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, also known as the 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.
1) Movies not predominantly set in the present day, where either the past, the future or another world must be created, have won the award 30 of the last 33 ceremonies (90.91%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, War Horse
2) Winners of this award have also come from movies nominated for Best Cinematography 27 of 33 times (81.82%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, War Horse
3) Art Direction winners have gone to films also nominated for Best Picture 23 of 33 (69.70%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse
4) Helping a Best Director nominee realize their vision has helped 22 of the past 33 winners in this category (66.67%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris
5) Winners of the Art Directors Guild awards have gone on to win here 9 of 15 since the ADG awards were created in 1997 (60%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, Hugo
6) Set decorators nominated for the first time have wound up winning 17 of 33 (51.52%). Advantage: Midnight in Paris, War Horse
7) Conversely, art directors nominated for the first time only ended up winning 13 of 33 (39.39%). Disadvantage: The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By The Numbers
We see a third win for the Italian husband and wife team who have helped Martin Scorsese realize his vision for the past twenty years.
The Artist (Production Design by Laurence Bennett, Set Decoration by Robert Gould): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, -7 (137 for 180, 76.11%)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Production Design by Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan): -1, -2, -3, -4, +5, -6, -7 (75 for 180, 41.67%)
Hugo (Production Design by Dante Ferretti, Set Decoration by Francesca Lo Schiavo): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -6, -7 (147 for 180, 81.67%)
Midnight in Paris (Production Design by Anne Seibel, Set Decoration by Helene Dubreuil): -1, -2, +3, +4, -5, +6, -7 (90 for 180, 50%)
War Horse (Production Design by Rick Carter, Set Decoration by Lee Sandales): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5, +6, +7 (134 for 180, 74.44%)
Best Costume Design
From the frocks of Shakespeare’s London to the costumes of Hollywood’s silent era, 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. But do they always have to go to films set outside the United States?
1) Movies set outside the United States have won in this category 28 times in the last 33 ceremonies (84.85%). Advantage: Anonymous, Hugo, Jane Eyre, W.E.
2) Winners of Costume Award have come from a film also nominated for Art Direction 27 of 33 years (81.82%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo
3) Nominees of the Costume Designers Guild’s awards for Period films have gone on to win here 8 of 13 ceremonies since the CDG awards were created in 1999 (61.54%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, Jane Eyre, W.E.
4) Winners in this category have been previously nominated here 18 of 33 (54.55%). Advantage: Hugo, Jane Eyre, W.E.
5) Costume Design winners have come from Best Picture nominees 17 of 33 (51.52%). Slight advantage: The Artist, Hugo
6) Winners of this award have also come from movies nominated for Best Cinematography 17 of 33 times (51.52%). Slight advantage: The Artist, Hugo
By The Numbers
Sandy Powell should win the fourth Oscar of her career, putting her halfway towards meeting Edith Head’s total of eight Oscar wins.
Anonymous (Lisy Christl): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6 (82 for 178, 46.07%)
The Artist (Mark Bridges): -1, +2, +3, -4, +5, +6 (87 for 178, 48.88%)
Hugo (Sandy Powell): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6 (115 for 178, 64.61%)
Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor): +1, -2, +3, +4, -5, -6 (90 for 178, 50.56%)
W.E. (Arianne Phillips): +1, -2, +3, +4, -5, -6 (90 for 178, 50.56%)
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?
1) Winners in this category were also nominated for the same award at the BAFTAs 30 of the past 33 years (90.91%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo
2) Best Editing-winning films have been nominated for Best Picture 29 of 33 (87.88%): Advantage: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Moneyball
3) Winners here have also been from films nominated for Best Director 28 of 33 (84.85%): Advantage: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo
4) Solo editors have triumphed over their teamed nominees 25 of 33 (75.76%). Advantage: The Descendants, Hugo, Moneyball
5) Previous nominees in this category have won 17 of 33 (51.52%). Slight advantage: The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball
By The Numbers
Ever since Crash won here, lazy awards prognosticators have looked towards Best Editing as a potential spoiler for what will win Best Picture. They ignore the fact that slightly less than half the films over over our thirty-three year sample period to win Best Editing also won Best Picture (16 of 33). A win for The Artist or Hugo here guarantees noting.
