what it is. Still it annoys me every year. What annoys me more is that I can never quite figure out how these films get chosen. I mean, I just watched Victoria & Abdul and I still don’t get why it’s here. [Side note: That movie was funnier than it had any right to be. It is not the staid period drama you might expect.] Of course, it doesn’t really matter because Darkest Hour is apparently a sure thing since Gary Oldman is practically unrecognizable as Churchill. Kazuhiro Tsuji is the only one of these nominees who has previously been nominated and all of them would be first-time winners. That’s about as exciting as this category gets for me.
Will Win: Darkest Hour
Should Win: Darkest Hour
Should Have Been Nominated: Two more films?
Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes
I’m generally not super interested in the Visual Effects category, though for once I’ve seen almost all the films. Still, this one is hard for me to pick since I really have no idea what “best visual effects” actually means. Coolest tricks? Most seamless? I just don’t know. Even the oddsmakers are split here, with two going for Blade Runner 2049 and one going for War for the Planet of the Apes. If you’d like to try to judge for yourself, watch the video mash-up of all the nominees located above.
Will Win: Blade Runner 2049. Apes may be “together strong” but I think the momentum behind Roger Deakins in Cinematography will somehow carry over to this category.
Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes. I would probably vote for War in order to recognize the whole trilogy as well as the fact that this one had the fewest human scenes and therefore the most motion-capture work.
Should Have Been Nominated: Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman. If only because I don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Kong: Skull Island were very good, and if we are doomed to have this type of film fill out this category I’d rather have ones I liked more.
Which artists and films would you like to see take home one of these golden boys?