Why Oscar Voters Prefer Period Movies in Key Artisan Categories

Variety | 2/14/2018 | Randee Dawn
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When the Motion Picture Academy announced the Oscar noms on Jan. 23, there was the usual assortment of period and futuristic fare, but three contemporary films also made the final cut as best picture contenders: “Get Out,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

But that trend didn’t hold up in the below-the-line categories of costume, hair & makeup and production design. Only one contemporary film earned a berth in those three key sectors, and it was a dark-horse candidate, “Wonder,” which earned a hair & makeup nom for its prosthetics.

Par - Course - Categories - Designers - Film

That’s par for the course in key artisan categories, where contemporary designers are regularly shut out. Even when a contemporary film does earn a crafts prize — as “La La Land” did for production design last year — there’s usually a fantastic or comic-book element involved.

“They’re always looking for something bigger and flashier,” says “Get Out” production designer Rusty Smith. “British corset dramas may win best picture after being shot in a castle. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they also filmed on location — just like we did.”

Get - Out - Design - Elements - Competitors

With “Get Out,” the design elements were just as meticulous as those of any of its competitors — the central house in the film had to appear to be in upstate New York, but was shot in Alabama. The basement set needed to look as if it were part of the house, but it was shot elsewhere. And the costumes, done on a $30,000 budget, needed to not just clothe, but be subtly disquieting.

“I wanted them to all appear awkward,” says costume designer Nadine Haders. “The goal was to make it just a little off. There was definitely satire to the costumes in the film, intentionally.”

Production - Designer - Inbal - Weinberg - Billboards

Meanwhile, production designer Inbal Weinberg worked closely with “Billboards” director Martin McDonagh’s script to inject...
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