Sunday, May 19, 2024

Surveying The Oscar Field: The 2017 Below The Line Categories (Techs)

Oscar season is upon us again at last (Though some might argue that it never really left us). Venice and Telluride film festivals are wrapping up, while the all-important Toronto is still ongoing. And of course, most of the attention has been directed towards the major Oscar contenders emerging in the “above-the-line” categories. You can learn all about those here. But the festival circuit, not to mention the first 2/3s of the year, have provided us with no shortage of contenders in the often overlooked “Below-the-line” categories. I.E. “the techs,” the categories that honor people whose names you really should know but probably don’t. Contenders in the tech categories began emerging as early as this past winter. And as the festival circuit continues, an uncertain year will only offer us more films to consider.

BEST FILM EDITING

Dunkirk

Historically, the editing category has been populated predominantly by Best Picture contenders. Since 1980, only “Birdman” has managed a Best Picture win without a Best Editing nomination (A nomination it likely missed only because of its ‘invisible editing.’) 38 of the last 40 Best Editing nominees have also been Best Picture nominees. Meaning, if you’re looking to predict Best Editing nominees, you’re likely safe in looking back towards your Best Picture predictions. That being said, being a Best Picture contender alone isn’t enough to secure a nomination. As the last three winners indicate (“La La Land,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Whiplash”), it helps to be flashy. Looking at this year’s field, one Best Picture contender stands out as incredibly ‘flashy’: “Dunkirk.” “Dunkirk” is well-reviewed, action-packed, and received praise for both its white-knuckle tension, and for its innovative use of time. So pencil Lee Smith (a two-time Oscar nominee already) in for a nomination this year, and potentially a win. Other already-seen Best Picture contenders include Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.” Variety describes two—time Emmy nominated editor Sidney Wolinsky’s work in the film as keeping “the narrative wheels… roaringly in motion…jangling through a handful of sharply sustained tension setpieces.” “The Florida Project’s” rambling vignette-esque nature may prove off-putting for voters, but if the film proves to be a major contender, an editing nomination could become a way to reward Sean Baker (Who also wrote and directed the film). Walter Fasano’s work in “Call Me By Your Name” has generally not been singled out in reviews, but quiet work in Best Picture contenders occasionally sneaks in as well alongside flashier counterparts, “The Descendants” being a recent example. Similarly, Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” will likely prove a top 5 Oscar contender. As such, Valero Bonelli’s editing stands a strong chance at a nomination, not unlike Michael Kahn’s nomination for another backroom political drama: “Lincoln.” Finally, should “Battle of the Sexes” continue as one of the season’s big crowd pleasers, Pamela Martin could potentially snag her second nomination, particularly, since Best Picture nominated sports pictures often show up in this category (“The Fighter,” “Moneyball,” “Seabiscuit”). Although Cannes response was somewhat muted, Affonso Goncalves’ nimble two-timeline juggling act in “Wonderstruck” could easily lead him to a nomination if voters take to the film as a whole. “Get Out’s” precise cutting, though subtle, could make an appearance if voters flock to the film across the board. 

Plenty more potential Best Picture contenders remain unseen, however. If Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” proves to be the major contender that many expect, count on Michael Kahn snagging his 9th nomination, while two-time Oscar nominee Dylan Tichenor could potentially manage his third Oscar nomination for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” (or Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film…it’s whatever you want at this point). 

