2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design (Updated November 6, 2017)

As is the case with most below-the-line Oscar categories, bigger equals better when it comes to Best Production Design. The more lavish the sets, the more accurate the period detail, the more extravagant the designs, the more likely your film will win an Academy Award. Formerly known as Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, this prize goes to the production designer and set decorator, leaving the poor art directors on the outside looking in; perhaps that accounts for the title change. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date predictions for this year’s Best Production Design race.)

Like Best Costume Design, this award rarely corresponds with Best Picture, last lining up in 2003 with “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Often, the winner of this race hasn’t even been nominated for the top prize, as was the case with “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007), “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), and “The Great Gatsby” (2013).

Academy voters love period designs, as seen in recent winners such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), “Hugo” (2011), “Lincoln” (2012), and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014). That rare victory for a contemporary film like “La La Land” (2016) is due to its expressionistic use of color and shape rather than any shift in the taste of voters. Sci-fi and fantasy titles, such as “Avatar” (2009) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), also do well here.

Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while others are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.

UPDATED: November 6, 2017

Leading Contenders
Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau, “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

David J. Bomba, “Mudbound” (Netflix)

Rick Carter, Rena DeAngelo, “The Papers” (20th Century Fox)

Stefania Cella, Patricia Larman, Odetta Stoddard, “Downsizing” (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures)

Nathan Crowley, Emmanuel Delis, Gary Fettis, “Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.)

Nathan Crowley, “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)

Mark Friedberg, Debra Schutt, “Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios)

Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola, “Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures/Alcon Entertainment)

Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, “Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Studios)

Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, “Darkest Hour” (Universal Studios/Focus Features)

Rick Heinrichs, Richard Roberts, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Walt Disney Studios)

Santo Loquasto, Regina Graves, “Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios)

Alan MacDonald, “Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)

Anne Ross, Amy Beth Silver, “The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)

Mark Tildesley, Véronique Melery, “Phantom Thread” (Annapurna Pictures/Focus Features)

Strong Contenders
Judy Becker, Matthew Flood Ferguson, “Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Aline Bonetto, Anna Lynch-Robinson, “Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.)

Jim Clay, “Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox)

Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, “Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Studios)

Jade Healy, Holly Fisk, Adam Willis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)

Jeremy Hindle, Kathy Lucas, “Detroit” (Annapurna Pictures)

Richard Hoover, Kara Lindstrom, “Marshall” (Open Road Films)

Arthur Max, Richard Roberts, Letizia Santucci, “All the Money in the World” (Tristar)

James Merifield, Sara Wan, “Breathe” (Bleecker Street/Participant Media)

Michael Perry, “Under the Silver Lake” (A24)

David Roger, Claire Nia Richards, “Goodbye Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Possible Contenders
François Audouy, Peter Lando, “Logan” (20th Century Fox)

James D. Bissell, Jan Pascale, “Suburbicon” (Paramount Pictures)

David Crank, Kristie Thompson, “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Samuel Deshors, Sandro Piccarozzi, “Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Kevin Kavanaugh, Meg Everist, “Roman Israel, Esq.” (Columbia)

Alice Normington, Barbara Herman-Skelding, “My Cousin Rachel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Chris Seagers, Victor J. Zolfo, “Alien: Covenant” (20th Century Fox)

Neil Spisak, Cynthia A. Neibaur, “Wind River” (The Weinstein Company)

UPDATED: November 6, 2017

One film that stands out already is “Dunkirk.” Christopher Nolan‘s WWII epic reunites him with production designer Nathan Crowley. Crowley has reaped three Oscar bids for his work on Nolan films (“The Prestige” in 2006, “The Dark Knight” in 2008, and “Interstellar” in 2014) but has yet to win. He earned an Emmy nomination for his work with Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, on the “Westworld” pilot.

Oscar-winner Dennis Gassner (“Bugsy”) is a strong contender for “Blade Runner 2049,” Denis Villeneuve‘s long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott‘s 1982 sci-fi classic. Scott’s film was hailed for its dystopian vision of a future Los Angeles but lost this Oscar race to Best Picture winner “Gandhi.” Based on the trailers, Gassner’s work looks like a worthy successor.

Sarah Greenwood earned three of her four nominations for Joe Wright films (“Pride & Prejudice” in 2005, “Atonement” in 2007, and “Anna Karenina” in 2012) and could finally win for their collaboration on the Winston Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour”; her other bid was for “Sherlock Holmes” in 2009. And she could well be competing against herself as she also designed the look of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.”

Rick Carter won Oscars for James Cameron‘s fantasy”Avatar” (2009) and Steven Spielberg‘s historical biopic “Lincoln” (2012). He could pick up a third for his latest collaboration with Spielberg on “The Papers,” which details the drama surrounding the publication by the Washington Post of documents detailing the war in Vietnam. Back in 1977, another film set in the famed newsroom at about that time, “All the President’s Men,” won this award.

Among the first-time contenders, Anne Ross could find herself in the mix for Sofia Coppola‘s “The Beguiled,” a reimagining of a 1971 Clint Eastwood Civil War film.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.

Best Picture | Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short

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