This final installment -- a day ahead of my absolute final predictions (honest) -- looks at costume design, the two sound categories, and briefly considers the many possibilities of the documentary and short winners. These are probably the few places where screaming will be heard at your Oscar party -- none of the projected winners are slamdunks here. I've tried to look at Oscar's past as a hint, but much of the voting will be completely subjective in these categories. Beauty and sound is in the eyes and ears of the beholder.
Costume Design. If there is one category that is the most confounding this year, it’s this one. A very subjective vote honors films that have beauty (Ran, The Great Gatsby), ornate design or bold color (last year’s Alice in Wonderland), gorgeous period authenticity (Nicholas and Alexandra, Amadeus, The Age of Innocence) and flamboyant excess (Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert).
With perhaps one exception, none of the films have over-the-top, eye-catching designs. W.E. does have some of the most stunning garments on display, and they reflect the society, period, and class of the main characters precisely. The Costume Designers Guild also saw fit to award Madonna’s film with its best period design award. Anonymous and Jane Eyre have very authentic costuming, but the opulence is diminished in the former by the darkly lit cinematography and the simplicity of the apparel in the latter. I remember distinctly the clothing worn by Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous, but the film failed to sustain my interest overall. Jane Eyre was captivating in almost all ways as a cinematic experience, but it wasn’t the costumes I remembered.
Which leaves us with The Artist and Hugo. Since 1967, no black-and-white film has won this category. Will The Artist alter that decades-old pattern? Although the clothing masterfully recreates the look and feel of silents from the 1920s, something a little more showy typically takes this prize. And I think the warmth, colors, and design of Hugo may have enough impact to do just that.
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. It has become clear that the victors here are chosen often without any idea what the difference is between mixing and editing. Typical winners are war films, musicals, special effects films, and noisy actioners. Four films share nominations in both categories: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and War Horse. One of these is the likely winner in each category, and I would probably rule out those two films that only had a single nomination (Drive and Moneyball). Transformers is the noisiest of the other four, but it’s not an admired franchise by the Academy. Girl has a sound ambience that accurately conveys the chilly atmosphere of both its setting and the suspense, but it may be too subtle for consideration by the average voter. Hugo certainly made good use of sound effects and has an adroitly mixed soundtrack. And War Horse, for me, was one of the clearest, distinctive soundtracks I heard in a film last year (war film or not).
Thus, my vote for sound editing is going to War Horse. I think the best sound mixing trophy will end up in Hugo’s hands.
Documentaries and Shorts. Votes are all over the place for these four awards, and the limited number of Academy members who actually see these in order to vote make guessing a real winner nearly impossible. However, sentiment, politics, humor, and social justice tend to prevail in their choices, so I’ve made my choices using my heart and mind:
Documentary Feature: Undefeated will probably defeat Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.
Documentary Short Subject: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom will probably lose to Saving Face.
Animated Short: Pixar’s La Luna may lose in a squeaker to The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.
Live Action Short: The Irish (and lovely) The Shore may succumb to the humor and more sophisticated concept of Tuba Atlantic. Jury is still out.