Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Production Design
So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.
This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.
Today is Best Production Design. Probably one of the few categories with any real intrigue in for me this year.
|Year||Best Production Design Winners||Other Nominees|
|1927-1928||The Dove & Tempest||Seventh Heaven
|1928-1929||The Bridge of San Luis Rey||Dynamite
|1929-1930||King of Jazz||Bulldog Drummond
The Love Parade
The Vagabond King
|1931-1932||Transatlantic||À nous la liberté
|1932-1933||Cavalcade||A Farewell to Arms
When Ladies Meet
|1934||The Merry Widow||The Gay Divorcee
The Affairs of Cellini
|1935||The Dark Angel||The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
The Great Ziegfeld
Lloyd’s of London
The Magnificent Brute
Romeo and Juliet
A Damsel in Distress
Every Day’s a Holiday
The Life of Emile Zola
The Prisoner of Zenda
Souls at Sea
Vogues of 1938
Wee Willie Winkie
You’re a Sweetheart
|1938||The Adventures of Robin Hood||The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
The Goldwyn Follies
If I Were King
Mad About Music
Merrily We Live
|1939||Gone With the Wind||Beau Geste
Man of Conquest
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
The Rains Came
The Wizard of Oz
|1940||Black and White: Pride and Prejudice
Color: The Thief of Bagdad
|Black and White: Arise, My Love
The Boys from Syracuse
My Favorite Wife
My Son, My Son
The Sea Hawk
Color: Bitter Sweet
Down Argentine Way
North West Mounted Police
|1941||Black and White: How Green Was My Valley
Color: Blossoms in the Dust
|Black and White: Citizen Kane
The Flame of New Orleans
Hold Back the Dawn
Ladies in Retirement
The Little Foxes
Son of Monte Cristo
That Hamilton Woman
When Ladies Meet
Color: Blood and Sand
|1942||Black and White: This Above All
Color: My Gal Sal
|Black and White: George Washington Slept Here
The Magnificent Ambersons
The Pride of the Yankes
The Shanghai Gesture
Take a Letter, Darling
The Talk of the Town
Color: Arabian Nights
Captains of the Clouds
Reap the Wild Wind
|1943||Black and White: The Song of Bernadette
Color: Phantom of the Opera
|Black and White: Five Graves to Cairo
Fight for Freedom
Mission to Moscow
The North Star
Color: For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Gang’s All Here
This Is the Army
|1944||Black and White: Gaslight
|Black and White: Address Unknown
The Adventures of Mark Twain
No Time for Love
Since You Went Away
Color: The Climax
The Desert Song
Lady in the Dark
The Princess and the Pirate
|1945||Black and White: Blood on the Sun
Color: Frenchman’s Creek
|Black and White: Experiment Perilous
The Keys of the Kingdom
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Color: Leave Her to Heaven
A Thousand and One Nights
|1946||Black and White: Anna and the King of Siam
Color: The Yearling
|Black and White: Kitty
The Razor’s Edge
Color: Caesar and Cleopatra
|1947||Black and White: Great Expectations
Color: Black Narcissus
|Black and White: The Foxes of Harrow
Color: Life with Father
|1948||Black and White: Hamlet
Color: The Red Shoes
|Black and White: Johnny Belinda
Color: Joan of Arc
|1949||Black and White: The Heiress
Color: Little Women
|Black and White: Come to the Stable
Color: Adventures of Don Juan
Sarabond for Dead Lovers
|1950||Black and White: Sunset Boulevard
Color: Samson and Delilah
|Black and White: All About Eve
The Red Danube
Color: Annie Get Your Gun
