Essay Question: Which technical Oscar category interests you most?

OFCS members answer the question:

“With regards to the Oscars, what technical race (editing, production design) do you follow with the most interest and which films would you have nominated?”

Answers after the jump.


Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight:

Every year, the tech category I like to watch shifts from one race to the next based on what the Academy nominates. Some, like Sound Mixing and Sound Editing aren’t all that interesting, so I generally don’t pay a lot of attention to those.

The others, however are open game. The Editing category holds a certain place in my thoughts as it is the one category I have defended regularly as having a great impact on the Oscars. After all, very few films in history have won the Oscar for Best Picture without also getting an Editing nomination. Matter of fact, you have to go back to 1980 to find the last occurrence where the Best Picture winner, Ordinary People, didn’t also have an Editing nomination. It happened previously only 8 times since the category’s inception in 1934. That’s an 88% success rate, most Oscar prognosticators would die for that kind of result. So, editing is one of my favorites to watch for nominations, but the winners seldom interest me.

The Art Direction and Costume Design awards are interesting because they are sometimes the most evident examples of the work and trying to guess if they’ll line up perfectly (both prizes going to the same film, which happens consistently) or to different films is often entertaining. Visual Effects has seldom delivered shakeups, but when they do (The Golden Compass, anyone), you feel a slight tingle at the unpredictability of it all (something many top-line races don’t do much of anymore). Makeup can often be a jaw-dropper, but not always in the most pleasant way. And Cinematography is another of the categories you can appreciate the work and cheer on having seen the fruits of their labor.

But, Editing is just one of my favorite tech categories overall. It can be shocking in its outcome, it acts as a great nominee-to-Best Picture winner predictor, and it’s one of those awards that so few people understand, but to which so many great films owe their success.


David Cornelius, eFilmCritic.com:

Well, since sci-fi/fantasy films were what originally drew me in to loving movies as a kid, I still keep a sharp eye on the Visual Effects category (although the rapid evolution of CGI has completely changed the category since my childhood days). But I also have a weird fascination with the Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Editing categories, if only because I still marvel at how the Academy as a whole thinks in terms of “most” instead of “best.” There’s no room for subtlety here when it comes to Oscar voters; carefully constructed quiet doesn’t stand a chance against a bombastic action flick, and a well thought out juxtaposition of shots can’t get noticed compared to a flashy adventure movie where the average shot length is under one second.


Nell Minow, Movie Mom:

I am most interested in the costume design award. As the mother of a costume designer, I have learned that it is not about pretty clothes or high fashion or even research or making the clothes look lived in. It is about using the costumes to help create the characters and tell the story.


Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

I suppose Best Costume Design, because is the Academy going to go for realistically, historically scruffy over showy and pretty, or will glitz win out? It’s also more or less the only category left more or less untouched by computers — presumably, humans still have to design and sew these outfits for however many cast members; even art direction or cinematography can be tweaked on a Mac. As for this year’s nominees, the Academy totally overlooked Fantastic Mr. Fox with all its awesome tiny little costumes (Fox’s was made out of Wes Anderson’s actual clothes) and so the entire category is hollow and filled with nothing.


A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

Out of each year’s technical categories, I tend to follow Visual Effects with the most interest. This is where the mighty blockbusters usually reign supreme, but since so many have been getting dicey recently when it comes to visual pizzazz, it’s fun to see which flicks the Academy thought got it right.


Karina Montgomery, Cinerina.com:

I have always loved to admire production design/art direction, though I am not always on board with whomever they choose. I was very surprised that The Last Station was not nominated, it was the one of the stronger design I had seen in a long time. I am pleased that Avatar was recognized for its design work; people get into this mindset that if it’s created in a computer, it wasn’t really designed like a physical set, which is ridiculous. With Dr. Parnassus, Terry Gilliam again demonstrates his usual wonderful art direction, but I was also impressed with the many small details that the team managed to get onscreen in The Young Victoria. As Blu-Ray and 3-D movies expand in popularity, we are going to get to see some really wonderful detail work in films to come. I will cheer alone for them at my Oscar party.

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