Art directors are in charge of a film’s sets and their overall physical appearance. They need to draw up designs for the film’s sets and props and then they need to bring them to life. Often the director has a lot of influence over this, and the visual effects department also influences it a lot, but it’s the Art Director who needs to make it all happen.
- Green Zone: This Paul Greengrass thriller has the challenge of recreating places that we’ve seen on the news for the last decade in meticulous detail. Most impressive is the title location, the green zone, which is brought to life as this sort of surreal place of western imperialism not unlike the Cairo base from Lawrence of Arabia.
- Inception: Most movies can come up with an overall design and just kind of run with it, but in Inception things get shaken up a lot. There’s the eastern design of Saito’s house, the very modern real world environments, the urban sprawl of the first dream level, the noir hotel of the second level, the snow fortress on the third level and of course the all-bets-are-off limbo area. Each of these needs to be distinct so that the viewer will keep track of it all while levels shift while still fitting in with an overall aesthetic.
- Never Let Me Go: Science fiction has traditionally been filled with metal walls and computers and stuff, but this movie takes a different approach to the genre. Set in an alternate version of the 20th century, this takes a post-Children of Men approach to world building in which things are subtley changed here and there. But this isn’t really being nominated for science fiction elements so much as it’s down to earth elements like its boarding schools, hospitals, and costal villages.
- Shutter Island: Few films are improved quite as much by art direction than Shutter Island, a film that is made significantly more interesting by its creepy New England Gothic aesthetic. That insane asylum looks like a horrible place out of an H.P. Lovecraft story and the rest of that spooky island is no slouch either. It has a bit of an artificial look, but that’s by design too, and all the spiral staircases, dingy cells, and lighthouses really give the film atmosphere.
- Tron: Legacy: While these other movies were doing variations on the real world to some extent, this Tron sequel had little to go on aside from the original ’82 movie which was going to need a major overhaul if it was going to impress modern audiences. But the design team was able to fight back with a slick neon glow design and a number of sweeping cyber cityscapes. In this they were mostly successful, the movie looks pretty damn cool.