But of course, non-Best Picture contenders can manage a nomination occasionally. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” managed nominations (Or in the case of the latter, wins). In previous decades, the likes of “The Dark Knight,” “Speed,” and “The Matrix” earned nominations or wins. 2017 has already offered a slew of impressive tech contenders. Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss’ editing in “Baby Driver” earned widespread acclaim. If “Baby Driver” is not a Best Picture contender, it certainly still hits the flashy requirement. And like 2007’s Editing winner, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” it is a box office hit. Similarly, Warner Bros. is planning a major campaign for “Wonder Woman.” Voters may turn to Oscar winning editor Martin Walsh to honor the film. “Blade Runner 2049” is sure to be a major below-the-line contender, meaning Joe Walker (Hot off his second nomination for “Arrival“) could easily receive attention alongside the film’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins. Editing Voters previously took to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” nominating it over apparently safe nominees such as “The Martian”. As such, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” could follow in its footsteps, although, editor Bob Ducsay’s track record editing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2,” “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and “Van Helsing” is not promising. Clint Eastwood’s “15:17 To Paris” is a race against time on a high speed train, and as such will likely follow in the footsteps of “Sully’s” fast pace and lean runtime. Should it become another “American Sniper”-style hit, Blu Murray could be looking at his first nomination. The buzz around Lynne Ramsay’s Cannes-award winning “You Were Never Really Here” seems to have subsided a bit, but its editing was praised, with Vanity Fair even using the term “tour-de-force” at the time. Should it regain some momentum it could factor in as well. Aaron Sorkin films lend themselves to rapid-fire editing, and his directorial debut, “Molly’s Game,” has received strong reviews as well as notices for its editing. Finally, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” landed in theaters with a thud, but William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon stand a slight chance for a token tech nomination. 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Dunkirk
2. “The Post”
3. “Darkest Hour”
4. “Blade Runner 2049”
5. “Baby Driver

6. “The Shape of Water”
7. “Wonderstruck”
8. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
9. “15:17 to Paris”
10. “Molly’s Game”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Blade Runner 2049

Ever since Roger Deakins was announced as the Director of Photography for Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049,” many have had the iconic cinematographer penciled in for an Oscar win. Boasting an astonishing 13 Oscar nominations without a single win, Deakins remains one of the most overdue cinematic artists in existence. Not only does he now boast a narrative, his visuals in “Blade Runner 2049” look characteristically striking, and the film fits the recent trend of Best Visual Effects winners also taking cinematography (“Avatar,” “Inception,” “Hugo,” “Life of Pi,” “Gravity”). As the names of below-the-line artists do not appear on voting ballots, Deakins still faces an uphill battle in getting his sympathy narrative fully rolling, but as we saw last year, long-overdue winner Kevin O’Connell defied the odds to win an Oscar on his 21st nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge.” Even in tech categories, overdue narratives can come into play. 

In the event that Deakins once-again misses out on a win, 2017 already boasts a number of viable contenders. Four-time nominee Bruno Delbonnel has been widely acclaimed for his work in “Darkest Hour.” Variety says of Delbonnel’s work in the film “innovates, breaking from the walk-and-talk political-drama template introduced by “The West Wing” in favor of a more dynamic, omniscient camera, with which he navigates the halls of power…[it] suggests [an] 18th-century painting.” Indiewire compares Delbonnel’s work to that of two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski, and TheWrap calls it “opulent.” Nearly every review singled out his work. If “Darkest Hour” becomes a major threat for Best Picture, then below-the-line success will surely follow. If anyone could defeat Deakins, it would be Delbonnel. Right on Delbonnel and Deakins’ heels stands Hoyte Von Hoytema for his visceral work in “Dunkirk.” Shot extensively with IMAX cameras, Hoytema’s work is the kind of large-scale spectacle that could benefit from the same VFX overlap as “Blade Runner 2049,” and will also benefit from the admiration of a few traditionalists within the voting body who prefer features shot on film. Unlike “Blade Runner 2049,” it is a surefire Best Picture nominee. While there is less of an overlap between cinematography and Best Picture than with Editing, all 10 of the most recent Cinematography winners were also Best Picture nominees.

