This is the sort of award that is going to guage how badly Return of the King will steamroll the competition. Certainly this award could go to anyone nominated but if LotR gets it, you can just expect that movie to be sucking up awards like a Hoover.
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a movie based on a famous painting by Vermeer. That being the case it had better be a beautiful film or it has no hope of being taken seriously. That's why it picked up three nominations. It didn't pick up any non-technical awards though which doesn't give it much hope of winning any of them. Nominations are voted on by people who work in that field but winners are decided by the entire Academy. The film may be well respected by behind the camera folks but the actors probably won't give it a second thought.
Seabiscuit is a great looking film but I think it will have a hard time getting this award because it's time period isn't old enough or exotic enough to stand out. That's not to say that the production design on the film is poor. It's unfortunately the sort of work that is done so well that you barely notice it. That's great for the movie but not so good for winning awards.
The Last Samurai has great looking sets but like Seabiscuit, it's probably not flashy enough to win the award.
Master and Commander is flashy enough to win. Setting almost the entire movie on a ship at sea means that you can't take your eyes off the sets. There is simply no choice but to look at them. It's great work and thoroughly convincing. Considering the reputation of the series of books the movie is based on for technical details, the movie had better look great or be mercilessly mocked by fans of those books. It comes through impressively. Unfortunately, it's up against a juggernaut.
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is going to win. I'd bet money on it. The detail and depth of the many different locations and the cultures they represent makes this movie a visual feast on all levels. Couple that with a sense that Hollywood was waiting for the trilogy to complete before giving it the proper respect and you'd be a fool to bet on another film in this category.
Unsurprisingly, the same five movies are nominated for this category as Art Direction. That means my thoughts are largely the same. The only real difference is that I see The Last Samurai as the only film with any hope of unseating Return of the King. The costumes in Samurai are simply amazing. That probably won't be enough though as RotK is on a major roll.
Here we have a chance to discuss movies without having to consider the Rings juggernaut.
Cold Mountain is certainly a film that will make you take notice of the way it was shot. That said, to me the choices of how to shoot many scenes was often heavy handed, almost bludgeoning the audience into reacting the desired way to a scene. It looks great but it isn't what you would call subtle.
Master and Commander also looks great but suffers a bit from a shortage of things to show the audience. Almost the entire movie is on a ship at sea, which means there are either shots of the ocean or shots of the dark interior of the ship. This is all handled very well but it's not exactly a broad pallet.
Seabiscuit has a bright bold look to it that is a nice match for the time period it is set in and the subject matter. It's based on real events but ones of such a legendary quality that the cinematography punches it up a bit and gives it an almost hyper real feeling. Very nice stuff but the competition is a bit too fierce here.
Girl with a Pearl Earring accurately reproduces a painting masterpiece. That's no small praise for the cinematography. Most have described the movie as about as interesting as watching paint dry but no one derides the look of the film.
City of God is a film that will probably continue to be thought more highly of with every passing year. Part of that is for the cinematography which effortlessly switches styles to complement any given part of the film. This is easily my favorite in this category. I just hope that this isn't one of those times where I pick my favorite instead of the popular pick.
This has a very similar list to the last category with Return of the King replacing Girl with a Pearl Earring. I find editing a hard category to judge as so much of a film depends on the editing to work properly that it can be tough to appreciate all facets of the editing. One of the things you expect from good editing is that it presents the story in a coherent and intelligent fashion. It should set a good pace that doesn't bore the audience or make them feel it rushed by too quickly. Based on that, I'd say the two most likely winners are City of God and Return of the King. City of God has a complex tale that covers numerous factions and covers many years. Keeping that all straight and at a pace that invigorates the viewer is no easy task and it excels at it. Return of the King has an even more complex tale and it also covers more than three hours of material. Doing that without putting butts to sleep is impressive. My guess here is that Return of the King wins it as part of its over all landslide.
Exactly what was so special about the makeup in Pirates of the Caribbean and Master and Commander? I'm just asking. Easy win here for Return of the King which has the sort of elements that make it easy to tell that complex makeup is being applied. Side note, have there ever been a trio of nominees with longer titles? The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I feel bad for the presenter of this award.
I hate the two sound awards as I have the damnedest time making sense out of them. I've tried looking at the Academy's regulations for an explanation but it didn't help much. I'm guessing that sound editing has more to do with the placement of sound in the movie. That said I'm going to predict Finding Nemo is the winner. Since the movie is completely digitally animated, there is nothing real in it. That seems to me to further complicate the sound issues. Since the movie feels very real, I'd guess they did a good job.
I get the impression that this has to do with the creation and mixing of sounds. Based on that I'm predicting a win for Return of the King. Many of the sequences have so many sounds layered in and so many of them portray things we don't have in real life. That sounds like a damn impressive job to me. Plus the rule this year is pick Return of the King when in doubt.
That's enough prognosticating for one night. Tommorrow I'll come back and try to sort out the shorts, documentaries and foreign films.