Spotlight on Oscar's other categories
Animated Feature Film
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Last year, all three nominees for Animated Feature were state-of-the-art CG affairs, with Pixar’s The Incredibles taking the trophy. This year, the hot form is a quaint old technique called stop-motion animation (sometimes labeled Claymation, even when it doesn’t strictly involve clay). Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride featured a cast of exquisitely crafted puppets with faces made of latex and silicone. But Bride is likely to be an Oscar bridesmaid, eclipsed by the stronger stop-motion charms of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. British director Nick Park (Chicken Run) initially created the button-eyed main characters — cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his mute, long-suffering dog assistant Gromit — more than two decades ago, using plasticine. (That’s clay with oil mixed in to prevent drying.) The master-and-pooch duo starred in three half-hour shorts, the latter two clinching Oscars in 1994 and 1996. Creating a feature-length adventure took nearly five years’ labor, with the animation phase alone taking up roughly 18 months. Result? Exemplary plasticine prestidigitation, especially in shots of Gromit as he tracks down a fiendish vegetable-coveting bunny. ”Vegetables are naturally funny,” says Park, ”because they’re not cool.” They may well become very cool indeed on Oscar night.
Name Hughes Winborne Age 53 Previous Brushes With Oscar None — his biggest previous film was 1996’s Sling Blade. But Winborne’s skillful handling of Crash‘s numerous story lines and intense, adrenaline-pumping scenes rightfully grabbed the Academy’s attention. Editing Philosophy ”There are people that edit with their head, and there are people that edit with their gut — I edit with my gut,” says paralegal-turned-housepainter-turned-film editor Winborne. ”What’s important for an editor is you have to be able to respond freshly to the materials that come through the door. And it’s important to understand what you’ve got in a way that might be different from what was intended.” He adds, laughing, ”I try to get all the bad stuff out and keep the good stuff in.” Biggest Challenge ”It was important to be able to…keep all these balls up in the air and not let one of them fall,” says Winborne, who spent nine months in postproduction following director Paul Haggis’ 35-day shoot. ”You have to spend the right amount of time on one story line but not too long that you forget another one. But I can’t give enough credit to Paul — he planned the construction of the movie so well.
Name Dan Futterman Age 38 Path to the Nomination Best known for his supporting roles as an actor in CBS’ Judging Amy and the 1996 film The Birdcage, Futterman was inspired to write his first screenplay after reading Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer, about the fraught relationship between journalist and subject, and Gerald Clarke’s biography of Truman Capote back-to-back. Digging Up the Story Futterman plowed through about 25 boxes of Capote material at the New York Public Library and focused on murderer Perry Smith’s letters to the writer. ”It’s abundantly clear when you read them that Truman was his only friend in the world,” says Futterman, who felt emboldened to highlight that point in the film. Writing Time ”I started thinking about it seven years ago,” he says. At first, he wrote ”mostly random scenes of Perry and Truman talking” — until his now wife, Anya Epstein, persuaded him to write an outline. Biggest Challenge The film’s first act, with Capote and Harper Lee landing in Garden City, Kan. ”There were a lot more scenes of them as fish out of water,” he says, but he and director Bennett Miller ”wanted to get [murderer] Perry Smith on stage as quickly and as economically as possible.”
Memoirs of a Geisha
Name Colleen Atwood Age Mid-50s Previous Brushes With Oscar Atwood has been nominated five times before Geisha, winning in 2003 for her razzle-dazzle ensembles in the musical Chicago. Creative Starting Point ”A lot of my inspiration was from photographs of Japan in that [pre-World War II] period and also some of the fashion illustrations and impressionistic art from the time,” says Atwood, who gives an additional nod to Arthur Golden’s best-selling 1997 novel and its ”fantastical impression of a time and a place.” Design Philosophy While Golden’s book and the period research served as inspirations, the real challenge came in reenvisioning those ideas for director Rob Marshall’s film. ”We knew what they really wore, we knew what the rules were within that realm,” Atwood explains. ”Rob and I went over it, and then we decided how we wanted our movie to look, which was an interpretation of the time and of the design of the period.” Time Crunch Challenge ”A really high-end kimono in Japan takes almost a year to make — I only had four months to prep!” she says. ”So we had to fast-track a very ancient kind of process.”
The Squid and the Whale
Name Noah Baumbach Age 36 Path to the Nomination Manhattan-based writer-director Baumbach, a first-time nominee, drew upon his own childhood to pen this emotionally raw take on 1980s divorce, NYC-intellectual style. ”I started writing from the perspective of two brothers in their late 20s, early 30s,” he says. ”After I watched the Louis Malle movie Murmur of the Heart, which is told from the perspective of kids, a lightbulb went off and I scrapped all the adult stuff.” Favorite Scene The opening tennis scene, in which Joan (Laura Linney) and her younger son face off against her soon-to-be-ex-husband (Jeff Daniels) and their older son in doubles. ”The only major cuts I made when I edited the finished movie were scenes that followed,” he says, ”because I felt it told you everything you needed to know about this family.” Writing Process Newly married to actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach walks every day to his former apartment in the West Village and writes all day. ”I basically live a writer’s life when I’m not making a movie,” he says. ”I pick up a Starbucks and try to keep off the Internet.”