Academy Awards Project: Best Production Design


Like costumes, the production of a film can easily be taken for granted if it is done well. We just accept that we are in a new world. Even in many bad films, at least the production is okay at worst (unless you go the extra mile; see Battlefield Earth). Luckily, we have some great contenders here. I believe everything can be ranked a little easily nonetheless. Here are the nominees for Best Production Design, ranked from worst to best.


Biggest Snub: Paddington 2
Yeah, I said it. You have the Browns house, Buchanan’s upstairs attic full of theatre props, the jail house and more. Like the first Paddington (but better), 2 offers many humble abodes that are playful yet precise in nature (like they were living playhouses). I didn't expect Paddington 2 to crash the Oscars despite its huge reception, but it deserved a little love.


5. Mary Poppins Returns-John Myre, Gordon Sim
Mary Poppins indeed did return. The old house is as if it never left (but did age), and the entire neighbourhood (interiors and exteriors) are creative, yet realistic. The fun really begins when Poppins transports the children (and us) to new magnificent worlds. It's as if it is a familiar place seen in a new light each time, and the production is a major reason why.


4. Roma-Eugenio Caballero, Barbara Enríquez
The attention to detail when it came to replicating '70s Mexico was done with painstaking care. Every piece of furniture was meticulously created (or picked up if it already existed); much of the home came from Alfonso Cuarón's childhood house. As if in Kurosawa fashion, so much of Roma is about the little things that turn a set into a universe. You know it's a good year when a film like this comes in 4th.


3. First Man-Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
First Man goes a little beyond the pack with it's different settings. You have a recreation of a '60s house; no big deal, we can just explore the infrastructure of a major space station for many in-film years and watch it change. A lot of what you see is done by special effects, but the production design is strong enough to make these effects seamlessly blend in.


2. The Favourite-Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
Like the costumes, the sets here are an absolute treat to visually dissect. There are intricate wall designs, complex antiques, and a countless amount of odds and ends to pick apart. Where do you even begin when it comes to picking out a best set piece (or set, for that matter?). All of the settings in The Favourite (despite being mostly limited to one castle) are to die for.


1. Black Panther-Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart
Let's show Black Panther some love. It does what every film above did all at once. Need a new world created? Check. Will it be historical or futuristic? Why not both? Wakanda was heavily created by special effects, but production picked up the pieces where the CGI failed. All of the flashy interiors are of another dimension. Of course, the shots from around the world featured here are childs play in comparison, but they do matter. You can argue that Black Panther is like other comic book films even in this department. I beg to differ, on the basis that it strived to be a whole bevy of cinematic types (indie, arthouse, science fiction) while being a part of the Marvel family. Put on Black Panther and Infinity War side by side. Yeah. I thought so. When it comes to the nominees, Black Panther has the best production design of the year. 

Our Predicted Winner: This will likely go to The Favourite, but First Man and Roma have high chances, too.

Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.