​Other potential Best Picture nominees that could potentially factor into the race include Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.” Although a largely-indoors set 1970s drama doesn’t read on paper like a traditional cinematography nominee, Spielberg’s collaborations with longtime DP Janusz Kaminski can never be discounted. Dan Lausten’s work in Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape Of Water” has garnered praise for its haunting yet romantic imagery. Variety’s Kris Tapley has deemed the film a “secure” cinematography nominee. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s painterly renderings of Italian vistas in “Call Me By Your Name” received praise at Sundance. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” remains an unknown commodity, but Anderson has ditched his usual collaborators in favor of shooting the project himself. No Director of Photography has ever garnered a cinematography nomination for a film he also directed (Even Soderbergh couldn’t for “Traffic”), but if anyone could, it would be Anderson, with his love of long takes and masterful compositions. And Edward Lachmann, likely an Oscar runner-up in 2015 for Carol, returns for another collaboration with Todd Haynes for “Wonderstruck.” Though the film’s reception as a whole at Cannes was muted, Lachmann’s work was widely praised. He alternates between a grainy 70s look, and a classic black-and-white look to differentiate the film’s timelines. If there is one thing the Academy’s cinematography branch cannot resist, it is black and white. (Look no further than…almost any B&W film released recently – “Ida,” “Nebraska,” “The Artist,” “The White Ribbon,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” etc). Rachel Morrison’s striking work in “Mudbound” could make her the first female DP ever nominated for an Oscar, but anti-Netflix bias may hinder the film’s tech chances. Alexis Zabe’s work in “The Florida Project” may prove too subdued and low-budget for voters, but in light of “Moonlight’s” nomination in the category, the film’s creative use of color might be enough to push it in. 

Non-Best Picture contenders could factor in of course. Steve Yeldin’s work in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” appears striking. No Star Wars film has ever managed a cinematography nomination, though, which means it faces an uphill battle. Seamus McGarvey’s dynamic and flashy work in “The Greatest Showman” stands a chance as well. He has been nominated twice before for both “Atonement” and “Anna Karenina,” and the film could easily bring him a “Moulin Rouge“-style nomination. Darius Khondji’s work in “The Lost City of Z” will likely be forgotten come voting-time, but the film’s masterful compositions deserve to remain in the conversation. Iconic cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro’s work in Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” could factor into the race based on his name alone, but his work in 2016’s “Café Society” was largely ignored. Perennial Oscar nominee Robert Richardson can never be ignored. His work in Andy Serkis’s “Breathe” would seem an obvious choice in the event the film is successfully received. Masanobu Takayanagi’s work in Scott Cooper’s “Hostiles” has proved to be well-received, but rests on the chances that the film finds a distributor and a 2017 release date. Oscar winner Anthony Dod Mantle’s work has been ignored by AMPAS since his win for “Slumdog Millionaire,” but his work in Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” has been singled out. Stiff competition and anti-Netflix bias may hinder its chances, however. 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Blade Runner 2049”
2. “Darkest Hour”
3. “Dunkirk
4. “The Shape of Water”
5. “Wonderstruck”

6. “Phantom Thread”
7. “Call Me By Your Name”
8. “The Post”
9. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
10. “The Florida Project”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Wonderstruck

While many below-the-line categories boast clear frontrunners, Original Score remains something of a mystery. Many praised Hans Zimmer’s “Dunkirk” score, but the work may prove too ‘experimental’ for a still traditionalist voting body who prefers scores with hummable melodies. More importantly, the film likely will be deemed ineligible due to its incorporation of non-original music during key moments in the narrative. The Academy Music Branch rules are notoriously rigid when it comes to eligibility, with “Arrival,” “Birdman,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Last of the Mohicans,” “Frozen,” and “Black Swan,” are just a few of the many films denied nominations due to the rules referenced above. On the other hand, Zimmer has entirely taken over scoring for “Blade Runner 2049” from Johann Johannson. In the event that “Dunkirk” is deemed ineligible, voters may choose to honor the Oscar winner for both of his achievements this year by throwing their weight behind “Blade Runner 2049” instead. “Blade Runner 2049” and “Dunkirk” are far from the only blockbusters in contention this year, however. John Williams is all but assured a nomination anytime he scores a film. Even less memorable efforts like “The Book Thief” and “Tintin” managed nominations. A franchise as iconic as “Star Wars” is likely to net him nomination number 51 (Yes, I told you voters liked him). He stands a chance at nomination #52 for his work in frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.” Oscar voters are clearly fond of the hardworking Alexandre Desplat as well, having nominated him eight times in the last decade. The Hollywood Reporter described his work in Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” as ‘sumptuously melodic.’ Not unlike Williams and Desplat, anytime Thomas Newman composes a film, it is worth keeping an eye on. The 14-time Oscar nominee even received a nomination for last year’s “Passengers.” This year, he provides music to Stephen Frears’ “Victoria and Abdul.”

