Oscar Handicap 2010: The Technical Categories

Our annual Oscar Handicap series begins with six technical categories, including three new to our handicap: Costume Design, Makeup and Visual Effects.

(For explanations as to how our scoring system works, make sure to read our first article in the series, Best Picture of the Year, linked at the bottom of this article.)

Best Art Direction

The Art Director (or Production Designer) is the part of the team, along with the director and cinematographer, who is responsible for the overall look of the film. The Art Director directs the key personnel in costume design, hair and make-up, special effects and locations to establish a unified visual appearance to the film, as well as the overall design and look of all sets created. So it should come as little surprise that many of the winners here were also up for the cinematography award.

The Breakdowns

1) As long as you are not lowest grossing nominee in this category when the nominations are announced, you have won 29 of the last 31 times (93.55%). Advantage: Avatar, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria

2) Movies where the past predominantly needed to be recreated have won the award 27 of the last 31 ceremonies (87.10%). Advantages: Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria

3) Winners of this award have also been nominated for Best Cinematography 25 of 31 times (80.65%). Advantage: Avatar

4) Art Direction winners have gone to films also nominated for Best Picture 22 of 31 (70.97%). Advantage: Avatar

5) Helping a Best Director nominee realize their vision has helped 21 of the past 31 winners in this category (67.74%). Advantage: Avatar

6) Winners of one of the three Art Directors Guild awards have gone on to win here 8 of 13 since the ADG awards were created in 1997 (61.54%). Advantage: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes

7) Winners in this category have been previously nominated here 18 of 31 (58.06%). Advantages: Avatar, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria

By The Numbers

This should be one of the easy wins for James Cameron’s record-breaking movie.

Avatar (Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair): +1, -2, +3, +4, +5, +6, +7

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith): -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -7

Nine (Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim): +1, +2, -3, -4, -5, -6, +7

Sherlock Holmes (Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer): +1, +2, -3, -4, -5, +6, +7

The Young Victoria (Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray): +1, +2, -3, -4, -5, -6, +7

Personal prediction for Best Art Direction: Avatar

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Avatar

Best Costume Design

From the pretty frocks of 19th century England to the beginnings of modern French couture and the fantastical costumes of Terry Gilliam’s latest, the costume designers nominated this year helped to enhance both the period in which their films took place and the main characters’ personas. And as part of the team that helps design the overall look of the film, it is little surprise that nominations in this category often go hand in hand with those in the Art Direction.

The Breakdowns

1) Winners of Costume Award have come from a film also nominated for Art Direction 25 of the last 31 (80.65%). Advantages: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria

2) Nominees of one of the three Costume Designers Guild awards have gone on to win here 7 of 11 ceremonies since the CDG awards were created in 1999 (63.64%). Advantages: Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria

3) Winners in this category have been previously nominated here 18 of 31 (58.06%). Advantages: Coco Before Chanel, Nine, The Young Victoria

By The Numbers

It looks to be a two-horse race between a British queen and an Italian filmmaker.

Bright Star (Janet Patterson): -1, -2, -3

Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier): -1, -2, +3

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme): +1, +2, -3

Nine (Coleen Atwood): +1, +2, +3

The Young Victoria (Sandy Powell): +1, +2, +3

Personal prediction for Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria

Personal choice amongst these nominees: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Best Editing

Editing, the cutting of sections of scenes together to make a cohesive story, is the only part of the moviemaking process unique to cinema, which defines and separates filmmaking from almost all other art forms. Editors works with the various layers of image, story and music, creating the rhythm and the pace of the work, honing the infinite possibilities of the juxtaposition of small snippets of film into a creative, coherent, cohesive whole. But how does the Academy decide whose work was the bestr

The Breakdowns

1) Winners in this category were also nominated for the same award at the BAFTAs 28 of the past 31 years (90.32%). Advantage: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds

2) Best Editor winners have also been nominated for Best Director 26 of 31 (83.87%). Advantages: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

3) Solo editors have triumphed over their teamed nominees 26 of 31 (83.87%). Advantage: District 9, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

4) Winners of the Best Editing have also won the American Cinema Editors Award (split into comedy and drama categories in 2000) 24 of 31 (77.42%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker

By The Numbers

Ever since Crash won here, awards prognosticators have looked towards this category as a potential spoiler, and already I’ve seen some people suggesting what wins here will likely win Best Picture, which ignores the fact that slightly more than half the films over the past thirty-one years which won Best Editing also won Best Picture (15 of 31 to be precise). If Inglourious wins here and ends up winning Best Picture, watch the same misconceptions to prop up again.