The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5 (110 for 165, 66.67%)
The Descendants (Kevin Tent): -1, +2, +3, +4, +5 (102 for 165, 61.82%)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall): -1, -2, -3, -4, +5 (36 for 165, 21.28%)
Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5 (129 for 165, 78.18%)
Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen): -1, +2, -3, +4, +5 (79 for 165, 47.88%)
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. Sadly, two of our normal qualifiers (Not a Best Picture nominee and at least one nominee from each team is a first-time nominee) count for or against all three movies equally, and there is no outrageously obvious makeup effect the likes of The Fly or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but we’ll do our best.
1) The Best Makeup winner was also nominated for a BAFTA in the same category 20 of the 29 ceremonies this award has been handed out (68.97%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, The Iron Lady
2) Winners from this category have come from a film without an acting nomination 20 of 29 (68.97%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two
3) Winners have come from movies not predominently set in the modern era 17 of 29 (58.62%). Advantage: Albert Nobbs
By The Numbers
Admittedly, it’s not much of a breakdown to go by, and another remarkably weak year for this category.
Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle): -1, -2, +3 (46 of 87, 52.87%)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin): +1, +2, -3 (52 of 87, 59.77%)
The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland): +1, -2, -3 (41 of 87, 47.13%)
The score of a movie can instantly convey the feeling a director is going for in any given moment, and can continue to move 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 only count the Dramatic Scores.)
1) Winners in this category have also been nominated for the Golden Globe 28 of the last 33 ceremonies (84.85%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, War Horse
2) Scores for films that were not predominantly set in the past twenty years have won 26 of 33 (78.79%). Advantage: The Adventures of Tintin, The Artist, Hugo, War Horse
3) Best Score has gone to a film also nominated for Best Picture 24 of 33 (72.73%). Advantage: The Artist, Hugo, War Horse
4) Previous nominees in this category have won 17 of 33 (51.52%). Slight advantage: The Adventures of Tin Tin, Hugo, War Horse
By The Numbers
Looks like a dead heat between two of modern cinema’s reigning maestros. Don’t put all your money on The Artist in this category, though. While Golden Globes nominated scores regularly win here, the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Score has won here barely half the time (17 of 33).
The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams): -1, +2, -3, +4 (55 for 124, 44.35%)
The Artist (Ludovic Bource): +1, +2, +3, -4 (86 for 124, 69.35%)
Hugo (Howard Shore): +1, +2, +3, +4 (89 for 124, 71.77%)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias): -1, -2, -3, -4 (35 for 124, 28.23%)
War Horse (John Williams): +1, +2, +3, +4 (89 for 124, 71.77%)
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. Our numbers will include the scattered years between 1979 and 1983 when the award was sporadically handed out.
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 7 of 9 times (77.78%). Advantage: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2) Winners of the Oscar for Best Visual Effects were for films also nominated for Best Art Direction 19 of the 29 qualifying ceremonies (65.52%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, Hugo
3) Since the BAFTAs started their Best Visual Effects category in 1982, the winner there has gone on to win an Oscar 17 of 27 times (62.96%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two
2) Best Visual Effects Oscars go to films not nominated for Best Picture 17 of the 29 qualifying ceremonies (58.62%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, Real Steel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon
5) Winners in this category have come from the highest grossing film amongst the nominees 16 of 29 times (55.17%). Advantage: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two
By The Numbers
This is the first year there are more 3D movies nominated for Effects than 2D. If Apes or Real Steel wins here, you’ll know how the Academy rank and file really feel about the extra dimension in their entertainment.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson): -1, +2, +3, -4, +5 (71 for 123, 57.72%)
Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning): -1, +2, -3, -4, -5 (56 for 123, 45.53%)
Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg): -1, -2, -3, +4, -5 (54 for 123, 43.90%)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett): +1, -2, -3, +4, -5 (64 for 123, 52.03%)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier): -1, -2, -3, +4, -5 (54 for 123, 43.90%)
All articles in this series:
Best Picture of the Year
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
The Technical Categories