Carter Burwell, who only recently received his first nomination for 2015’s “Carol,” would be a shoo in for “Wonderstruck” if the film is to be a surefire Best Picture nominee. As enormous portions of the film are without dialogue, Burwell’s score must do much of the film’s storytelling and heavy lifting. Not unlike 2011’s score winner “The Artist,” “Wonderstruck” is largely silent and provides ample opportunity for a noteworthy score. Both timelines feature their own distinctive scores, allowing the underrated composer to truly showcase his talent. 

Animated films are hit and miss in the score category. In the 1990s, Disney animated films were a perennial factor here, but in recent years, animated films have been relatively absent. If “Coco” marks a return to Oscar glory for Pixar, however, Michael Giacchino (Who previously won an Oscar for his work in Pixar’s “Up”) could stand a chance at a second nomination. “Coco” is a film revolving entirely around music (The titular character is a frustrated musician), and thus will certainly provide ample opportunities to dazzle. Johnny Greenwood has been deemed ineligible time and time again for his efforts with Paul Thomas Anderson. The same fate may befall him again this year for “Phantom Thread.” But his work is never less-than unique, and thus always work keeping an eye on (He also composed Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” this year). The Hollywood Reporter was not a fan of Oscar winner Dario Marianelli’s work in “Darkest Hour,” but others praised it. If the film is as big a player across the board as it seems, a coattail nomination could easily be in the cards. John Debney may run into eligibility issues with “The Greatest Showman” due to its large presence of original songs, but those very same songs (Courtesy of “La La Land’s” Oscar winning songwriting duo) could easily lead him to a nomination on their coattails as well. Blind hope leads me to mention Rupert Gregson-Williams’ “Wonder Woman” score, which could potentially benefit from WB’s reportedly massive Oscar campaign. Marco Beltrami has managed two surprise nominations in the past (for “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Hurt Locker”). This year, his haunting “First They Killed My Father” score has been praised by a number of trades. 

Other potential contenders include “Ferdinand” (John Powell), “Hostiles” (Max Richter), “Mudbound” (Tamir Kali), “Mother!” (Johann Johansson), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” (Carter Burwell), “Murder on the Orient Express” (Patrick Doyle), “Get Out” (Michael Abels), “Breathe” (Nitin Sawney), and “War For The Planet Of The Apes” (Michael Giacchino).

Predicted Nominees:

1. “The Shape of Water”
2. “Dunkirk
3. “Wonderstruck”
4. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
4. “Darkest Hour”

6. “Blade Runner 2049”
7. “The Post”
8. “Coco”
9. “Phantom Thread”
10. “The Greatest Showman”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Battle Of The Sexes

