Awards analysis is provided by Sean from @MathTeacherMovies.
The technical awards, also known as “craft awards” or “below-the-line awards”, do not usually excite those tuning into the Academy Awards. It’s the lull during the Oscars ceremony between the best acting and best picture categories that make you wonder where all the pretty people went and put another box of pizza bagels in the oven. While these awards are not popular, the technical aspects of a film are what make your favorite movies great, yet they mostly go without recognition except for the one big night.
Think of it this way: if it weren’t for these technical awards, Titanic would only have won two Oscars instead of eleven. Would Titanic have been as moving and epic without its score? Would it have been as thrilling without the expansive shots of the Atlantic? The technical awards highlight all the effort and behind-the-scenes expertise that go into making a great film and they too deserve attention.
In the most oversimplification of an explanation, cinematography is what makes the film beautiful. More specifically, it has to do with lighting, color, camera angles and movement, and the general look of the film
This year, Mank is pretty certain to win as this award often goes to a black and white film. But Mank also uses a certain style that works for the theme of the film. Nomadland and News of the World also have great looks to them and they are the only films that threaten Mank.
Best Costume Design
In regards to explanation, this one is fairly on the nose and so is the top pick. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has the period piece angle along with stunning costumes that immerse you in its world. Other competitors include period dramas like Emma, News of the World, Mank, and Mulan.
Best Film Editing
Film Editing has to do with cutting the movie seamlessly it also helps contribute to the pace of the film. If it’s well done, you will never notice it, but if it’s bad, it can ruin a movie (I still don’t understand how Bohemian Rhapsody won the award for this category. Don’t get me started).
The cliche in this category is that it often goes to the Best Picture winner. While that’s not a sound science, the award will likely go to The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Nomadland which are both fighting for the top award.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
This category doesn’t require much of an explanation: it will probably go to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for all the great hairstyles and the magnificent transformation of Viola Davis through makeup. There aren’t too many other contenders. Trial of the Chicago 7 has some distinctive and frequently mocked wigs and Hillbilly Elegy is garnering attention for Glenn Close’s rugged, Appalachian-chic look.
Best Production Design
Best Production Design is the creation of the world in which the movie takes place or, more simply, the set design. Mank seems like the clear front runner with its beautiful mansions and old Hollywood environment. But, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom could upset this win: while it’s settings were few, they were very authentic.
News of the World and Mulan worked very hard to create its past worlds and different eras. Tenet and Midnight Sky are the sci-fi movies that show accurate interpretations of different times and worlds.
After many years of trying to explain/understand the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, the two categories have finally merged into simply Best Sound. Distinguishing between the two always caused confusion and the increasing use of digital techniques blended the two categories.
The clear but offbeat winner of the award this year should be (and probably will be) Sound of Metal which enveloped the entire movie in a sound that literally drove the arc and emotion of the story. While there will be other nominees, I can’t think of a better film to win.
Best Original Score
There’s little doubt that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will be taking home the Oscar in this category. The question is for which movie: they both worked on Soul and Mank (and what did you accomplish during quarantine?) Both Soul and Mank have popular scores that are written by the pair and are incredible. One of those will be the winner and the other will be a clear threatening force.
Best Visual Effects
This is a category that usually belongs to a fantasy or comic book movie. These effects were made to be viewed in a theater, so the category may suffer because no one went to the movies this year. Therefore, the two front runners will be Midnight Sky and Tenet. Other nominees will probably include Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, and other big budget films. But at this rate, this category is going to be pretty underwhelming.
While the technical awards are given to people we don’t know doing things we don’t always understand, they deserve attention and recognition for helping us truly love the movies which make them fun to follow.
Let me know what you think of my projections at @mathteachermovies on Instagram.