|1951||Black and White: A Streetcar Named Desire
Color: An American in Paris
|Black and White: Fourteen Hours
House on Telegraph Hill
Too Young to Kiss
Color: David and Bathsheba
On the Riviera
The Tales of Hoffmann
|1952||Black and White: The Bad and the Beautiful
Color: Moulin Rouge
|Black and White: Carrie
My Cousin Rachel
Color: Hans Christian Andersen
The Merry Widow
The Quiet Man
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
|1953||Black and White: Julius Caesar
Color: The Robe
|Black and White: Martin Luther
The President’s Lady
Color: Knights of the Round Table
The Story of Three Loves
|1954||Black and White: On the Waterfront
Color: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
|Black and White: The Country Girl
A Star is Born
|1955||Black and White: The Rose Tattoo
|Black and White: Blackboard Jungle
I’ll Cry Tomorrow
The Man with the Golden Arm
Color: Daddy Long Legs
Guys and Dolls
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
To Catch a Thief
|1956||Black and White: Somebody Up There Likes Me
Color: The King and I
|Black and White: Seven Samurai
The Proud and the Profane
The Solid Gold Cadillac
Color: Around the World in 80 Days
Lust for Life
The Ten Commandments
Bell, Book and Candle
A Certain Smile
|1959||Black and White: The Diary of Anne Frank
|Black and White: Career
The Last Angry Man
Some Like It Hot
Suddenly, Last Summer
Color: The Big Fisherman
Journey to the Center of the Earth
North by Northwest
|1960||Black and White: The Apartment
|Black and White: The Facts of Life
Sons and Lovers
Visit to a Small Planet
It Started in Naples
Sunrise at Campobello
|1961||Black and White: The Hustler
Color: West Side Story
|Black and White: The Absent-Minded Professor
The Children’s Hour
Judgment at Nuremberg
La Dolce Vita
Color: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Flower Drum Song
Summer and Smoke
|1962||Black and White: To Kill a Mockingbird
Color: Lawrence of Arabia
|Black and White: The Music Man
Mutiny on the Bounty
That Touch of Mink
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
Color: Days of Wine and Roses
The Longest Day
Period of Adjustment
The Pigeon That Took Rome
|1963||Black and White: America America
|Black and White: 8 ½
Love with the Proper Stranger
Twilight of Honor
Color: The Cardinal
Come Blow Your Horn
How the West Was Won
|1964||Black and White: Zorba the Greek
Color: My Fair Lady
|Black and White: The Americanization of Emily
Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte
The Night of the Iguana
Seven Days in May
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
What a Way to Go!
|1965||Black and White: Ship of Fools
Color: Doctor Zhivago
|Black and White: King Rat
A Patch of Blue
The Slender Thread
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Color: The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Inside Daisy Clover
The Sound of Music
|1966||Black and White: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Color: Fantastic Voyage
|Black and White: The Fortune Cookie
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Is Paris Burning?
Juliet of the Spirits
The Sand Pebbles
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The Taming of the Shrew
Thoroughly Modern Millie
|1968||Oliver!||The Shoes of the Fisherman
2001: A Space Odyssey
War and Peace
|1969||Hello, Dolly!||Anne of the Thousand Days
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
The Molly Maguires
Tora! Tora! Tora!
