How do you solve a problem like Avatar? How do you hold a fluorescent, floating anemone in your hand? Well, you can’t. Because it exists in hexadecimal code on a hard drive somewhere in Silicon (or is it Uncanny?) Valley. Which is the conundrum many voters no doubt face when it comes to considering Avatar’s credentials in the “tactile” tech categories: cinematography and art direction (and, had Avatar’s loincloths at least been poly-blend, costume design). Do those floating mountains and threateningly close moons count for much in a category that cites “set decoration”? Won’t those eye-popping achievements be properly awarded in the visual effects category? We’re not sure if quite enough voters will be given pause by that ethical dilemma.
It’s worth noting the Art Directors Guild didn’t seem too bothered by the question either. They just gave Avatar their award for best fantasy art direction. They also saw fit to give their period film citation to the only other Oscar nominee in the running: Sherlock Holmes and its plumy velvet and iron. And so it is that the category boils down to a race between the materials-avoidant filmmaking of James Cameron’s Tomorrowland and old-school craft. We’re pretty certain most Oscar voters understand the category is about design and not just physical labor, and that it really doesn’t matter whether it’s nails or keystrokes that realize an art director’s “vision.” Still, the nominations for Nine, whose apparatus all but underlines the spirit of architectural process, and the nothing if not traditionalist The Young Victoria suggest this might be one of those Home Depot years, not so much Intel Inside.
Will Win: Sherlock Holmes
Should Win: Sherlock Holmes