Avatar (Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron): +1, +2, -3, -4

District 9 (Julian Clarke): +1, -2, +3, -4

The Hurt Locker (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis): +1, +2, -3, +4

Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke): +1, +2, +3, -4

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Joe Klotz): -1, +2, +3, -4

Personal prediction for Best Editing: The Hurt Locker

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Inglourious Basterds

Best Makeup

Ironically, the award for Best Makeup is usually not concerned with whom makes the stars the prettiest but who can make them the ugliest or strangest looking. You will notice that, unlike most categories in our handicap, there are only 27 ceremonies listed here. Makeup awards were only handed out sporadically before becoming an annual award with the 1984 awards.

The Breakdowns

1) The winner of Best Makeup has also been nominated for the BAFTA counterpart 20 of 27 times (74.07%). Advantage: The Young Victoria

2) The winning film for Best Makeup was not predominantly set in the present 16 of the 27 (59.26%). Advantage: Il Divo, The Young Victoria

3) Best Makeup winners have also found their films nominated for Best Costume 14 of 27 (51.85%). Slight advantage: The Young Victoria

By The Numbers

There are usually other factors considered, such as being tied to a Best Picture nominee or whether someone on a team is a first time nominee, but since all three films in this category are equals in those qualifiers, they’re not counted this time around. We like Victoria’s chances here.

Il Divo (Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano): -1, +2, -3

Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow): -1, -2, -3

The Young Victoria (Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore): +1, +2, +3

Personal prediction for Best Makeup: The Young Victoria

Personal choice amongst these nominees: The Young Victoria

Best Score

The score of a movie can instantly convey the feeling a director is going for in any given moment, and can continue to movie us for the rest of our lives. Over the past thirty years, some factors have shown a series of regular, if not prescient, voting patterns. (For the years this category was split into Best Dramatic Score and Best Musical or Comedy Score, between 1995 and 1998, we will be focusing on the Dramatic Scores.)

The Breakdowns

1) Winners in this category have also been nominated for the Golden Globe 26 of the last 31 ceremonies (83.87%). Advantage: Avatar, Up

2) Scores for films that were not predominantly set in our modern day world have won 24 of 31 (77.42%). Advantage: Avatar, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Sherlock Holmes

3) Best Score has gone to a film also nominated for Best Picture 22 of 31 (70.97%). Advantages: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up

4) Being nominated for a Golden Globe might be a good harbinger, as seen in Example 1, but actually winning the Golden Globe for Best Score can apparently hurt your chances of wining an Oscar, as only 15 of the last 31 GG winners have gone on to win the Oscar (46.67%). Slight disadvantage: Up

5) First time nominees in this category have won 14 of 31 (45.16%). Disadvantage: The Hurt Locker

By The Numbers

Look for James Horner to take home his first Oscar since the last time he worked with James Cameron.

Avatar (James Horner): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat): -1, +2, -3, +4, +5

The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders): -1, -2, +3, +4, -5

Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer): -1, +2, -3, +4, +5

Up (Michael Giacchino): +1, -2, +3, -4, +5

Personal prediction for Best Score: Avatar

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Up

Best Visual Effects

It wasn’t until 1984, the year of “Ghostbusters,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “2010” that an award for Visual Effects were handed out on a yearly basis, with the exception of 1990, when “Total Recall” was given a special award when the effects section of the Academy decided there were not enough films with effects up to their standards to have a real race. So here, we will only look at the 23 ceremonies between 1984 and 2007 in which there were at least two nominees.

The Breakdowns

1) Best Visual Effects Oscars go to films not nominated for Best Picture 17 of the 24 qualifying ceremonies (70.83%). Advantage: Star Trek

2) Since the Visual Effects Society (VES) started giving out their own awards in 2002, five of the winners in this category also won the VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture (71.42%). Advantage: Avatar

3) The winner of the Special Visual Effects Award at the BAFTAs has gone on to win an Oscar 15 of 24 times (62.50%). Advantage: Avatar

4) Winners of the Oscar for Best Visual Effects were for films also nominated for Best Art Direction 15 of 24 times (62.50%). Advantage: Avatar

5) Winners in this category have come from the highest grossing film amongst the nominees 15 of 24 times (62.50%). Advantage: Avatar

By The Numbers

Does anyone expect the movie that changed the rules of visual effects not to win here?

Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones): -1, +2, +3, +4, +5

District 9 (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken): -1, -2, -3, -4, -5

Star Trek (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5

Personal prediction for Best Visual Effects: Avatar

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Avatar

All articles in this series:

Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
The Technical Categories

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