Art Directors Guild Nominations and Oscar Predictions

One of the all of the technical awards at the Oscars, the award for Best Art Direction is among the most difficult to predict before hand. The primary reason for this is because of the minimal amount of precursor coverage that is dedicated to rewarding the achievements in this field. The category is also misleading because often times it is not a film’s Art Director who actually gets the nomination, but the Production Designer and Set Decorator. The Art Directors Guild further adds to the confusion by splitting up their awards into three different categories – nominating films based on whether they are in a contemporary setting, a period setting, or a fantasy setting. When films blend several of these elements, for instance Big Fish or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, there is some category confusion.

With most technical categories at the Oscars, the films that get nominated for the Guild Awards heavily overlap with the films that get nominated for the Oscar. However, with 15 films getting nominated by the Art Directors Guild and only 5 spots at the Oscars, there is more ambiguity. Typically the films that get nominated for Period Film and Fantasy Film are more likely to get nominations, simply because contemporary set films require much less in terms of set design and usually rely heavily on found spaces. It would seem that with 15 nominations by the ADG all of the 5 Oscar nominees would have fit into one of their categories, however that is definitely not always the case. Last year three films that were snubbed by the Art Directors Guild in all three categories ended up going on to be nominated for Oscars – The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Nine, and The Young Victoria.

Will this year lead to similar snubs or surprises? View the full list of ADG nominees below and my thoughts after that.

15th Art Directors Guild Award
Nominations 2010

Period Film
Get Low
The King’s Speech
Robin Hood
Shutter Island
True Grit

Fantasy Film
Alice in Wonderland
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception
Tron: Legacy

Contemporary Film
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Social Network
The Town


The period films are always the ones that I look to first with this branch of the Academy’s proven favoritism towards films like Sweeney Todd, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Aviator. Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech is full of regal set pieces that both re-create well-known British royalty locales and imagine up new, dense spaces to add to the character’s conflict. This film seems like a fair frontrunner and I will happily put it out in front. Another strong contender is Inception, a film that many have speculated will sweep the technical awards like Avatar did last year. Inception takes contemporary settings and twists them to create a sort of faux-reality that is both very imaginative and technically complex.

For some reason, Alice in Wonderland keeps cropping up on technical awards lists, despite the fact that I felt it’s technical work was nothing special in that it added little to the lackluster storytelling. However, it is very in-your-face and will be hard to avoid when the Academy is filling out their ballots. Filling out the rest of the top five will probably be True Grit for its dirty Western atmospheres and impressive gallows scene wherein the set acts almost like a character in the film and Tron: Legacy because it’s bright and shiny. However, this category is as unpredictable as Minnesota weather.

Below are my Oscar predictions for Best Art Direction.

1) The King’s Speech
2) Inception
3) Alice in Wonderland
4) True Grit
5) Tron: Legacy

What are your thoughts on this vexing category? Care to share any predictions that may differ with mine?

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]

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  • I was trying last night to predict the Art Direction nominees on my website and it was really hard to do.

  • I have four of the five the same. I sub your Tron with Harry Potter, but hope for Black Swan.

  • Jose

    I too hope for Black Swan to make the cut. And I wonder if Harry Potter can get in. My personal list has one of those also subbing Tron.

  • julian

    I, for one, intensely disliked Shutter Island (Scorsese´s worst movie ever?), but if it has a shot at an oscar nomination, isn´t it in this category? I think so (but hopes it gets snubbed nevertheless)

  • I think Shutter Island deserves to be nominated for Best Cinematography but that will never happen.

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