Oscar Handicap 2011: 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) Movies where the past predominantly needed to be recreated have won the award 22 of the last 25 ceremonies (88%). Advantage: The King’s Speech, True Grit
2) Winners of this award have also been nominated for Best Cinematography 19 of 25 times (76%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit
3) Art Direction winners have gone to films also nominated for Best Picture 17 of 25 (68%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit
4) Winners of the Art Directors Guild awards have gone on to win here 9 of 14 since the ADG awards were created in 1997 (64.29%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech
5) Helping a Best Director nominee realize their vision has helped 15 of the past 25 winners in this category (60%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit
6) Set decorators nominated for the first time have wound up winning 15 of 25 (60%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Inception, The King’s Speech

By The Numbers

Those recreating England in the days before the War should be the winner here.
Alice in Wonderland (Production Design by Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara): -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One (Production Design by Stuart Craig, Set Decoration by Stephenie McMillan): -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6
Inception (Production Design by Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration by Larry Dias and Doug Mowat): -1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6
The King’s Speech (Production Design by Eve Stewart, Set Decoration by Judy Farr): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6
True Grit (Production Design by Jess Gonchor, Set Decoration by Nancy Haigh): +1, +2, _3, -4, +5, -6

Personal prediction for Best Art Direction: The King’s Speech
Personal choice amongst these nominees: True Grit

Best Costume Design

From the cowboy duds of the Old West to the modern Italian couture and the fantastical costumes of Tim Burton’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 20 times in the last 25 years (80%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, The King’s Speech, True Grit
2) Movies set outside the United States have won in this category 20 of 25 (80%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest
3) Nominees of the Costume Designers Guild’s awards for Period films have gone on to win here 7 of 12 ceremonies since the CDG awards were created in 1999 (58.33%). Advantage: The King’s Speech, True Grit
4) Winners in this category have been previously nominated here 15 of 25 (60%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, The King’s Speech, The Tempest

By The Numbers

It should be noted that the six times Coleen Atwood and Sandy Powell have previously gone up against each other, one or the other has always won, including last year, when Powell won for The Young Victoria over Atwood’s work on Nine. However, the numbers look best for Jenny Beavan and her royal frocks.
Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood): +1, +2, -3, +4
I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi): -1, +2, -3, -4
The King’s Speech (Jenny Beavan): +1, +2, +3, +4
The Tempest (Sandy Powell): -1, +2, -3, +4
True Grit (Mary Zophres): +1, -2, +3, -4

Personal prediction for Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Personal choice amongst these nominees: I Am Love

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 best?

The Breakdowns

1) Best Editing-winning films have also been nominated for Best Director 21 of the past years (84%): Advantage: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, The Social Network
2) Winners of the Best Editing have also won the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Award (split into comedy and drama categories in 2000) 21 of 25 (84%). Advantage: The Social Network
3) Solo editors have triumphed over their teamed nominees 20 of 25 (80%). Advantage: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours
4) Winners in this category were also nominated for the same award at the British Academy Awards 16 of the past 25 years (64%). Advantage: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
5) First-time nominees in this category have won 14 of 25 (56%). Slight advantage: Black Swan, The Fighter, 127 Hours

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 only slightly more than half the films over the past quarter-centry which won Best Editing also won Best Picture (14, to be precise), and only six of the last ten. A win for the The King’s Speech or The Social Network here guarantees noting.
Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum): +1, -2, +3, +4, +5
The Fighter (Pamela Martin): +1, -2, +3, -4, +5
The King’s Speech (Tariq Anwar): +1, -2, +3, +4, -5
127 Hours (Jon Harris): -1, -2, +3, +4, +5
The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter): +1, +2, -3, +4, -5

Personal prediction for Best Editing: The Social Network
Personal choice amongst these nominees: The Social Network

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. It also proves to be the one true wild card of the year, as every handicap category we’ve tracked for years (BAFTA nominations, Best Picture nominations, Fellow Best Costume nominee, Not the film’s only nomination, Set outside the past twenty years) but one either qualifies or disqualifies all three titles.

The Breakdown

1) At least one of the winning team for Best Makeup has been a first time nominee 21 of the last 25 ceremonies (84%). Advantage: Barney’s Version, The Way Back (Gregory Funk)

By The Numbers

Admittedly, it’s not much of a breakdown to go by, and quite a remarkably weak year for this category.
Barney’s Version (Adrien Morot): +1
The Way Back (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng): +1
The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey): -1

Personal prediction for Best Makeup: The Wolfman
Personal choice amongst these nominees: The Wolfman

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 22 of the last 25 ceremonies (88%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
2) Scores for films that were not predominantly set in the past twenty years have won 21 of 25 (84%). Advantage: How to Train Your Dragon, The King’s Speech
3) Best Score has gone to a film also nominated for Best Picture 18 of 25 (72%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
4) Previous nominees in this category have won 15 of 25 (60%). Advantage: Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours

By The Numbers

The traditional score from one of cinema’s modern master composers looks to be the front runner
How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell): -1, +2, -3, -4
Inception (Hans Zimmer): +1, -2, +3, +4
The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat): +1, +2, +3, +4
127 Hours (A.R. Rahman): +1, -2, +3, +4
The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross): +1, -2, +3, -4

Personal prediction for Best Score: The King’s Speech
Personal choice amongst these nominees: The Social Network

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 25 ceremonies between 1984 and 2009 in which there were at least two nominees.

The Breakdowns

1) Since the Visual Effects Society (VES) started giving their own awards in 2002, six of the eight winners in this category also won the VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture (75%). Advantage: Incpetion
2) Best Visual Effects Oscars go to films not nominated for Best Picture 17 of the 24 qualifying ceremonies (68%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Hereafter, Iron Man 2
3) The winner of the Special Visual Effects Award at the BAFTAs has gone on to win an Oscar 16 of 25 times (64%). Advantage: Inception
4) Winners of the Oscar for Best Visual Effects were for films also nominated for Best Art Direction 16 of 25 times (64%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Inception
5) Winners in this category have come from the highest grossing film amongst the nominees 16 of 25 times (64%). Advantage: Alice in Wonderland

By The Numbers

If “Alice” can top “Inception” here, it may show 3D is here to stay, at least in the eyes of the Academy
Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips): -1, +2, -3, +4, +5
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi): -1, +2, -3, +4, -5
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell): -1, +2, -3, -4, -5
Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb): +1, -2, +3, +4, -5
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick): -1, +2, -3, -4, -5

Personal prediction for Best Visual Effects: Inception
Personal choice amongst these nominees: Inception

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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