Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Contemporary Shmontemporary

I look great!
So do I!
I look better!
No, I look better!
No, Me!
I hate you!

They both look fabulous, don't they? One of the more frustrating aspects of the annual awards season is the so called "contemporary" categories that the guilds hand out. These days they tend to give prizes for "period", "fantasy" and "contemporary". On one hand I'm glad that the Academy don't seperate them... on the other hand they tend to rarely, if ever, nominate compterorary contenders. Last year the Academy's costume branch nominated both The Devil Wears Prada and The Queen, two contemporary designs. This year there was no such luck.

Yet that doesn't bother me as much. It's the guilds that annoy me. Let's look:

Costume Designers Guild
Olivier Beriot, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Louise Frogley, Ocean's 13
Mary Claire Hannan, Into the Wild
Monique Prudhomme, Juno
Julie Weiss, Blades of Glory

Thankfully they cited the nicely done character-defining work of Juno and the silly theatrics of Blades of Glory. I haven't seen Diving Bell and the Butterfly yet, but considering it's set in the fashion industry I can't see how it's a wasted nominated. However...

You could probably throw George, Matt and Brad into hessian sacks and they'd still look good, so I hardly see how that was a challenge. If they wanted to nominate fine suit-related work, why not Sarah Edward's great work on Michael Clayton? There's even a scene designated to the costumes as Tilda Swinton's nervous wreck of a character fusses over what to wear! And how Into the Wild's dirty rags got in there is quite bizarre. What about honouring Christina Ricci's dirty rags from Black Snake Moan?

Or what about the duel work from Nina Procter in Grindhouse? The constantly wild and character-attuned outfits like Stuntman Mike's jacket? Doc Block's blood-stained medical coat? No? There were more memorable outfits in that than many of the big lavish costume dramas of years gone by. Yeesh. Not even legend/godess/master Milena Canonero's captivating work on The Darjeeling Limited? That yellow bathrobe! And for what?

Perhaps it's just me, but I can remember the designs from each of those films far more than anything in Into the Wild or Ocean's 13.

Art Director's Guild
Carlos Conti, The Kite Runner
Michael Eric and Laurent Ott, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jess Gonchor, No Country for Old Men
Kevin Thompson, Michael Clayton
Peter Wenham, The Bourne Ultimatum

And it's here that I flip it around. I can't really cheer for Thompson's nomination for Michael Clayton? Were his lawyer offices more impressive than the southern hospitality of Keith Brian Burns' in Black Snake Moan? That radiator and chain was one of the art directions (is that the right term?) of the year, surely!

However, the biiig curious omission for me is the absense of Steve Saklad for his work on Juno. As of right now I have their work on the zeitgeist best picture nominee in my top five UMA contenders - above titles like Sweeney Todd, La Vie en Rose and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Juno was a set decorator's dream! That hamburger phone for one and then every other trinket, doowacky and ornament in Juno's home. The beanbag in Bleaker's bedroom! The urn! The picture frames Vanessa Loring adjusts ever so slightly! It boggles my mind that it's absense. That chair didn't show up on the set one day and ask to be a major focus point, ya know!

And then there's the Carl Horner's work on Grindhouse. All those dive bars, military bases, hotted up cars and zombie-ravaged hospitals didn't design themselves! Well, okay, the cars did, but that's neither here nor there. Surely they're more impressive than, what? Waterloo Station?

And, again, Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited got screwed out of a nomination for Mark Friedberg. Hello, the movie wouldn't exist without those very specific sets! How about Kathleen Climie's icy homestead and retirement home from Away from Her. Or Silke Buhr's captivating East Berlin of The Lives of Others. And, hey, if No Country for Old Men - a movie set in 1980 - can be a "contemporary" nomination, then why not The Lives of Others? Nick's Flick Picks has a great write up on the latter. How about the realistic and fascinating restaurant, kitchen and delicious apartments of No Reservations? The movie may have been a mere savoury dish, but the art direction was... umm... a $200 three course meal! ...?

And I'm not even going to get into the work by Franco-Giacomo Carbone, Jon Gary Steel and Morgan Kennedy for Bug, Vacancy and Cashback. Cause, seriously! Even so far as the varying and fascinating uses of Paris in Paris je t'aime.

All of this is all basically a big dig at the complete and utter ignoring of Black Snake Moan, The Darjeeling Limited and Grindhouse. The only nominated the former received was a breakout star award for wimpy Justin Timberlake at the MTV awards. Seriously? It's just so... aaagh! Think outside the box, people!

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