Like Best Original Score, the Song category often proves difficult to predict, both due to its own quirky eligibility rules and to its branch members’ sometimes…unusual choices (think Alone Yet Not Alone and the constant love for J-Ralph). It is also difficult to predict because frankly, we have no idea which films will surprise us by even having original songs. Based on what we know so far: “Coco” will likely have something. “Beauty And The Beast” boasted several original songs. “The Greatest Showman” will have several (It’s hard to be a musical without a few original songs). “Call Me By Your Name” has several super catchy ones courtesy of Sufjan Stevens. “Chasing Coral” is another undersea doc with a non-J-Ralph song but feels just similar enough to consider. “Detroit” appears to be DOA with awards, but its credits song by The Roots could make a surprise appearance. Sara Bairelles composed a song alongside Oscar nominee Nicholas Britell for “Battle Of The Sexes.” “The Lego Batman Movie” in theory could follow Everything Is Awesome’s footsteps for a delightful nomination. Oh and I’m going to be generous and say that “Get Out’s” Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga could count as a song in the same way that Pi’s Lullaby did for “Life of Pi.” 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Coco”
2. “Call Me By Your Name”
3. “The Greatest Showman”
4. “Battle Of The Sexes”
5. “Beauty And The Beast

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Darkest Hour

One of the most thoroughly bizarre categories at any given Oscar ceremony. Whatever we predict right now will probably not make the shortlist of 7 finalists (Yes this category is one of those that uses a “bakeoff” system) and then whatever we predict from the shortlist of 7 will probably not be the final 3 nominees. And here is a chance for my annual petition…expand this category to five nominees ASAP. This is absurd. Every film uses makeup. How could there only be 3 worthy films in a year? * Rant over *

As difficult as the category is to predict, right now, Gary Oldman’s complete transformation into Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” seems like a given for the category. Given the overall love for “The Shape of Water,: and the branch’s previous love for Del Toro films (“Hellboy 2,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”), plus the presence of any number of supernatural creatures in the film, it seems as though we have a second secure nominee. The third spot is somewhat more up in the air. “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2” features a wide array of unique looking aliens, and could easily follow in the first’s footsteps for a nomination. At the same time, the branch often ignores sequels to makeup-nominated films not named “The Lord of the Rings.” “It’s” massive box office success and iconic clown makeup could make it the rare Oscar-nominated horror film. Meanwhile, “The Greatest Showman’s” period and circus makeup, not to mention voter memory friendly release date, could give it a leg up. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” reads on paper like a viable nominee, but only one film in the franchise has ever managed a nomination. “Wonderstruck” buries Julianne Moore beneath old-age makeup, a trick that has led many a film to a nomination. Netflix’s “Bright” turns Joel Edgerton into a “Lord of the Rings” style Orc. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” may have been poorly received, but remember, this category loves bad films with lots of makeup (“Suicide Squad” won, and “Norbit” was nominated). “LBJ” (kind of) transforms Woody Harrelson into Lyndon Johnson, and “Blade Runner 2049” made Jared Leto go blind. “Thor: Ragnarok” transformed Cate Blanchett into a BDSM-looking alien, and “Wonder” attempted its best ‘Mask’ recreation on Jacob Tremblay. Oh and “Murder on the Orient Express” offers a LOT of period-specific facial hair. In short…there are far too many contenders for just 3 nomination slots. AMPAS take note. This is not an anomaly. 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Darkest Hour”
2. “The Shape of Water”
3. “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
4. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
5. “The Greatest Showman”
6. “Logan

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

War For The Planet Of the Apes

Until the category’s expansion to 5 nominees (Like Makeup should have been, Jesus Christ), the Visual Effects category was almost entirely by CGI heavy blockbusters. Recent years have seen atypical choices like “Hugo,” “Ex Machina,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “The Revenant,” and “Hereafter” snag nominations. The wider number of slots means that there is nearly always a surprise nomination. Never bet against Best Picture contenders in this category. Only once since 1970 has a Best Picture nominee been nominated for Visual Effects and lost. But this year, Best Picture contenders are few and far between in the category. In fact, like “Highlander,” there is only one. “Dunkirk’s” grounded use of practical effects may impress during this year’s bake-off and combined with overall love for the film may lead it to a nomination. Statistics say, if it gets nominated, it will win. But, the work on display is so grounded in reality, that one wonders if a flashier CGI-filled effort will take the prize over it. (For example, instead of CGI extras, the film used painted backgrounds to emphasize the scale of crowds). The two most obvious choices for a ‘flashy CGI-filled effort’ are “Blade Runner 2049” and “War For The Planet Of The Apes.” Although “Blade Runner” also utilized its fair share of practicals (The film made a point of clarifying that it eschewed green screens in favor of more practical methods.) That being it said, the effects work in “Blade Runner” is more ‘obvious.’ Look no further than the enormous CGI holographs and spaceships. If the film is critically acclaimed, it could easily win the category.

