84th Academy Awards: Everything Old Is New Again

Everything old was new again at the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony.  After a seven year hiatus, Billy Crystal returned as host and re-introduced the audience to his trusted style of humor, turn-of-the-century visual effects in "Hugo" trumped the sophisticated motion capture innovations perfected in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and "The Artist," in all its silent, black and white beauty, took the evening’s Best Picture award.

Upon arriving to the press room with his Oscar in hand, cinematographer Robert Richardson corrected one reporter who questioned him about the challenges of shooting with a green screen.

"Oh, I don’t know if you are accurate on that part," said Richardson.  "It was a great deal of practical.  The sets were phenomenal."

After expressing his concern that 3D be used as a tool to enhance story telling as it was in "Hugo," Richardson praised the other nominees who were all recognized for standard two dimensional work.  He was particularly surprised to have received the award over "Tree of Life" lenser Emmanuel Lubezki.

"I didn’t see this happening," said Richardson.  "I love the work in ‘The Tree of Life,’ and also think he’s well overdue.  I love that man."

Coming off an Art Directors Guild win for "Hugo," Production Designer Dante Ferretti, along with set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, shared the joy of receiving an award for their first foray into 3D.

"I did eight movies so far with Martin and this is the first time for everyone who worked in the film," said Ferretti.  "We did research and understood to do it in 3D we’d have to take more attention to details.   You work in the middle of 3D so you see people in the front, middle and in the back."

While not shot in 3D, costume designer Mark Bridges paid the same level of attention to details for all the 1920s inspired pieces in "The Artist," finding textures helped the wardrobe compliment the set, the story, and the black and white film.  This was his first Oscar nomination and his first win, and he was completely elated.

"I’m thrilled – I’m really proud – I’m just so happy," said Bridges.  "I spent a great deal of my childhood where the winters are long and movies are a great escape and it has affected my whole career choice.  It’s really a life-long dream come true."

Breaking through the "Hugo"/"Artist" strong-hold were editing duo Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for their second consecutive win on their second consecutive feature with director David Fincher, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." 

"I think we were flabbergasted when we were standing there," said Baxter, referencing their stunned appearance on the winner’s podium.

"This is kind of a win for David because he’s the third wheel on our little tricycle,"  said Wall.

"The big one," added Baxter.

Another duo, makeup artists Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, received their first nomination despite working with Meryl Streep on all her projects since 1982.  Transforming the acting legend into political icon Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" presented them with their first win, something they joking suggested may hinder their career.

"I’ve heard that sometimes people win and Oscar and never work again, because people think they are going to be too expensive," said Coulier.  "We will see what happens; hopefully things will go up from this point in time."

Composer Ludovic Bource’s score took center stage in silent feature "The Artist."  While his English speaking  skills were minimal, he clearly expressed his love for the film’s director and for American cinema.

"Music is a character in the movie and it’s a unique language, I’m so honored to have been able to make this movie thanks to Michel Hazanavicius," said Bource.  "All the work I did was a declaration of love to American culture, American cinema."

"Flight of the Concords" member Bret McKenzie hopes to someday write Oscar nominated music with partner Jemaine Clement, but was pleased with his Best Song win for "Man or Muppet."  McKenzie, a big Muppet fan, was particularly dumbfounded to have won Best Original Song for his work in "The Muppets."

"It’s an honor to get this because ‘Rainbow Connection’ didn’t win an Oscar but there is no doubt that that song is, you know, an absolute, timeless classic," said McKenzie.  "This is nothing in comparison."

While the "Hugo" sound editing and sound mixing teams were bombarded with questions about Martin Scorsese’s use of rock scores in his previous films, the visual effects team was happy to be complimented on their work that integrated digital effects with practical effects that came directly from the Georges Melies library.

"It was a particular thrill for us because a lot of what we did is very subtle – things to be basically at the same level of the art form of the other categories (recognized in the film): cinematography, art direction," said Rob Legato.  "We chose on every occasion we could to use techniques that might have been used by Georges Melies.  We are very proud of the fact that we got recognized for the art of it as much as the technology of it."

To see a complete list of all the evening’s winners, please visit:

www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/84/nominees.html