(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
Best Art Direction was one of two Oscar categories to get rechristened last year: from here on out, it'll go by the rather more imposing-sounding Best Production Design. It was a long-overdue change, really, given that the award includes production designers and set decorators among its nominees... but not, funnily enough, art directors. Go figure.
The name may be new, but this year's slate of Best Production Design nominees otherwise finds the award on familiar ground, offering voters a choice between period spectacle and fantasy spectacle -- though none of it in films too far outside the Academy's comfort zone. (Three of the nominees are also up for Best Picture.) Compounding the sense of familiarity: all but two of the 11 names cited have been to the dance before, while one of the nominated films adjoins a franchise previously rewarded in this category. In recent years, the Academy has often opted for films that combine fantasy and period elements, with expensive, effects-heavy productions winning out for the last few years running. Still, this year's field offers more traditionalist voters a couple of attractive handmade options.
The nominees are...