Fox has announced a massive Oscar campaign for “War For The Planet Of The Apes.” Make no mistake, the stunning motion capture in Apes deserves a visual effects Oscar. But it also deserved an Oscar in 2011 and 2014 and both times, voters turned their noses up. Little convinces me that they will suddenly change their minds now. Sequels seldom win the visual effects Oscar after the first film missed. In fact, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Spiderman 2” are the only examples this century.  And speaking of sequels, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will undoubtedly factor in. But while the VFX branch loves to nominate “Star Wars” films (7 out of 8 films have been nominated), the series hasn’t won a VFX Oscar since “Return of the Jedi” in 1983. Perhaps, because the series VFX work has been so consistent (If we forget “Attack of the Clones” exists) voters have become numbed towards ILM’s wizardry. Still the above four films are likely four of our 5 nominees. But what about the surprise 5th nominee? There is always one (“Hereafter,” “Real Steel,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Kubo and the Two Strings“). This is a film that performs particularly well at the annual VFX bakeoff where 10 films showcase the best of their visual effects work in a 15-minute making of reel. “Logan” is a film that could benefit here, featuring astonishing amounts of ‘invisible’ CGI, particularly in the film’s widespread amounts of recreating photorealistic digital characters Peter Cushing-style. Disney’s “Beauty And The Beast” made quite a bit of money, and features an impressive motion capture main character, as well as a wide array of supporting CGI characters.

​”Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2” is full of colorful CGI, and could easily follow in the footsteps of the previous film for a nomination. Marvel films often have a chilly relationship with AMPAS, however. Many of the recent sequels have missed on nominations (“Captain America: Civil War,” “The Avengers 2,” etc). Marvel films tend to fair best when their visuals tend towards the ‘weird’ (“Doctor Strange“). So look towards Taika Waititi’s bizarre images in “Thor: Ragnarok” for a potential contender if Marvel does show up. However, neither of the previous two Thor films have managed nominations. And of course, yet another superhero film worth considering is WB’s Justice League. Admittedly, no WB superhero film has breached the category since 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” meaning, to quote “The Hunger Games,” the odds are not in its favor. If the film proves to be a massive hit, however, it could easily garner an Avengers-style nomination. Meanwhile, “Wonder Woman’s” strong reviews could propel it to a token nomination here based on overall love for the film. The film is not a CGI showcase on the levels of some superhero films however. Warner Bros. may find more success with its lifelike ape in “Kong: Skull Island.” Much of the film’s environment, and creatures were entirely CGI, and received much critical acclaim, even if the surrounding film did not. Similarly, “Alien: Covenant” seems to have all-but disappeared in light of its disappointing box-office and reviews, but it could follow in the footsteps of its Oscar nominated predecessor, “Prometheus” and snag a nomination despite its mixed reception.  If “The Shape of Water” becomes an undeniable contender, then despite its small budget, it could follow “Ex Machina’s” footsteps towards a nomination for its small-scale work. Netflix’s low-budget “Okja” could surprise due to the lifelike nature of its titular creature. 

Other potential contenders include: “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Mute,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and “The Fate of the Furious.” 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Blade Runner 2049”
2. “War For The Planet Of The Apes
3. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
4. “Dunkirk” 
5. “Logan

6. “Beauty And The Beast
7. “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
8. “Thor: Ragnarok”
9. “Justice League”
10. “Kong: Skull Island

BEST SOUND MIXING

Baby Driver

So traditionally I am very, very good at predicting this category. Bear in mind, that Marvel films never show up here, so go ahead and cross those out of your predictions. It just doesn’t happen. Secondly, think beyond blockbusters. Best Picture contenders often show up here these days. 

