The films competing for the 2023 Best Production Design Oscar are “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Babylon,” “Elvis,” and “The Fabelmans.” Our odds currently indicate that “Babylon” (10/3) will be the winner, followed in order of likelihood by “Elvis” (19/5), “Avatar: The Way of Water” (4/1), “All Quiet on the Western Front” (9/2), and “The Fabelmans” (9/2).
There being 12 individual craftspeople in this lineup makes it the category’s largest since 2010. The last time there were more than this was 1988, when “The Last Emperor” designers Bruno Cesari, Osvaldo Desideri, and Ferdinando Scarfiotti defeated 11 challengers. The current group consists of four past winners and eight newcomers, with those who make up the latter bunch being Karen Murphy (“Elvis”), “All Quiet on the Western Front” duo Ernestine Hipper and Christian M. Goldbeck, “Babylon” pair Anthony Carlino and Florencia Martin, and “Avatar: The Way of Water” trio Dylan Cole, Vanessa Cole, and Ben Procter.
Murphy’s two “Elvis” collaborators, Beverley Dunn and Catherine Martin, already won this award together for “The Great Gatsby” in 2014. Martin also prevailed here alongside Brigitte Broch for “Moulin Rouge!” in 2002 after the two of them received their collective first nomination for “Romeo + Juliet” in 1997. Martin’s previous two wins in this category were paired with victories in Best Costume Design, and the same could apply this time.
Either Martin or Rick Carter (“The Fabelmans”) would be the 26th person to win this award three times, with the only woman currently in the group being Francesca Lo Schiavo (“The Aviator,” 2005; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” 2008; “Hugo,” 2012). Carter achieved his two victories for “Avatar” (2010) and “Lincoln” (2013) and received additional nominations for “Forrest Gump” (1995) and “War Horse” (2012). The most recent three films on his Oscars resume were all directed by Steven Spielberg.
Martin was indeed the first woman to pull off multiple wins in this category and has since been joined in that distinction by Nancy Haigh (“Bugsy,” 1992 and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” 2020). This year, the group could come to include Dunn or Carter’s collaborator, Karen O’Hara, who was initially feted for “Alice in Wonderland” in 2011. She has also received academy mentions for her work in “The Color of Money” (1987) and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2021).
Each of the last 14 films that have received this honor have also collected at least one more Oscar, with the last lone winner having been “Sweeney Todd.” The most overlap has occurred in Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Score, with five instances each. Any of the present production design contenders could continue the tradition, but “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Babylon,” and “Elvis” are best positioned to do so since they are each nominated in two of the three most commonly correlational categories.
The films that won in this category most recently are “Dune” (2022), “Mank” (2021), “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2020), and “Black Panther” (2019). This year’s winner will be revealed during the 95th Academy Awards ceremony, airing March 12 on ABC.
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