Variety’s 10th annual Artisans Awards, taking place Feb. 11 at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, celebrates craftspeople responsible for the visual magic in the biggest films of the year. The tribute at the coastal city’s Arlington Theatre also includes a panel with the honorees moderated by Jazz Tangcay, Variety’s senior artisans editor.
Meet this year’s honorees:
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VFX, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”
One of the Marvel blockbuster’s plot points is the backstory of Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a creature that is part of the mad scientist plot by High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) to create an advanced species.
Ceretti worked with the VFX team to introduce baby Rocket and different stages of evolution; baby Rocket starts on all fours and gets shoulders as he matures. VFX-wise, Ceretti concentrated on “animating his emotions as he becomes more human,” which gave the backstory that emotional gut punch.
Billie Eilish and Finneas
Song, “What Was I Made For,” from “Barbie”
“What Was I Made For” is “Barbie’s” heart song, a melancholy ballad that plays during a pivotal scene towards the end of the film between Margot Robbie’s Barbie and the creator of the popular doll, Ruth Handler, played by Rhea Perlman in Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster hit.
The first line Eilish and Finneas came up with was “I used to float, now I just fall down.” Eilish says she felt a strong affinity to the Barbie character. “I didn’t even realize that I was relating so much,” she says. “When we were writing the song, we weren’t thinking about our own lives. Then a couple days later, I was like, ‘Oh, this is me and my story.’ ”
Göransson’s score for “Oppenheimer” has been hailed by many as the best score of the year. Over two and a half hours of music fills the film as J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) races to build the atomic bomb. Göransson crafted a score that, like the cinematography and storytelling, takes audiences inside Oppenheimer’s perspective and head. The core instrument was the violin. “You can go from the most romantic melodic tone and within a split second turn the tremolo into something neurotic and manic,” says the composer. Notably, much of the score was done before Christopher Nolan had even shot the film.
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer
Production designer/set decorator, “Barbie”
Greenwood and Spencer built Barbieland on soundstages in the U.K., complete with 360-degree sets. To create the artificial world and make the actors playing dolls look bigger, Greenwood and Spencer reduced their designs by 23%, giving the sets an off-kilter scale. “When Margot [Robbie as Barbie] is in the house, she could touch the roof, and she’s too big for the car. We set certain rules around that,” explains Greenwood.
Another rule: no black, white and brown hues in Barbieland. Instead, the world is primarily fuschia with varying shades of pink. Adding to the toy-looking vibe, there’s no fire, water or wind, and Barbie’s food is either a flat decal or a 3D model.
Prosthetics makeup guru Hiro had the daunting task of transforming Bradley Cooper into famed musician Leonard Bernstein. The film tracks Bernstein from a 25-year-old to an elderly man in the later stage of life, sitting at a piano and giving one of his last interviews. Five different stages
of makeup application were created for the production, with prosthetics for the nose, lips and chin used for the first step. The final step consisted of more extensive prosthetics — for the top of the head, forehead, eyelids, nose, lips and chin, cheeks, neck, back of the neck, shoulders, earlobes, hands and arms.
Lame covers a major historical event, rivalry and relationships in editing Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” which stars Cillian Murphy as the father of the atomic bomb, Emily Blunt as his wife Kitty and Florence Pugh as his paramour. “I wanted the women to shine and feel complicated and complex, and it was very important to me,” she says, noting that while she edited big moments such as the atomic bomb exploding, it was the quieter scenes that struck her the most. Kitty was a woman who stuck by her husband, and their marriage was a complicated one. “I wanted her to feel like both a badass and complicated and hard and difficult, and have a softness and a love for him,” Lame says. “I wanted that to come through.”
Cinematography, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Prieto created a visual language distinguishing the indigenous Osage and more recent arrivals to Oklahoma circa 1923 in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” The world of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) was subdued while that of his wife Mollie (Lily Gladstone) was “naturalistic as possible.” Prieto incorporated techniques developed by Technicolor Rome (ENR) and the Lumiere brothers (Autochrome Lumiere) to tell the tragic story of the Osage murders.
Re-recording mixer, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
Semanick used digital and analog equipment to create an authentic world that includes reflective moments and lots of action sequences. There was a push and pull from bombastic to quiet moments while making room for both Metro Bloomin’s songs and Daniel Pemberton’s score. The idea was to keep the audience engaged throughout and not lose that connection.
Costume designer, “Poor Things”
Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter in “Poor Things” has the mental capacity of a child, and Waddington’s challenge was figuring out how to style a grown woman in the 19th century with that in mind. Her approach was to start with the idea that Bella’s day would begin with her fully dressed, but as the day goes on, she’s in a state of undress — much like a child. When Bella ventures out into the world, with no nanny to dress her, her look “is discordant.” Texture was key for Wadding- ton in telling Bella’s story through costume. Quilted fabrics reflect the childlike aspect of Bella, but by the end, she’s in lightweight fabrics that reflect her freedom, empowerment and enlightenment
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