Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2012: Art Direction

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

BEST ART DIRECTION


1HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

3. HUGO

3. THE ARTIST

4. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

5. WAR HORSE

Missing: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Let’s take a moment here to reflect on Oscar’s huge snub of the entire Harry Potter series in the past and present. HP has been nominated for 12 awards in total — including three this year –and has yet to win one. Now that the series has ended, will the Academy finally bestow an Oscar or two in acknowledgement of the series’ superior visual aesthetic? Doubtful, which is ridiculous considering that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 marks the fourth time Stuart Craig and Sephanie McMillan have been nominated for their gorgeous art direction. If it were up to the Art Directors Guild, Harry may have a shot: the final film just won the ADG Award for Fantasy Feature Film (but then, Hugo and the MIA here GIrl with the Dragon Tattoo also took home trophies).

If it were any other year, I’d happily hand over the gold guy to Scorcese’s frequent collaborator and two-time Oscar winner, Dante Ferretti (Sweeney ToddThe Aviator, Gangs of New York) for his charming and amazingly detailed work on Hugo. Building the entire 1930s set from scratch — including the train station, toy and book shops, clock tower, graveyard, inspector’s office —   took Ferretti fives months, and his wife, set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, added 40 huge street lamps and accounted for each shelved book — nearly 40,000 — and handcrafted each toy in the shops. The beautiful accumulative effect is an authentic, bustling 1930s train station in Paris.

But Ferretti wasn’t the only one tasked with creating a nostalgic City of Lights: First-time nominee Anne Seibel transported us from the modern Paris to the lush and glamorous 1920s in Midnight in Paris,  recreating the legendary Moulin Rouge and imagining a surrealistic wedding fit for Dalí replete with ostrich-feather lamps and tigers on tables.

But, as always, one must account for The Artist, which could very well sweep the entire awards this year: Designer Laurence Bennett did a fine job of creating a pitch-perfect homage to classic cinema by recreating period film sets and the streets of Los Angeles in the ’20s and ’30s in the Paramount and Warner Bros lots — the same locations that were used to film those streets in the heyday of Hollywood’s silent era.

As for our final nominee, well, most simply lament that the soppy War Horse was nominated when the 70s-riffic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was not.

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