With final Oscar voting on March 17, Variety staff members put forth their last-minute recommendations for artisans whose names they hope to hear at the 94th Academy Awards. If you haven’t cast your final vote, consider these accomplishments, from a music legend’s epic score to sweeping cinematography that could mean a historic win.
Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo Production design, “West Side Story”
The tremendous production design of “West Side Story” drew me into the story like nothing else I saw last year. Steven Spielberg’s remake rewrites the script of the musical, incorporating the looming demolition of the San Juan Hill neighborhood for the construction of Lincoln Center.
Stockhausen and DeAngelo’s work is vital for establishing that sense of place and time, situating the battles between the gangs on mountains of rubble and barren streets to show how close this world is to being erased. But the set design doesn’t just drive home the sorrow at the heart of the film; in moments like the “I Feel Pretty” department store scene or the explosive “America” number, the colorful sets also convey the joy. —Wilson Chapman
Ari Wegner Cinematography, “The Power of the Dog”
It’s hard not to pull for Wegner to make history if she wins. She’s only the second woman to be nominated for the honor (following Rachel Morrison in 2018 for “Mudbound”). Her work on “The Power of the Dog” overwhelms the eyes as it pulls in sweeping vistas yet also focuses on intimate details as the story reveals layer after layer of intrigue and hidden motives.
While a cinematography win would be a first for a woman in the 94-year history of the Oscars, Wegner faces mighty competitors: Greig Fraser for “Dune,” Dan Laustsen for “Nightmare Alley,” Bruno Delbonnel for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Janusz Kaminski for “West Side Story.” Yet “Power of the Dog” has received a whopping 12 noms across many categories, and if it pulls off even a partial sweep, Wegner may well step up to the stage. —Peter Caranicas
Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau Production design, “Nightmare Alley”
Tasked with creating two worlds for “Nightmare Alley,” production designer Deverell and set decorator Vieau performed brilliantly. Their carnival is bathed in a layer of grit and prairie dust, with faded signs and muted colors. The dinginess is palpable. But what’s brilliant is the attention to detail, with carnival art, booths and attractions that are at least a decade behind the times. When the film moves into urban settings, sleek art deco takes over, with rich, dark colors and deep creams, polished wood and surfaces evoking Bakelite and hints of Streamline Moderne in architecture and everyday items. —Carole Horst
Hans Zimmer Score, “Dune”
Zimmer’s music for “Dune” sets the tone for the movie. He tapped into the global community for the smorgasbord of choral, world music, rock and electronic sounds that permeate the film — a score that is never overpowering and complements the visual storytelling throughout. With three albums out already and music ready for future parts of the story, he’s got listeners eager for more.
Some songs Zimmer wrote for the film that were sung by Josh Brolin were left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear those in the future. Sure, Zimmer has been nominated many times, but he’s only got one win (for “The Lion King”). So while the other composers also did yeoman’s work, he gets my vote. —Shalini Dore