Oscarthon: Best Art Direction

Fun fact: this award was originally called "Best Interior Decoration," because movies used to just be shot in rooms in studios and nowhere else.

Also from 1940 to 1956 (and then randomly again in 1959) they gave separate awards to color and black & white films. I feel like a similar division should happen soon for CGI and non-CGI. Seriously, how can we consider Avatar to win an award that's supposed to be for production design and set decoration when it had barely any sets?

1. Avatar- Art Direction: Rick Carter (0 for 1) and Robert Stromberg (0 for 1); Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair (0 for 0)

This seems like the best place to recognize the extent to which James Cameron and his team nerded out making this a complete world. Apparently they put together a 380-page book called "Pandorapedia" with all sorts of information about fake aliens species, and even a Sigourney-Weaver-narrated short Discovery Channel style special about it, which will no doubt be on the DVD.

2. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus- Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith (all 0 for 0)

Like I said, the awards that Gilliam's films should always get never seem to materialize. That said, while Parnassus was better than his last few efforts by far, it was still haphazard and disjointed- the fantasia sequences had nothing to do with reality at all.

Compare this to say, Time Bandits, which frames the fantastic with the mundane in a wonderful way.

3. Nine- Art Direction: John Myhre (2 for 4); Set Decoration: Gordon Sim (1 for 1)

Oh, Nine. So many awards were yours to lose a while ago: Best Original Song, costumes, art direction... Maybe even supporting actress for one of the eight thousand big name actresses you seem to have.

Then you had to come out and pretty much blow. Go figure.

4. Sherlock Holmes- Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood (0 for 2); Set Decoration: Katie Spencer (0 for 2)

I'm super proud of myself for remembering that Greenwood and Spencer are the team from all of Joe Wright's films (including Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, with nominations for both), whose work I quite enjoy. If there's a potential spoiler for this award, I say it's Sherlock, which had just as much (relative) sucess late in the year, and is a more traditional period piece to boot.

5. The Young Victoria- Art Direction: Patrice Vermette (0 for 0); Set Decoration: Maggie Gray (0 for 1)

Still haven't seen it, but I'm sure the work was solid. Not solid enough to overcome less than $10 million at the box office though.

Art Direction is a goofy category, sometimes going with the obvious frontrunner (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button last year), and sometimes going for a wildcard that actually merits it (like Sweeney Todd or Pan's Labyrinth).

And the Art Director's Guild is no help at all, since they take the coward's route and have seperate categories for fantasy (Avatar), period (Sherlock Holmes), and contemporary films (The Hurt Locker).

My call is Avatar once again, but with little certainty this time.

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