Best Picture Nominee: “Darkest Hour”

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Gary Oldman as Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the Joe Wright directed “Darkest Hour” (2017)

The second film we will be looking at is the Joe Wright directed Second World War biographical period drama “Darkest Hour.” Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, “Darkest Hour” has a screenplay written by screenwriter Anthony McCarten. The film stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James and Ronald Pickup.

Set during the early days of the Second World War, with the fate of Western Europe in the balance, the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Oldman), who must decide whether to negotiate with German Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, or fight on against virtually insurmountable odds.

Further to being nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, “Darkest Hour” saw nominations for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Costume Design come its way.

Oldman

With over 90 acting credits accumulated in a career spanning 38 years, Oldman has proven himself time and again a competent actor.

Beginning in 1982 with the Colin Gregg directed drama “Remembrance,” the London born actor has appeared in virtually every genre of film imaginable. Illustrating this point, the actor played Sex Pistols frontman Sid Vicious in  “Sid and Nancy” (1986), Rosencrantz in “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” (1990), assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in “JFK” (1991), Dracula in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in “The Fifth Element,” Ivan Korshunov in “Air Force One” (1997), Dr. Zachary Smith in “Lost in Space” (1998) and Harry’s godfather Sirius Black in “Harry Potter” franchise (2004-11).

Wright

Despite having been nominated for six Academy Awards, the lack of directorial recognition for Wright is telling. Wright, having sat in the director’s chair for “Crocodile Snap” (1997), “Pride & Prejudice” (2005), “Atonement” (2007), “The Soloist” (2009), “Hanna” (2011), “Anna Karenina” (2012) and “Pan” (2015), is every bit as accomplished as the individuals that made the Best Director nominee list.

While “Pan” wasn’t the commercial success J.M. Barrie fans had hoped for, the failure was a consequence of American audiences not caring for the production than it was of quality.

Every aspect of a film’s production is important to its overall success. Cinematography, editing, production design, makeup and hairstyling; and costume design all contribute to the ambience of the production. If one department is out of step with what it is the director is looking for, failure to achieve the desired results could become a reality. Fortunately for Wright, he had in place individuals serious about their respective jobs.

For “Darkest Hour,” the editorial chair was occupied by Valerio Bonelli. During a career spanning 20 years, Bonelli has been responsible for editing no fewer than 30 productions. Even though Bonelli’s name might not be familiar with the average cinemagoer, the film editor has been responsible for bringing to the big screen such titles as “Hannibal Rising” (2007), “Cemetery Junction” (2010), “Redemption,” “Philomena” (2013) and “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016). Scheduled for release later this year, the Chiwetel Ejiofor directed drama “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is also being edited by Bonelli.

With the quality of the work done on “Darkest Hour,” the Academy Awards not recognising Bonelli with a nomination for Best Editing is questionable.

Recognised by the Academy Awards with a nomination for Best Production Design is Sarah Greenwood. Greenwood’s career as a production designer began in 1988 with the BBC television mini-series “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe.”

If you are familiar with the mini-series, you will know people frequently point to this BBC production as the quintessential example of how to adapt C.S. Lewis’ work to either the small and or big screen. In no small part, Greenwood’s work on “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe” contributed significantly to its success.

It is therefore not surprising, in 1989, the BBC looked to Greenwood to repeat the high standard of work she put into “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe” for the six-part-mini-series “Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

The difficulty with this second production, unlike “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe,” the BBC had conflated two of the Narnia-set novels, “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawntreader,” to create a single mini-series. A year after the second mini-series in the BBC Narnia-set franchise was released, Greenwood could be seen working on the four-part-mini-series “The Silver Chair.”

More recently, the production designer could be seen applying her talents to “Sherlock Holmes” (2009), “Hanna” (2009), “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (2011), “Anna Karenina” (2012), “Our Kind of Traitor” (2016) and “Beauty and the Beast” (2017).

If you were wondering if Greenwood has any big projects in her future, she does. She is currently working on the yet-to-be-scheduled Bill Condon directed horror “Bride of Frankenstein.” With a yet-unrevealed-plot, “Bride of Frankenstein” is the second film in Universal’s “Dark Universe” franchise.

Even though the trend of Hollywood production companies perpetually referencing Frankenstein’s Monster as Frankenstein is a tad perplexing, it has not been done in the leadup to this production. For purists of Mary Shelley’s original 1900 published Gothic novel, it should be noted Javier Bardem has been cast as Frankenstein’s Monster.

Assisting Greenwood, the “Darkest Hour” editorial department was staffed with eight highly experienced professionals: Jenny Jayne Cachero, Tommaso Gallone, Chema Gomez, Abbie Hawkins, Diarmuid Hughes, Mel Kangleon, Charlotte Llewelyn and Maikel Popic.

Makeup, hairstyling and costume design go hand in hand. Each of these aspects of film production must sync perfectly if the production is to find at least a modicum of authenticity.

With makeup department for “Darkest Hour, staffed with no fewer than 20 people, was immense.

The principle costume designer for “Darkest Hour” was Jacqueline Durran. While costumes play a significant role in adding authenticity to a film, rarely do the people responsible for this production element attain sufficient recognition from the cinemagoing audience.

As costume designer, Durran worked on “Vera Drake” (2004), “Pride & Prejudice” (2005), “Atonement” (2007), “The Soloist” (2009), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011) and “Macbeth” (2015).

Durran is currently working on the Garth Davis directed drama “Mary Magdalene” and the Mike Leigh  directed historical period drama “Peterloo,” both of which are scheduled for release later this year. Not surprising, considering the quality of her work, Durran is also attached to “Bride of Frankenstein” as costume designer.

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