Those looking to the recent Art Directors Guild awards to give clarity to the Oscar race for Best Production Design should check their expectations. With three categories to reward, the ADG gave prizes to not one, but three out of the five Academy Award contenders: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Fantasy), “The Revenant” (Period), and “The Martian” (Contemporary). Those films compete against “Bridge of Spies” and “The Danish Girl” at the Oscars. In the past two decades, one of the ADG winners has prevailed at the Oscars a dozen times.
Let’s take a closer look at the five nominees in this category, and find out who has the best shot at winning according to our experts (journalists from leading publications who cover this beat year-round. Click here to see their individual predictions in this race and click here to see their combined odds of winning for each nominee.
“Bridge of Spies”: Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich
Last year’s Oscar and ADG winner (in the period category) for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Stockhausen is back again for his work on Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama “Bridge of Spies.” It’s his third nomination in a row, having previously competed for “12 Years a Slave” (2013), and our experts currently have him ranked in third with 40/1 odds. Although Stockhausen was bested this year at the ADG by Jack Fisk for “The Revenant,” he shouldn’t worry too much: Spielberg’s last film, “Lincoln” (2012), won the Oscar for production designer Rick Carter after he lost at the guild to “Anna Karenina’s” Sarah Greenwood.
“The Danish Girl”: Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
Stewart received her fourth nomination for recreating Denmark in the 1930s for “The Danish Girl.” Her first nod came for Mike Leigh’s “Topsy-Turvy” (1999), and she subsequently competed for two other Tom Hooper collaborations, “The King’s Speech” (2010) and “Les Miserables” (2012). Period rules in this category, with voters often mistaking the prize for Best Recreation of a Bygone Era. Being the only film in the race without a corresponding Best Picture bid won’t hurt its chances much, as they didn’t stop the likes of “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), “Sweeney Todd” (2007), or “The Great Gatsby” (2013), to name but a few. Indeed, our experts have Stewart ranked in second place with odds of 16/1.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”: Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
One of the three victors at the ADG awards — and currently the Oscar front-runner with odds of 2/13 — is first-time nominee Gibson, who brought the wild world of “Mad Max: Fury Road” to life. Gibson’s dazzling designs of an apocalyptic desert wasteland could tickle the academy’s fancy, especially if “Mad Max” conquers the tech categories as our experts are predicting. Although the academy may love period in this category, fantasies can triumph as well: look no further than “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), “Avatar” (2009), and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) for recent examples.
“The Martian”: Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
A frequent collaborator of Ridley Scott, a director known for his stunning art direction, Max received his third nomination this year for the sci-fi hit “The Martian,” for which he won his second ADG prize. His work for Scott has served him well over the years: his first guild win and Oscar bid came for Best Picture champ “Gladiator” (2000), and he was later cited for “American Gangster” (2007). Max’s most impressive work comes from his design of the space station on Mars in which the majority of the action takes place. With so many films pulling votes, it’s possible that we’re underestimating Max: he currently holds fifth place odds of 66/1.
“The Revenant”: Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy
Fisk may not work often, but when he does, it’s usually on a film of quality. A go-to guy for Terrence Malick, David Lynch and Paul Thomas Anderson, Fisk received his second career nomination for his work on the frontier drama “The Revenant.” Fisk was previously cited for “There Will Be Blood” (2007), for which he also took home the ADG award. Although his detailed, heavily researched work was certainly impressive enough to appeal to the guild, which awarded him his second prize, a movie with this many scene set outdoors may go unnoticed by the academy at large. Currently Fisk is ranked in fourth place with odds of 50/1.
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