Jack Fisk’s résumé boggles the mind. The production designer met his wife, Sissy Spacek, on the set of Badlands in 1972, and since then has worked on every single Terrence Malick film. (Other credits include Brian De Palma’s Carrie, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.) His participation in The Revenant was perhaps inevitable, given how closely he’s worked with Emmanuel Lubezki in the last decade, and to the film’s credit, among the few things that aren’t flattened into symbolic gruel by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s torturously somber aesthetics is the astonishingly tactile quality of Fisk’s production work.
But we made the mistake of calling this category for him before, when he was nominated in 2008 for There Will Be Blood’s handsome period wood. (That the film only won for best actor and cinematography is a portent few have acknowledged.) Though Fisk was honored over Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by the Art Directors Guild, the Oscars went with Dante Ferretti. And because no Oscar winner in this category, with the possible exception of Lincoln, has suggested anything other than an over-the-top extension of a director’s sensibilities, we must obligatorily forecast this year’s trophy for the production design with the mostest.
Though he lost to Fisk this year at the Art Directors Guild, Adam Stockhausen may be on stronger ground here, if only because the engrossing and expressive sense of detail he brought to the enormous scale of Bridge of Spies made the cut over the delicious ornateness of Crimson Peak. In the absence of the Guillermo del Toro film from the running, Mad Max: Fury Road stands apart in a crowd that also includes the CNN-grade wonderment of The Martian and The Danish Girl, surely a greater, if more problematic, threat in the costume design category, for using blades, steel, spikes, and more to render a dying planet as an unforgettable S&M steampunk hellscape.
Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Could Win: Bridge of Spies
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road