Oscar Preview 2018: Awards for Nerds

makeitsnowondem
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makeitsnowondem

make it snow is an alot of beer. He is also a Broncos fan living in Austin.
makeitsnowondem
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Good afternoon, Commentists. We’re a week from Oscar night, and and my plan was to cover all the “technical categories” today, but that was before I did a little more research and discovered that there are seven technical categories and that they include costume design and production design. And, look, I still haven’t seen Phantom Thread, so as far as I’m concerned there are now five technical categories and we can catch up on the arts and crafts later. Let’s dive in.

FILM EDITING

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Edgar Wright’s movies are always brilliantly edited, and it’s a shame the Academy is only now catching on, because Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were both at least nomination-worthy. (A year after Hot Fuzz‘s release, editor Chris Dickens would go on to win the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire.) Baby Driver‘s literally musical editing is better still; editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss have given Baby Driver a rhythm that makes it unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

There’s really only one other film to keep an eye on in this category, and that’s Dunkirk, the best pure suspense movie I’ve seen… I don’t know, probably since the last Hitchcock movie I watched. When I saw Dunkirk in the theater, it was actually repeatedly interrupted by problems with the projector, which really just underlined how unbelievably tense it is. It’s perfectly paced, despite director Christopher Nolan’s very Christopher Nolan-like insistence on telling the story on three separate timelines of differing lengths.

While I don’t expect I, Tonya to challenge these first two films for the prize, I was pleasantly surprised to see it on the list. Like I said in January, I, Tonya has a very similar feel to The Big Short, weaving together narrative, mock interview segments, and flashes of big-picture news and pop culture to give you not just the story itself, but a sense of its overarching context. It’s a very sharp, very enjoyable film, and one that I think was underappreciated by the Academy.

Both of the Best Picture frontrunners, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards, are also nominated. As I said in my pre-nominations piece in January, an editing win used to be a fairly strong predictor of a Best Picture win, but that’s no longer true. In fact, the editing Oscar winner has won Best Picture only once this decade: Argo, in 2012. If either of these films does manage an upset here, you can probably expect it to win the top prize, but… neither is going to win here. Seriously.

Will Win: Dunkirk.

Should Win: Baby Driver.

Upset Special: Don’t.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Darkest Hour
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

Here’s one category where I’ll be rooting for an old, white dude: This is Roger Deakins’ fourteenth Oscar nomination, and he’s yet to win. He deserves his statue, and I deserve to stop writing the same sentence every year with a different number in it. Because Blade Runner is so colorful, it looks like it ought to be heavier on visual effects than it actually is, but an outsize proportion of Blade Runner’s distinctive look owes directly to Deakins’ approach to lighting the movie.

If the Deakins losing streak must continue, I’m hoping it’s because of a win by Mudbound cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Mudbound is starkly gorgeous, full of painterly shots that put the grit and grime of postwar rural life on full display. Morrison is the first woman to be nominated for this award; unfortunately for her, she’s also the first nominee to have been DP on a film that released online the same day as in theaters.

But the more likely competition for Blade Runner is Dunkirk. I was really impressed with the visual language of Dunkirk, which does a lot of heavy lifting in a film with relatively little traditional dialogue. The panic-inducing claustrophobia of the tight shots, the vast loneliness of the big, wide ones… Hoyte van Hoytema’s camera does far more to tell the story than any amount of writing could have, and he’d be a deserving winner even if he’s not my first or second choice.

Here again we have The Shape of Water. (With thirteen nominations, you’re going to be seeing it a lot.) DP Dan Lautner’s camera work is mostly subtle; it’s beautiful, and the lighting specifically is just awesome, but I don’t know that it’s enough compared to the other contenders. Same with Darkest Hour, but more so; its use of light and shadow is great, but I’d have left it off this list in favor of something more visually striking, probably The Florida Project, maybe Call Me by Your Name.

Will Win/Should Win: Blade Runner 2049.

