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Crafts Roundup: Assessing the Craft Nominations and the 'Gravity' Factor

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 16, 2014 at 2:00PM

As anticipated, Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster "Gravity" dominated the Oscar nominations this morning with 10 (tied with "American Hustle"), of which seven were craft-related (VFX, cinematography, production design, editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and original score). Meanwhile, best picture frontrunners "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" each scored three craft noms.
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Inside Llewyn Davis

Cinematography also goes to "The Grandmaster" (Philippe Le Sourd), "Inside Llewyn Davis" (Bruno Delbonnel), "Nebraska" (Phedon Papamichael), and "Prisoners" (Roger A. Deakins). The only minor surprise here is the omission of "12 Years a Slave." Interestingly, though, there's a split between three shot digitally ("Gravity," "Nebraska," and "Prisoners") and two on film ("The Grandmaster" and "Inside Llewyn Davis"). But it's all about turmoil: Le Sourd's improvisational venture with Wong Kar-wai is a clash of physical and philosophical ideals about martial arts; the Coen brothers' folk odyssey is a cold and slushy evocation of failure; Alexander Payne's father-son trek is a black-and-white gray zone; and "Prisoners" (Deakins' 11th nom) is a bleak look at faith taken to horrible extremes.

Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in "American Hustle"
Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in "American Hustle"

With costume design, there's the diverse period mixing of  "American Hustle" (Michael Wilkinson), "The Grandmaster" (William Chang Suk Ping), "The Great Gatsby" (Catherine Martin), "The Invisible Woman" (Michael O’Connor), and "12 Years a Slave" (Patricia Norris). There's an expression of inner turmoil in all five, but Wilkinson's work in "American Hustle" takes on greater complexity given the bizarre role playing and volatile power play between lovers Christian Bale and Amy Adams.

For editing, "Gravity" is joined by "American Hustle" (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten), "Captain Phillips" (Christopher Rouse), "Dallas Buyers Club" (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa), and "12 Years a Slave" (Joe Walker). Survival, reinvention, and rebirth are the common themes expressed here through a range of compelling rhythms and tones.

Likewise, survival, reinvention, and rebirth are also underscored in the sound editing and sound mixing nominees. The display of creativity and emotional impact is remarkable.

For sound editing, "Gravity" has competition from  "All Is Lost" (Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns), "Captain Phillips" (Oliver Tarney), "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Brent Burge), and "Lone Survivor" (Wylie Stateman). The latter two are a bit of a surprise. For sound mixing, "Gravity" stands alongside "Captain Phillips" (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro), "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson), "Inside Llewyn Davis" (Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland), and “Lone Survivor” (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow).

 

Makeup and hairstyling are represented by frailty and old age: the surprising "Dallas Buyers Club" (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews), perceived frontrunner "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" (Stephen Prouty), and "The Lone Ranger" (Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny).

Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse in "The Book Thief"
Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse in "The Book Thief"

For original score, "Gravity" is joined by "The Book Thief," a lyrical work by five-time winner John Williams, who scored his 49th nom, breaking the record of the late Alfred Newman); "Her" (William Butler and Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire) offers a nice mash-up of Haitian and Jamaican influences; "Philomena" (Alexandre Desplat), marked by a lovely carnival waltz, and "Saving Mr. Banks" (Thomas Newman, son of Alfred), a wonderfully solemn and jaunty score with a nod to '60s cool jazz.

And, finally, competing for original song are "Alone Yet Not Alone" from "Alone Yet Not Alone" (Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel), "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2" (Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams), "Let It Go" from "Frozen" (Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez), "The Moon Song" from "Her" (Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze), and "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson). 

This is truly a study in musical contrast: the powerful, showstopping "Let It Go," (the clear frontrunner), the sense of loss and uplift in "Ordinary Love," the intimate lullaby of "The Moon Song," the irresistible fun of "Happy," and the ode to survival and faith in the obscure "Alone Yet Not Alone."

This article is related to: Crafts Round-up, Oscars, Gravity, Thompson on Hollywood, Awards, Awards Season Roundup


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.