Oscar breakdown: Part 2

By Charly Shelton

We have all seen the Oscars. The host, or this year hosts, walks on stage and makes a few jokes and then announces the category. Then another star comes out to read the nominees and then, after a dramatic pause and some trouble opening the envelope, the winner is read and applause fills the theatre. But many of us don’t really know why they won or even what they are up for.
We have four weeks left until Oscar weekend, the big night is Sunday, March 7th. In our continuing series we will break down the Oscars and the nominee list to see who is up for what, and what each category is.
This week we will look at some of the artistic technical awards, including Art Direction, Costume Design, and Make Up, as well as Foreign Language films and Documentary films.
Art Direction is one of the more easily noticeable tech aspects to a film- if you know what to look for. The Art Director also considered as production design, is essentially the overall lookl of the film. From the sets to wall color the Art Director works with the director to create the ambiance of the film.
This is the difference between seeing a movie that looks like it was shot in shadowy, mysterious Victorian England, or on an alien planet, five years of space travel away, or even in the mind of an Italian director recalling pieces of his life through song versus seeing a movie that looks like it was shot in a soundstage in Burbank. Personally, I would take any of the interesting locales over Burbank, but “to each his own.”
The nominees this year are Avatar, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, and The Young Victoria. This one is a head scratcher. Avatar is the sure top dog, the juggernaut that seems likely unstoppable as it has become the most successful movie of all time. But with contenders such as Nine, Holmes and Victoria this one could be a close race. Avatar was fantastic and it really deserves recognition for having such a great look for the alien world of Pandora, as well as a futuristic base for humans living there. But Holmes was also well done. The dark underbelly of London in the 1800s is an often-used backdrop for stories but rarely is it done so well. And on the other side of life, Victoria shows the positives of the same time and town, through the eyes of the young royal. As for Nine- if single sequences could win, the “Be Italian” number would take it hands down. But overall, it may not have what it takes to stand up to the other contenders. Imaginarium is an intricate world woven out of an almost Lewis-Carroll-esque persuasion that may surprise us all and come from behind. We can only wait and see.
Costume Design is pretty self-explanatory. But is it the weirdest, funniest, oldest, or sexiest costume that makes it to the Oscars? It is how the clothes add to the story telling. It can make a bold statement like those amazing gowns in “Shakespeare in Love” to simple looks that help the audience see the changing of time like in “Forest Gump.”
The twist this year is to see how the digital world of “Avatar” fits into the real world of the other nominees.
Make Up is also easier to grasp- best makeup. For those of you who do your makeup religiously every morning like my girlfriend, my sister, and most of the other girls I know (as well as a couple guys), you know how important good makeup and hair can be. It changes everything from how you feel and act to what someone (in the audience) thinks of you. Just think about a clown without face paint or Queen Elizabeth I without her wigs. Makeup is a vital part of movies.
This year’s nominees are Il Divo, Star Trek, and, once again, The Young Victoria. Star Trek wouldn’t be the same if Captain Kirk didn’t get to know at least one green chick in the course of the movie. Oh, and there were other aliens too. And although Trekkies, or Trekkers, across the world think Kirk, Spock and friends are a slam dunk the others in this category like Victoria are also a contenders. In Victoria the makeup had to be appealing, but subdued so she didn’t look like a painted commoner. And Il Divo is an Italian film that follows the life of Italy’s Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti from 1972 to 1992. .
Foreign Language films are important because they give the Oscars a connection to worldwide cinema, not just American and British made films, which dominate the English language film market.  The nominees this year are “Ajami” from Isreal, “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” from Argentina, “The Milk of Sorrow” from Peru, “Un Prophète” from France, and “The White Ribbon” from Germany.
“White Ribbon” won the Golden Globe though.
And finally Documentary. Documentaries are non-fiction, often political, use colons in the titles more often and usually have real people instead of actors. These films are just as important, and sometimes even more emotional than a fictitious story with even the highest paid actors. The only problem is that documentaries frequently have a limited release to only a few theaters in larger cities, whereas wide released films go to thousands of cinemas across the country. That is why an Academy nomination is so important to many of these films. It gets the film’s name out to the general public and hopefully enough interest so audience goers search out the documentary. The nominees this year are: for feature length- “Burma VJ,” “The Cove,” Food, Inc.,” “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” and “Which Way is Home.” For Short Subject- “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province,” “The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner,” “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” “Music by Prudence,” and “Rabbit à la Berlin.”  The key to this category is what film touches the issue most deeply. What makes audience leave knowing more about the issue and haunted by what they have learned.
For a full list of the nominees, as well as more analysis of them, visit our website- cvweekly.com. And look in next week’s paper for part 3 of the “Oscar Breakdown,” where we will break down Script and Music awards. I can hear it now…