|1971||Nicholas and Alexandra||The Andromeda Strain
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Fiddler on the Roof
Mary, Queen of Scots
|1972||Cabaret||Lady Sings the Blues
The Poseidon Adventure
Travels with My Aunt
|1973||The Sting||Brother Sun, Sister Moon
The Way We Were
|1974||The Godfather Part II||Chinatown
The Island at the Top of the World
The Towering Inferno
|1975||Barry Lyndon||The Hindenburg
The Man Who Would Be King
The Sunshine Boys
|1976||All the President’s Men||The Incredible Sarah
The Last Tycoon
|1977||Star Wars||Airport ‘77
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Turning Point
|1978||Heaven Can Wait||The Brink’s Job
|1979||All That Jazz||Alien
The China Syndrome
|1980||Tess||Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Elephant Man
The Empire Strikes Back
|1981||Raiders of the Lost Ark||The French Lieutenant’s Woman
|1983||Fanny and Alexander||Return of the Jedi
The Right Stuff
Terms of Endearment
|1984||Amadeus||The Cotton Club
A Passage to India
|1985||Out of Africa||Brazil
The Color Purple
|1986||A Room with a View||Aliens
The Color of Money
Hannah and Her Sisters
|1987||The Last Emperor||Empire of the Sun
Hope and Glory
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Driving Miss Daisy
|1990||Dick Tracy||Cyrano de Bergerac
Dances with Wolves
The Godfather Part III
The Fisher King
The Prince of Tides
|1992||Howards End||Bram Stoker’s Dracula
|1993||Schindler’s List||Addams Family Values
The Age of Innocence
The Remains of the Day
|1994||The Madness of King George||Bullets Over Broadway
Interview with the Vampire
Legends of the Fall
A Little Princess
|1996||The English Patient||The Birdcage
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet
Men in Black
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Elizabeth
Saving Private Ryan
What Dreams May Come
|1999||Sleepy Hollow||Anna and the King
The Cider House Rules
The Talented Mr. Ripley
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Gladiator
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Gangs of New York
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Road to Perdition
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Last Samurai
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
|2004||The Aviator||Finding Neverland
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Phantom of the Opera
A Very Long Engagement
|2005||Memoirs of a Geisha||Good Night, and Good Luck.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Pride & Prejudice
The Good Shepherd
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
|2007||Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street||American Gangster
The Golden Compass
There Will Be Blood
|2008||The Curious Case of Benjamin Button||Changeling
The Dark Knight
|2009||Avatar||The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
The Young Victoria
|2010||Alice in Wonderland||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King’s Speech
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
|2013||The Great Gatsby||American Hustle
12 Years a Slave
|2014||The Grand Budapest Hotel||The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
|2015||Mad Max: Fury Road||Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
|2016||La La Land||Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
|2017||The Shape of Water||Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Production Design is one of those categories that you kind of need the precursors to help with, otherwise you could, in a vacuum, talk yourself into anything. Though sometimes (like 2012), the precursors don’t really help and you just get caught. So it’s kind of a case by case basis. Last year we got lucky with an easy one. This year, I’m curious.
But we’ll start by looking at the main guild, ADG, and how they do vs. the Oscars since their inception:
- 1996 — The English Patient won both.
- 1997 — Titanic won both.
- 1998 — Shakespeare in Love won the Oscar, What Dreams May Come won ADG.
- 1999 — Sleepy Hollow won both.
- 2000 — Crouching Tiger won the Oscar, Gladiator won ADG.
- 2001 — Moulin Rouge won both.
- 2002 — Chicago won the Oscar, The Two Towers won ADG.
- 2003 — Return of the King won both.
- 2004 — The Aviator won the Oscar, A Series of Unfortunate Events won ADG.
- 2005 — Memoirs of a Geisha won both.
After 2005, they split the categories into the three we know them as today, Period, Fantasy, Contemporary.
- 2006 — Pan’s Labyrinth won both.
- 2007 — Sweeney Todd won the Oscar. There Will Be Blood won ADG Period.
- 2008 — Benjamin Button won both.
- 2009 — Avatar won both.
- 2010 — Alice in Wonderland won the Oscar, The King’s Speech won ADG Period and Inception won ADG Fantasy.
- 2011 — Hugo won both.
- 2012 — Lincoln won the Oscar. Anna Karenina won ADG Period, Life of Pi won ADG Fantasy.
- 2013 — The Great Gatsby won both.
- 2014 — The Grand Budapest Hotel won both.
- 2015 — Mad Max: Fury Road won both.
- 2016 — La La Land won both.
- 2017 — The Shape of Water won both.
So in 22 years, ADG is 15/22. So 2/3. Not terrible. And 9 of the last 12, so 75% since they split the categories.
Of the seven times they did not match the Oscar winner:
- 1998 — The Best Picture winner won.
- 2000 — The Best Picture winner won ADG but lost the Oscar to a Best Picture nominee
- 2002 — The Best Picture winner won.
- 2004 — The Best Picture nominee won.
- 2007 — A Tim Burton film wins.
- 2010 — A Tim Burton film wins.
