Tech Support: 'Gravity,' 'Gatsby,' 'Dallas' and 'Frozen' ruled Oscar's craft categories
The morning after the Oscars is always a strange feeling. We've been covering this process in earnest for months, and now it's over. And for the first time ever, I'm pleased to say that I scored a perfect 10 in predicting the winners in the crafts categories! (I went 21/24 overall, missing Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short and…Best Picture.)
To be fair, however, I'm hardly the only person to have gone 10/10 in this respect. In that sense, we had a night without surprises, which is not to say we didn't have stories.
The big story in the crafts categories is, of course, "Gravity's" dominance, as it won six of the 10 below-the-line fields, with the obvious (and highly deserved) win in Best Visual Effects being a foreshadowing of things to come in Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Original Score. Visual effects supervisor Tim Webber, sound re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay and, most notably, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki all had the moniker "Oscar winner" a long time coming and I was particularly pleased for them. Glenn Freemantle won the Oscar he came close to for "Slumdog Millionaire," Alfonso Cuarón joined James Cameron in the realm of directors who have won Oscars for film editing (though he appropriately ceded the stage to Mark Sanger as he had his chance to return later on) and Steven Price continued the tradition of first-time nominees winning in Best Original Score.
There was collateral damage in this regard. Most notably, my heart ached for Thomas Newman, with his loss for "Saving Mr. Banks," and Roger Deakins, with his loss for "Prisoners." Both continue their hard luck history with Oscar. (They are still awaiting their first win after 12 and 11 nominations, respectively.) Alexandre Desplat, now 0/6 after coming up short for his "Philomena" score, is also becoming very overdue. While Lievsay's win for "Gravity" (shared with Chris Munro, Niv Adiri and Christopher Bensted) was difficult to quarrel with, wouldn't it have been more appropriate if he had won for a Coen brothers movie like "Inside Llewyn Davis" alongside Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland? This team has been doing amazing work for the Coens for years — decades in the case of Lievsay and Kurland.
On the note of "Inside Llewyn Davis," Bruno Delbonnel, though hardly as overdue as Lubezki, is still waiting for his first Oscar. And I was a bit disappointed (if not surprised) that Christopher Rouse could not come out on top of Best Film Editing for "Captain Phillips."
The only crafts category in which "Gravity" was nominated but did not win was Best Production Design. "The Great Gatsby" overcame any concerns about its overall quality/divisiveness to become a double Oscar winner, as Catherine Martin won her third and fourth Oscars, matching the pair she won for "Moulin Rouge!" I for one appreciated her short, to-the-point acceptance speeches in that inimitable Aussie accent. I may have found her work a tad over-the-top but that's what her directo/hubbie was going for, and though I preferred other nominees in both categories, I can't say anyone was "robbed."
Costume designer Michael O'Connor was the only previous winner, apart from Martin, nominated in either category. In Best Production Design, Martin's fellow nominees Judy Becker, Andy Nicholson, K.K. Barrett and Adam Stockhausen were all first-timers who are enormously talented and have great potential to return. I'd put costume designers William Chang and Michael Wilkinson in the same boat. I nonetheless was disappointed for 82-year-old Patricia Norris, who would have made a very fine winner for "12 Years a Slave," and is now 0/6 with Oscar. I hope she gets another chance.
Between all the wins for "Gatsby" and "Gravity," "American Hustle" ended up going 0/10, including losses in Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. Oh, well. I'm sure the majority of members of the talented cast and crew will be returning to the race.
"Dallas Buyers Club's" win for Best Makeup and Hairstyling was both expected and deserved, especially after "Hustle" was not nominated. Robin Mathews and Adruitha Lee have quite the story, having overcome personal adversity and an inadequate budget to offer über-realistic and personally meaningful work on Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, undoubtedly assisting both men in obtaining Oscars of their own. (I must say, however, that I would have found it amusing had "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" won an Oscar.)
And finally we come to "Frozen's" triumph in Best Original Song, which made songwriter Robert Lopez an EGOT winner. I do love this song, and would have voted for it, especially given how well it serves the film. I must say, however, that after Pharrell Williams brought the house down with his amazing rendition of "Happy," I would not have been at all sad if he had won, and I do question how well "Let It Go" will age, especially outside the context of the movie.
But that's merely demonstrative of the fact that it's hard to know, just a couple of months after a year ends, what will actually be remembered. The Oscars attempt to be a time capsule and while those of us who watch the races know that quality is not the determinative factor in who wins, it's still a fascinating process to watch, and a worthy endeavor to recognize and reward those who bring us the magic of the movies.
As we've shown over the last few months, the below-the-line artists awarded in the crafts categories are an invaluable part of filmmaking, and seeing them honored with Oscars when they do their job well is oh so satisfying. To once again quote the great Randy Thom, upon winning the Oscar for Best Sound Editing for "The Incredibles":
"Certain Academy Awards, like Sound and Visual Effects and Editing, are sometimes referred to as 'technical' awards. They are not technical awards; they're given for artistic decisions. Sometimes we make them better than others, and I guess we made a couple of good ones on this one."
This year's winners undoubtedly feel the same, and justly so. Now it's time for us to let go of this race forever. I hope you've enjoyed our covering of the crafts races here at Tech Support, and we'll see you next season!