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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

It’s still no Drag Race, but the contest for costume design (i.e. the Oscar category most likely to send me headed to Wikipedia to even remember what won last year) just got a little bit more interesting over the weekend. And if the Costume Designers Guild’s award for Patricia Norris’s desiccated plantation line from the House of Mason-Dixon is to be taken seriously, then Amy Adams’s milky, sleek sternum is simply not as eye-catching an accessory as the funk of 40,000 lashes. (And I’m not talking the Maybelline kind here.) That Norris this weekend pranced past Michael Wilkinson’s chesty silhouettes in American Hustle wasn’t a major surprise, but that those drab rags left Catherine Martin’s flip-flap frippery from The Great Gatsby face down in the pool does arch one’s eyebrows. Or maybe that’s not such a surprise. The Costume Designers Guild have never much warmed up to Martin’s work; her Oscar-winning feathers and ruffles from Moulin Rouge weren’t even invited to the guild’s dance back in 2001. Perhaps they, like many of us hardened vets who experienced that Oscar season in real time online, were simply weary of the squealing zealousness of those “kicking up their heels” (and writing those same noxious words ad nauseam) over Baz Luhrman’s over-performance that year.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Production Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

In 2010, we asked, “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.” So we threw our vote to Sherlock Holmes and shook our heads on Oscar night when James Cameron’s Epcot Center diorama was awarded. The lesson? That Gravity, even though it’s the Mission: SPACE to Avatar’s more elaborately designed Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, shouldn’t be too quickly discounted. Two years earlier, we thought the category would break toward Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood’s Wild West City attraction only to see it (rightfully) lose to Tim Burton’s Broadway-ed Dickens funhouse Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Meaning that the benefits of being a Best Picture frontrunner in this category are negligible. And so we put our money on Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year only to see it toppled by the Lincoln Logs of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Meaning that being a politely revered or disliked Best Picture nominee is also negligible.

Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby

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Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby
Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby

However enticing the movie itself may be, the commercialism of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has been oppressive, to say the least. We’ve already discussed the film’s preposterous glut of posters (which, for the record, has ballooned even larger since), and if you walk through Manhattan, you’ll see that the movie has caused the Deco gleam of the Chrysler Building to spread out all over, from subway-stair video ads to Brooks Brothers stores, which have devoted full windows and products to the promotion of Gatsby’s 1920’s style. It’s a whole lotta marketing, but one part of it that’s hardly off-putting is the film’s carefully constructed soundtrack, which is brimming with an embarrassment of aural riches, and is easily the most anticipated album of its kind in years.

Executive produced by Jay-Z (who also holds a producing credit for the film), the Gatsby soundtrack seems, on the whole, to be an extraordinary melding of vintage and contemporary sounds, fulfilling Jay-Z and Luhrmann’s goal to “translate Jazz Age sensibilities” into something that can speak to, and enchant, the modern listener. The undertaking is far more involved than one might think, as the hip-hop mogul and the Australian auteur toiled away for two years, nailing down a tone and compiling an illustrious roster of artists, whose styles range from alt-rock to urban, but are all huddled beneath the unifying umbrella of the Roaring Twenties theme.

Poster Lab: Anna Karenina

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Poster Lab: <em>Anna Karenina</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Anna Karenina</em>

How to sell a Keira Knightley period romance and still distinguish it from every other Keira Knightley period romance? For Focus Features’ Anna Karenina, the answer is proudly touting spectacle while employing markedly modern embellishments. The eighth major screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, and the fifth film from hit-or-miss Brit Joe Wright, this spare-no-expense movie wears its grandiosity on its ruffled sleeve, as the recently released trailer certainly attests.

The poster is at once overstuffed, dazzling, tacky, evocative, arrogant, and perfect. Like a shot of an antique shop raided by the royal court and Chris Van Allsburg, it blends opulent production design with near-absurdist block font, which serves to communicate the clout of the story, its endurance in modern times, a diva sensibility, and even the wintry Russia setting, reflected in the gleam of those imposing, towering letters. Positioning its elements on a glitzy stage to boot, the image promises precisely what the trailer does in all those shots of swirling sparks and beating fans: a slick and swoony costume drama of almost goofy proportions.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

So it is that the one year we didn’t stick to our frilliest-always-wins guns here, allowing ourselves to be blinded by the sheen of Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement, we came up short. So, Anonymous for the win, right? That’s what my gut told me the morning the Oscar nominations were announced, except it wasn’t a good sign when the Costume Designers Guild didn’t follow suit by also nominating Lisy Christl’s garbs, and the last time a film won an Oscar without the guild’s seal of approval was, inexplicably, Moulin Rouge. Though Anonymous remains, on paper at least, the likeliest seeming winner, unlike recent victors in this category about royal women (from Marie Antoinette to The Young Victoria), the film may suffer in the end from the lack of QT afforded to its single greatest asset: Vanessa Redgrave.

Fly, Ryan Murphy! Be Free!

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Fly, Ryan Murphy! Be Free!
Fly, Ryan Murphy! Be Free!

Dear Ryan Murphy:

Be crazy.

By crazy, I mean unhinged, unpredictable and inspired. Think Bob Clampett going full-tilt surreal in Porky in Wackyland. Or Chuck Jones starting out spoofing opera in What’s Opera, Doc?, then building to a climax of thunderous spectacle and heartfelt emotion that wipes the smile off your face (until Bugs Bunny restores it with, “Well, what did you expect in an opera…a happy ending?”) Think Frank Tashlin building a live-action cartoon around his already-cartoony leading man, Jerry Lewis. Or Bob Fosse directing an autobiographical musical fantasia while he was still alive, and structuring the entire thing as a deathbed flashback, and devoting the film’s final third to musical hospital staff and equipment as bits of mise-en-scène. Think Alfred Hitchcock staging entire feature films in single locations (Lifeboat, Rope, Rear Widow), ending The Birds with an eerie, almost European-art-film-like anticlimax, and killing off his leading lady in Psycho 40 minutes into the film and turning his focus to her killer, and making you think he’d killed his leading lady in Vertigo only to have her show up again during the film’s second half, by way of setting up an even darker, sicker, more moving story than the one you were already watching.