- 2012 — A Steven Spielberg wins (generally surprising people, given that it won none of the precursors)
BAFTA, meanwhile, is 7/10 the last ten (missing 2016, 2012 and 2010, so two of the same three ADG missed), and the only ADG miss that they picked up was The Aviator. Every other one they also got wrong (including Shakespeare in Love).
And BFCA has been handing out an award for production design since 2009, and they’ve only missed twice. They’re 7/9 in the last ten years, and haven’t missed since 2012. Their two misses are 2010 and 2012. They had Inception (along with everyone else) in 2010, and Alice in Wonderland came up and surprised, and they had Anna Karenina in 2012 (along with most people, though Les Mis and Life of Pi also had precursors, and then Lincoln jumped up and won).
Generally, what this means is, unless it’s gonna go completely off book, the precursors will usually tell you (along with general observation) what the contenders are.
Best Production Design
Mary Poppins Returns
This is one of the categories that went entirely as expected. These were the films that got nominated pretty much across all the three precursors and made the most sense. So not a whole lot to talk about in the way of how the category became the category. The only possible alternative was Fantastic Beasts, but when faced with that vs. Black Panther… the choice was obvious. So no surprises here.
The precursors so far:
- ADG Period: The Favourite
- ADG Fantasy: Black Panther
- ADG Contemporary: Crazy Rich Asians
- BAFTA: The Favourite
- BFCA: Black Panther
I think that about tells us everything we need to know, don’t you?
5. First Man — It’s the only one where you can’t really remember a set piece from it, can you? Like, yeah, there’s the spaceships and stuff, but it’s all so tight on Gosling a lot of the time, you don’t really remember it. And then everything else just feels kind of like “generic 60s” sets. So I don’t think anyone’s rushing to vote for this. They love space movies in this category, but they never win. Passengers, The Martian, Interstellar, Gravity, even Apollo 13 — all lost. This as a fifth choice makes total sense in the absence of any precursors.
4. Mary Poppins — It’s Mary Poppins, so you know it’s got that aura of having good sets and things. And Disney, so a lot of people might vote for it on principle for that. Still, no precursors, and I don’t think anyone saw/has love for the movie to the point of it picking up categories. So it feels like an “also ran.” Maybe I try to sneak it third come Oscar night just because I wouldn’t want to get caught with it winning, Lincoln-style. But honestly, I doubt this category gets past the top two. That’s a hell of a vote split to get past those two.
3. Roma — It’s tied for most nominations, and it’s a Best Picture frontrunner. Can’t not show it respect in other categories, even though the Academy is very good about giving awards to things only “when it makes sense.” They don’t just sweep vote anymore. So that makes this an unlikely winner. Plus, so much of Roma is about the cinematography and the vérité feel that some people might take the production design of it for granted. Mary Poppins is much more showy, which is why I might say that’s a third choice over this. Still, no precursors outside of the top two, so at that point, we’re splitting hairs and just covering for possible eventualities. Don’t see the vote getting this far.
2. Black Panther — It’s got a guild win and it’s got BFCA. That’s something. Could snag a few extra votes in an open vote, but it’s not the frontrunner. Could easily win, but you cannot call it the favorite to win here. You just can’t. The thing with Hollywood is, they’re only doing this to seem like they care. They’ll clap for it, but they truly don’t want to vote for this. They’ll vote for it where it “makes sense.” So maybe it’ll win Score, maybe it’ll win Costumes, maybe it’ll win one of the Sound categories, maybe it’ll win this. I can’t see it getting more than one or two wins at most. This one is in play, but I feel like it’s one of the lesser probability ones.
1. The Favourite — It’s got the guild (Period, too, which is the big one) and it’s got BAFTA. Hard not to see this as (insert title here) to take this one down. It’s a toss up of a category. This vs. Black Panther. All things being equal, this has the better precursors and makes more sense for them because this one isn’t loaded with CGI. This seems like the probable winner. Either way, this is a clear frontrunner.
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