War films are Sound Branch kryptonite. “Dunkirk” could not be safer here. “Star Wars” films are also sound branch constants. So expect a nomination for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Denis Villeneuve’s last two films have made Sound appearances. “Blade Runner 2049” is sure to be another sound showcase, so expect it. And a sci-fi Best Picture contender like “The Shape of Water” seems like a reasonable choice as well. But if there is any justice in the world, “Baby Driver” will be a lock for this category as well. The film’s sound received widespread acclaim for its meshing of music and action film sound effects, almost transforming the film into a musical of sorts. The sound branch loves action films and it loves musicals. Let’s hope this meshing of the two can find some love, particularly given the film’s massive box office returns. Best Picture contenders like “Darkest Hour” often show up, particularly when they have a smattering of war movie sounds in the background (Look at “Lincoln” and “The King’s Speech”). “Mother!’s” surreal soundscape may or may not contend, depending on the film’s ultimate reception. No animated film has managed a Sound Mixing nomination since 2007’s “Ratatouille,” but “Coco’s” incorporation of music could lend it an advantage if the film is acclaimed as a whole. And speaking of music, never discount musicals. They *always* factor in. So keep an eye on “The Greatest Showman.” And of course, never ignore a Spielberg film’s sound. “The Post” could easily make an appearance if it becomes our Best Picture frontrunner (Bear in mind, this is a category that the similarly themed “All The President’s Men” won years ago). “Detroit” may have crashed and burned at the box office, but Bigelow’s past two films have won sound Oscars. Keep an eye on it as a potential lone sound nominee. And finally, “Get Out’s” high tension dread-filled sound design is worth considering if the film becomes a major player.

Other potential contenders include: “The 15:17 to Paris,” “Wonder Woman,” “Beauty And The Beast,” “War For The Planet Of The Apes.”

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Dunkirk
2. “Baby Driver
3. “Blade Runner 2049”
4. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
5. “The Shape of Water”

6. Darkest Hour”
7. “Mother!”
8. “Coco”
9. “The Greatest Showman”
10. “The Post”

BEST SOUND EDITING

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So bear in mind, while Sound Mixing is the art of balancing level’s, combining music, dialogue, sound effects, etc, Sound Editing is the creation of sounds. “Dunkirk” is even more secure here. As are “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Blade Runner 2049.” Since “The Shape of Water” is not only a Best Picture contender but also relies on specially created creature sounds, it is a reasonable choice as well. “War For The Planet Of The Apes” could make an appearance with its gunshots, and simian sound effects. This would be the perfect place to honor “Wonder Woman” with its electricity blasts, explosions, whip cracks, and fire. And “Baby Driver” has plenty of tire screeches and crash sound effects. “Get Out” has a thousand noises to make you jump. And “Detroit” has fire, gunshots, and explosions. “Kong: Skull Island” has ape roars, giant insect hissing, explosions, thunder, rain, and more. “Thor: Ragnarok” has roaring Hulks, and electrical hammers. “Coco” creates literally every sound on screen from scratch. And “The 15:17 to Paris” has fisticuffs, bomb sound effects, and squealing trains. 

Other contenders include: “Justice League,” “The Fate Of The Furious,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “John Wick: Chapter 2” “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Logan.” 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Dunkirk
2. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
3. “The Shape of Water”
4. “Blade Runner 2049”
5. “Detroit

6. “Get Out
7. “War For The Planet Of The Apes
8. “Wonder Woman
9. “The 15:17 to Paris”
10. “Baby Driver

