‘La La Land’ could dance off with Oscars for costume and production design like ‘All That Jazz’ did

Among the 10 Oscars that “La La Land” is predicted to win are those for Best Costume Design (Mary Zophres) and Best Production Design (David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.) This would mark the first time in 37 years that a contemporary movie won both these Academy Awards, which usually go to period pictures or fantasy films.

The last movie set in modern times to pull off this double act was Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” in 1979. This Oscar-winning director’s semi-autobiographical film had reaped a leading nine nominations as had “Kramer vs. Kramer,” which bested it for Picture, Director (Robert Benton) and Actor (Dustin Hoffman). “All that Jazz” won four: Best Film Editing, Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score; Best Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), and Best Art Direction (Philip Rosenberg, Tony Walton, Edward Stewart and Gary Brink).

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“All That Jazz” was the first contemporary film to snag the Best Costume Design Oscar since Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966). In Best Art Direction, however, another contemporary picture had taken the prize just three years prior – Alan J. Pakula’s “All the President’s Men” (1976), which featured a painstakingly recreated set of The Washington Post newsroom.

In 1979, there was no shortage of period and fantasy films the academy could have recognized in these categories. For the Best Costume Design Oscar, three period pieces were nominated: the 19th-century set James IvoryIsmail Merchant production of “The Europeans”; Michael Apted’s Agatha Christie thriller “Agatha”; and Richard Lester’s largely forgotten western “Butch and Sundance: The Early Days.” The fifth nominee was Édouard Molinaro’s sleeper hit “La Cage aux Folles,” which was also up for the Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay prizes that evening.

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Over in Art Direction, “All That Jazz” was one of two contemporary nominees, the other being James Bridges’ power plant thriller “The China Syndrome.” Two fantasy films – Ridley Scott’s terrifying “Alien” and Robert Wise’s mightily anticipated “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” – were nominated. Also up was Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic “Apocalypse Now,” which entered Oscar night with eight nominations, yet could only muster two victories, in Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

Unlike “All That Jazz,” which shared these categories with a single fellow contemporary picture in each, “La La Land” is the sole non-fantasy/period film recognized in Costume Design and Production Design this year. In the former, the picture is up against one fantasy film (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) and three period pieces (“Allied,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “Jackie”). In Production Design, it’s three fantasy pictures (“Arrival,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Passengers”) and one period flick (“Hail Caesar!”).

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At the recent BAFTA Awards, “La La Land” was not victorious in either category, losing to the 1960s historical drama “Jackie” in Best Costume Design and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in Best Production Design. Nonetheless, many awards pundits, forecasting a truly grand evening for “La La Land,” are predicting the Chazelle film to nearly sweep on Oscar night, including in these two categories. Should they prevail, this would mark the first Oscar win for costume designer Zophres and production designers Wasco and Reynolds-Wasco.

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