Us in 2014 about the best production design Oscar, following a string of missed guesses in this category: “We don’t know shit.” Us in 2015, having correctly guessed last year that the most spangled, most ornamented choice would cakewalk its way to a win: “We know some shit.” It doesn’t hurt that this year’s contest is nearly as much a foregone conclusion as it was for The Great Gatsby last year, though we hasten to note that this year offers no contenders we can safely eliminate from the conversation without comment (as we did with American Hustle and Her). True, voters would have to throw back to the dusty era of Gandhi and Out of Africa for something as staid and cloistered as The Imitation Game’s wall of decrypting cylinders (loosely inspired by this) to coattail its way to victory. Frankly, we’re not impressed with the cut of Harvey Weinstein’s jib this season, no matter how often he takes the high road. And if this is one of the only categories the far more beloved Gravity ended up spinning out of orbit, don’t expect the slower, heavier Interstellar to launch.
Color us traumatized that Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods wasn’t a total visual wash. Even though his camera still dances with two left feet, it also captures both the whimsy and the deliberately distancing artificiality of the musical’s verdant creations. We can imagine more than a few Oscar voters getting stuck over that latter feature, leaving the only two films nominated across the trifecta of visual-opulence categories to duke it out. While Mr. Turner missed out on the majors, there’s no denying that the craft guilds have big respect for Mike Leigh’s attention to period detail, and Mr. Turner’s unvarnished realism falls in line with recent winners Lincoln and Sweeney Todd. But if you don’t see Oscar’s better-late-than-never coronation for the fastidious mise-en-scène of Wes Anderson bringing The Grand Budapest Hotel the trophy here, then you truly can’t see the patisserie for the macarons.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Mr. Turner
Should Win: Mr. Turner