Best of 2011: Art Direction
BEST ART DIRECTION
Jane Eyre (WILL HUGHES-JONES)
... for avoiding temptations to modernize but still maintaining an eerie, defamiliarizing pall, and making us feel all temperatures and textures;
Rango (MARK "CRASH" McCREERY)
... for sticking to its pop-guns, flaunting an everyone's-a-freak flag for kids and adults alike, and finding images to suit a rococo script;
The Skin I Live In (ANTXÓN GÓMEZ)
... for using color, texture, and lines brilliantly to evoke psychological atmospheres and then pouring more meanings into them than we guessed;
Sleeping Beauty (ANNIE BEAUCHAMP)
... for keying up the world's ritual and antiseptic qualities, yielding uncanny yet oddly plausible environs that buoy protagonist's alienation; and
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (MARIA DJURKOVIC)
... for what I've called a "Cinecittà of mildewed bureaucracy," a sad, post-Mod spin on Zodiac, entrancing to peer at but soul-sapping to inhabit.
Runners-Up: 3, for balancing palette, geometries, styles of décor, and evocative Berlin locations to suit its thesis on people as free-radical molecules; Albert Nobbs, for being so unpretentiously convincing in its period idiom, and specifically as a mid-grade hotel; The Artist, for duplicating some early-Hollywood touchstones and elevating others to the stature of dreams; Hugo, for being a colossal technical achievement, even if it could have stood to feel less heavy and cluttered; and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, for marshaling locations better than any franchise movie out there, and handling everything from sandstorms to gadgets to skyscrapers just right.
For Distinguished Work with No Dinero: Beginners, for the great illustrations, and a world that passes back and forth from looking like one of Ewan's cartoons; Leap Year, for that indelible and character-revealing apartment; Like Crazy, for believable dorms and workplaces, and good indicators of when the relationship has energy and when it doesn't; Weekend, for saving lines and screentime by showing us just who these guys are, via what they own and how they live; and Win Win, not just for credible suburban living but for a vaguely pop-inflected palette that places the movie nicely between realism and fable.
For Distinguished Work with Prehistoric Technology: The proto-humans of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, whose efforts with a hunk of charcoal, some variable lines, and the curve of a cave wall led to some pretty fabulous mo-cap, and plenty of incredible trompe-l'oeil and forced perspective, putting a lot of film crews with $100 million budgets to shame. Way to go, Ayla and Og!
Films I'd Have Mentioned If I'd Seen Them in Time: War Horse
Films I Hated to Skip Before Posting: City of Life and Death, House of Pleasures, Mysteries of Lisbon