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Shape of Water

Del Toro films ALWAYS have stellar production design. “Pan’s Labyrinth” won the category in 2006. Expect the well-reviewed “The Shape of Water” to consequently be a player for its eerie cold war era underground laboratories. Meanwhile, “Blade Runner 2049’s” bleak dystopian reality is sure to garner attention. “Wonderstruck’s” recreation of two separate time periods with distinctive aesthetics, including one designed for black and white will likely receive traction. While a lavish 1890s musical like “The Greatest Showman” will benefit from some of the same love showered on the aesthetics of a film like 2013’s “The Great Gatsby.” And of course, Best Picture contender “Darkest Hour’s” recreation of Blitz-era London merits consideration. But ignore “Beauty And The Beast” at your own risk. Like Oscar winner “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney has constructed lavish fantastical gothic castles and villages. “Star Wars” films have not performed well in this categories since the original trilogy, but “The Last Jedi” introduces a number of new creative set pieces to the “Star Wars” universe. “Murder on the Orient Express” creates a luxurious mid 19th-century train. If one considers “Mad Max’s” win in this category, vehicles can be considered “production design.” Which means “Dunkirk’s” boats and planes could contend here as well. And Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” no doubt immaculately re-creates 1950s London. Lavish British period pieces like “Victoria and Abdul” are often staples here. And again…never discount Best Picture contending Spielberg films like “The Post” in any below-the-line categories. 

Other potential nominees: “Wonder Wheel,” “Mudbound,” “Marshall,” “Wonder Woman,” “Suburbicon,” “Downsizing” and “The Current War.” 

Predicted Nominees:

1. “The Shape of Water”
2. “Blade Runner 2049”
3. “Wonderstruck” 
4. “The Greatest Showman”
5. “Darkest Hour”

6. “Murder on the Orient Express”
7. “Beauty And The Beast
8. “Phantom Thread”
9. “Dunkirk
10. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Beauty And The Beast

A category often refreshingly free of coattail nominations for Best Picture contenders, really anything can show up here. As “Phantom Thread” is a period piece about someone who designs attractive clothing for a living, it is a safe bet. Meanwhile, “Darkest Hour” is a Best Picture contending period piece. “Wonderstruck” demonstrates two separate time periods, each with distinctive styles. And “Murder on the Orient Express,” like the Oscar winning original is able to tell much about a wide array of characters in a period setting through each outfit. “Beauty And The Beast,” like Oscar nominated “Cinderella,” “Mirror Mirror,” and more is a flashy fairy tale with lavish dresses and suits. It seems like a prime area to reward the film for its massive revenue intake. I have my fingers crossed for the bizarre costume design in “Thor: Ragnarok.” No Marvel film has ever been nominated for Costume Design, but one look at Cate Blanchett in the trailer tells you this one is unique in its costumes. AMPAS cannot resist British period pieces like “Victoria and Abdul” in this category (Look at winners “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “The Young Victoria,” and “The Duchess” in the last decade). And reports indicate that “Blade Runner 2049’s” costumes are unique enough to potentially “Mad Max” their way to a nomination. Finally, “The Greatest Showman” offers both fine-wear and circus attire in a period setting.

Other potential nominees include “Lady Macbeth,” “Suburbicon,” “Battle of the Sexes,” “The Shape of Water,” “Tulip Fever,” “Wonder Woman,” “I, Tonya” and “Hostiles.”

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Phantom Thread”
2. “Darkest Hour”
3. “Wonderstruck” 
4. “Murder on the Orient Express”
5. “Beauty And The Beast

6. “Thor: Ragnarok”
7. “The Greatest Showman”
8. “Victoria and Abdul”
9. “The Beguiled
10. “Blade Runner 2049”

Bear in mind, Oscar season is just beginning. So much can change in a short time. And this year’s techs are as exciting and unpredictable as ever. Check back every other week to see how the categories change with time. In the mean time, check out our updated predictions for these categories below.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

BEST FILM EDITING

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST SOUND MIXING

BEST SOUND EDITING

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

You can follow Will and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @mavericksmovies

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Will Mavity
Will Mavityhttps://nextbestpicture.com
Loves Awards Season, analyzing stats & conducting interviews. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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