By Leonard KladyThough Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator failed to soar to the Oscar stratosphere, it dominated the awards’ technical categories with four statuettes, and emerged as the sole multiple Oscar winner in the below-the-line arena. The interdisciplinary membership that elect the Academy Awards rarely aligned with their guild counterparts this year, but that in no way reflected the achievement of the men and women that took home the golden statuette.It’s hard to fault the choice of Robert Richardson, ASC—a former Oscar winner for JFK but a seven-time ASC also-ran—whose images truly lifted The Aviator off the ground and provided a sweep to a bygone era that was lush and muscular. His camera stylings fit hand and glove with the work of first-time Oscar winner Dante Ferretti and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo for art direction and a third golden trophy for costume designer Sandy Powell. It was a virtual sweep for the picture in the organization’s visual categories. The picture’s fourth honor went to Thelma Schoonmaker for editing, a prize she had won previously won for Raging Bull, another Scorsese picture.A highlight of the evening was when sound editing co-winner (with Michael Silvers) Randy Thom noted that while there are a clutch of awards perceived as technical achievements, they are given to people for the “artistic decisions” they make. The duo was cited for The Incredibles and Thom was also nominated for The Polar Express. Sound mixing went to the team of Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa for Ray and John Dykstra spearheaded a quartet that included Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier for the eye-popping visual effects of Spider-Man 2.There was a well deserved music scoring award to Jan Kaczmarek for his work on Finding Neverland, an orchestral arrangement with historic panache and a touch of ironic commentary. And the very fine work of makeup artists Valli O’Reilly and Bill Corso was cited for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, though its competition embraced less obvious rigors and subtleties in the craft.It’s also worth noting that Roger Mayer’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award was in large measure accorded for his tireless work in film preservation that continues to underline the artistic and technical achievements of all those that ply their trade above and below the line.
Written by Len Klady