Upset Special: Mudbound, if Academy wants to send a message (not farfetched!) or simply recognizes Mudbound‘s merit and can get over the Netflix issue (less likely!).

VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Every one of these films has some first-rate effects work in it, to the point that it’s hard for a layman like me to intelligently compare them, but I do think War for the Planet of the Apes stands out for the incredible realism of the titular apes and for the sheer volume of work done to put so many of them on the screen for so much of the movie’s total runtime. We’ve probably never appreciated the Apes movies as much as it deserved; it’s always been technically accomplished, but it’s also always been smart, emotionally resonant, and full of the sort of action I actually cared about watching, and could watch without getting motion-sick. Best action/sci-fi franchise of the decade? I say yes.

I enjoyed Star Wars, and admired its willingness to shake up the series’ mythology, and for the most part its visual effects were good and weighty and as realistic as you can get for a space opera, but there were a few effects sequences that I just thought looked silly. I don’t object in principle to Leia using the Force to fly through space, but the execution left something to be desired. And why in God’s name is the Resistance dropping bombs in zero gravity? (The Star Wars Visual Dictionary will tell you the bombs work on electromagnetism, not gravity, but I know what I saw.) All the CGI in the world can’t help you if the thing you’re trying to render just doesn’t look right.

I’ve never loved the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as much as some—I think they’re a little busy for me—but the character design and animation has always been first-rate. And Kong: Skull Island is every bit the big, dumb, fun monster movie that Peter Jackson wanted to make but couldn’t because Peter Jackson has no idea when enough is enough.

One last thing real quick: I want to shout out some of the worst visual effects in any movie nominated for anything this year, the lions and elephants in The Greatest Showman. Woof.

Will Win/Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes.

Second Choice: Blade Runner 2049 is likely the closest challenger.

Upset Special: It feels nuts to even call this an upset, but… Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Visual effects industry-wide have really caught up with the Star Wars franchise since the original trilogy, and even since the prequels.

SOUND EDITING

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The overall approach to sound design in Dunkirk calls to mind the old saw that “war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” For much of Dunkirk‘s runtime you’ll hear nothing but background noise; an airplane engine, say, or ocean waves. The movie punctuates this white noise occasionally and violently, with shouts or bullets or explosions, all designed to deliver maximum shock when they arrive. The only other film this year that I can remember coming close in this field was Brawl in Cell Block 99, but it’s not on the list.

Will Win/Should Win: Dunkirk.

Upset Special: This is a real long shot, but Blade Runner 2049 is technically impressive through and through, and there’s something to be said for a film where so many of the sounds aren’t based on anything from the real or historical world, and so have to be essentially invented from nothing. (There’s a similar case to be made for The Shape of Water, an even longer shot.)

SOUND MIXING

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

That’s… yep. That’s exactly the same nominees as for Sound Editing, which makes me wonder how seriously the Academy is taking these nominations. I mean, I’m no sound doctor, but I think I’d have made a little more effort to distinguish these. In fact, I’m about to.

Will Win: Dunkirk, again. Dunkirk‘s sound effects are undeniably well balanced, so as to make the most alarming noises you’ll hear over the course of the film even more alarming.

Should Win/Upset Special: In Baby Driver‘s minutely choreographed action sequences, everything is a percussion instrument: a gunshot, a car door, a car door lock. For both plot and stylistic reasons, these sounds are almost always combined in the movie with diagetic music, and I imagine balancing all that and not tipping the whole thing over into some kind of goofy STOMP performance took a lot of behind-the-scenes juggling.

make it snow is an alot of beer who has watched alot of movies. He is not going to draw the fish’s dick.

makeitsnowondem
makeitsnowondem
make it snow is an alot of beer. He is also a Broncos fan living in Denver.
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yeah right

I wish more prestige movies were released during the summer months. Dunkirk was an island during the lather rinse and repeat monotony of last summer’s movie season.
Pay attention Hollywood!

