Best Art Direction is exceptionally strong this year that has some heavy hitters in it that have been regulars in the category throughout the years. Seeing a pattern in what the Academy nominates it’s usually a period or fantasy film that earns the nod.  Here’s a recap of what each nominee has going for it, and its chances of winning.

The Artist – Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould
Making any film in black and white, or from the silent era, must be any art director’s dream. They are working with a striking color palette, and are offered a chance to pay tribute to cinemas past.  The Artist recreated Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, and its result was one of the most beautiful uses of black and white since Good Night and Good Luck. Some show stopping sets pieces included the finale’s dance number between Jean Durardin and Bérénice Bejo, which brought to mind the MGM musicals of the 1930s. This film probably doesn’t have a chance in winning since it’s not on such a grand scale as its competitors. Though it would be a noble choice, the bigger films in the category might trump it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan
Although Stuart Craig has two wins, (The English Patient, and Dangerous Liaisons), he and his set decorator Stephanie McMillan have never won for their work on any of the Harry Potter films. Their past nominations include: Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Goblet of Fire, and The Sorcerer’s Stone. Will this be the year Harry Potter finally wins? It very well could be since it’s the series’ last installment.  The Deathly Hallows Part 2 featured some terrific set pieces that included the demolished battleground of Hogwarts, and the massive redesign of the school’s staircases. It would be a well-deserved win for their hard work on the series. The movie has already won the guild award for best art direction for a fantasy film, which gives it a good chance of winning.

Hugo – Dante Ferretti and Fancesca Lo Schiavo
This is the movie to beat in this category. Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo are often regarded as some of the best art directors working today. Their resume of Oscar wins includes Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Flint Street and The Aviator. Ferretti and Schiavo are regularly teamed with Scorsese, and Hugo might be one of their most impressive films to date.  Some of the most notable set pieces of the film include the Parisian train station, and the recreation of George Méliès film A Trip to the Moon. The setting, and material, defiantly gives it an upper hand.  The Academy will no doubt love Scorsese’s passion for film history.  It also has the guild award for best art direction for a period film in its favor.

Midnight In Paris – Anne Seibel and Héléne Dubreuil
Midnight in Paris took the route to recreate 1920’s Paris with more of a subtle approach then Hugo.  It’s fun to compare to the two different approaches to recreating the past.  While there are no huge set pieces in the film, every scene of when Gil travels back to the roaring 20s feels authentic. Understated, yet detailed, is often a signature look of any Woody Allen movie. This is the most beautiful looking film he’s made.  It’s always refreshing to see set decorators work with real locations, and it really paid off in the film’s look.  Midnight In Paris probably doesn’t have a shot of winning this category due to how effortless it looked.

War Horse – Rich Carter and Lee Sandales
Never count out anyone that regularly works with directors like Steven Spielberg.  Rich Carter is a seasoned veteran that has been working with Spielberg since Jurassic Park, and his work won this category two years ago on James Cameron’s Avatar. This is the first nomination for his partner Lee Sandales.  Any team that works with Spielberg knows their craft, and the recreation of rural WWI Britain in War Horse defiantly showcases it.

Will Win: It’s likely that the winner is going to be Hugo since the academy has loved Dante Ferretti’s work so much in the past. It’s an impressive piece of artistry that’s defiantly worthy of another win for him and Fancesca Lo Schiavo.

Could Upset: Either the Deathly Hallows Part 2 or War Horse also have a good chance of winning.  Since Harry Potter has always been snubbed in this category it would be great to see it finally win.  The win would defiantly be a tribute to how much work it took to put onto film J.K Rowling’s images from the book series.

Road to the Oscars Series

January 27: Best Live Action Short – Kit Bowen

January 31: Best Animated Short – Savanna New

February 1: Best Documentary Short – Christa Youngpeter

February 2: Best Documentary – Dantzler Smith

February 3: Best Foreign Language Film – Steve Neumann

February 4: Best Visual Effects – Michael Benedict

February 5: Best Sound Editing – Michael Benedict

February 6: Best Sound Mixing – Joseph Doherty

February 7: Best Makeup – Katie Mae Peters

February 8: Best Costume Design – Jax Russo

February 9: Best Art Direction – Scott Youngbauer

February 10: Best Film Editing – Michael Benedict

February 11: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

February 12: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 14: Best Animated Feature Film – Steve Neumann

February 15: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Original Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 17: Best Supporting Actor – Joseph Doherty

February 18: Best Supporting Actress – Angela Stern

February 20: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 22: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 23: Best Picture – Kit Bowen