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 2023 Oscars Best Production Design predictions.)
Like Best Costume Design, this award rarely corresponds with Best Picture. Before “The Shape of Water” prevailed in both categories in 2018, the last to line-up was “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in 2004. Often, the winner of this race hasn’t even been nominated for the top prize, as was the case with “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2006), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2007), “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2008), “Alice in Wonderland” (2011), and “The Great Gatsby” (2014).
Academy voters love period designs, as seen in recent winners such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2009), “Hugo” (2012), “Lincoln” (2013), “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2015), “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2020) and “Mank.” That rare victory for a contemporary film like “La La Land” (2017) 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” (2010), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2016), “Black Panther” (2019) and last year’s winner, “Dune,” also do well here.
UPDATED: February 6, 2023
“Babylon,” Production Design: Florencia Martin; Set Decoration: Anthony Carlino
“Avatar: The Way of Water,” Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter; Set Decoration: Vanessa Cole
“Elvis,” Production Design: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; Set Decoration: Bev Dunn
“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Production Design: Christian M. Goldbeck; Set Decoration: Ernestine Hipper
“The Fabelmans,” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
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