MitchKissingTitsbisky
MitchKissingTitsbisky

I own both Dunkirk and Bladerunner 2049 and have yet to watch either. But I have watched Bladerunner a couple times recently and really enjoyed it after watching it many years and not understanding it or liking it.

Beerguyrob

I am in love with your love of Dunkirk.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

Dear President of the Academy,
There are too many movies nowadays. Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot.
Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

Unsurprised
Unsurprised

Fun Fact: I yelled out ‘Fuck you’ at Margot Robbie/Tonya during the second time I saw I, Tonya because I could do so since I was the only person in the theater and the first time I wanted to but it was a packed theater and Portland is Harding Country.

Also, that movie did a nice job of showing how much of Portland was and still is a barely rural-ass shithole that is almost indistinguishable from the small Rust Belt/mining towns in The Silence of the Lambs.

Unsurprised
Unsurprised

If you’ve seen it, you probably know exactly where this happened. If you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

BrettFavresColonoscopy

Testicles

BrettFavresColonoscopy
theeWeeBabySeamus

I’m not reading that shit. I know the difference, it was just a fucking typo, you asshole.

theeWeeBabySeamus

And…and….

I’m gonna put apostrophes in every fucking word I type tonight just to piss you off.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

The typo was made by whom?

theeWeeBabySeamus

That’s “who’m” to him.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Also womb is correct.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Who made the typo?

theeWeeBabySeamus

I did, but it was elsewhere, not on the site.
Now Mr. Smartypants grammar police is trying to be Mr. Funnyman.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

We have a warrant to search your [porn stash.

BrettFavresColonoscopy

What, too soon?

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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scotchnaut

You know who I miss? Harry Dean Stanton. His turn in Repo Man was fantastic as was everything else he did.

/googles
//”He’s Still Alive!!!

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
scotchnaut

I was sure he had passed away but a site I went to refused to acknowledge his passing. I believe everything I read so….

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Look at that career. Holy shit.

scotchnaut

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, Paris, Texas, The Green Mile, The Godfather Part 2, Dillinger, Two Lane Blacktop, Cool Hand Luke, How The West Was Won… It just goes on and on. His appearance in so many great movies is not a coincidence.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

I always prefer to watch people like him work their craft than the box-office types that (Cruise, Costner, Marky-Mark, etc., etc.) that fucking ruin movies. He is a great example of an actor who had to act and not just be there.

SonOfSpam

Also, in addition to your always-stellar anal(heh)ysis of the movies, may I propose that you turn all your artwork into a coffee table book? I would pay upwards of, say, $27 for that.

SonOfSpam

she’s also the first nominee to have been DP on a film

Thought that was Asa Akira.

scotchnaut

There are a number of great directors out there that have done amazing movies back to back but Ridley Scott’s Aliens and Bladerunner doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Unsurprised
Unsurprised

Ridley Scott directed Alien. James Cameron directed Aliens. And David Fincher directed Alien3. Huh. The guy who directed Alien Resurrection also directed Amelie.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

I feel like Alien Resurrection doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves but that’s probably because nobody else who has ever seen it was as high as I was when I did.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

In your subjective opinion; who wins the Best Breasts Oscar this year?

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

This can go for the male counterpart; abs-ass too. Let’s not make it two dimension…..

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Women in Chicago being arrested for wearing one piece bathing suits, without the required leg coverings. 1922

SonOfSpam

“You’re going to jail! (No homo)”

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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BrettFavresColonoscopy

Serious question: has anyone who’s won a technical award (like sound editing) in the AVNs also been nominated for an Oscar?

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

That is a …….hard question.

yeah right

I was surprised how much I liked I Tonya. The editing was incredible. It had a Scorcese like feel with the tightness of the editing.

Phantom Thread was very much a Paul Thomas Anderson movie but goddamn was it beautiful. Plus, you know, Daniel Day Lewis.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Ah, let’s have another.