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Monday, February 11, 2013
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‘Lincoln’ Oscar Noms A Reminder Of Spielberg’s Lauded Crew

By Joey Magidson
Film Contributor

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Whenever Steven Spielberg decides to take up a new directorial endeavor, he doesn’t do it alone. He gets his stock company of talent on the phone, and once he has the gang together, they go off and make a movie. It’s certainly not the same as when Spielberg was making little films in his backyard as a kid, but in a way the spirit is still the same. One big difference, though, is that when these movies get made, Oscar often takes notice.

Spielberg films almost always receive Academy Awards attention. On his own, he has 15 nominations (one of which came for just producing Letters from Iwo Jima, which he didn’t direct), while his crew has gotten dozens of nods. The last film of his not to get at least a nom was The Terminal, and before that it was Always. Believe it or not, only one other flick he directed went without a citation, and that was his early movie The Sugarland Express. That’s a stunningly good run of nominated work, and while he deserves lots of credit, his stock company deserves just as much.

Spielberg’s newest film, Lincoln, has gotten the attention of the Academy, and that extends to his crew as well. The movie itself is nominated for 12 Oscars, and while Spielberg has a solo citation for directing to go along with a trio of acting nods, the rest of the dozen go to the Beard’s crew members (though he shares a Best Picture credit, too).

Playwright Tony Kushner is one of the newest members of the club. Spielberg brought Kushner into the world of feature screenwriting, and so far he’s gotten nominated for both scripts that he’s worked on. Kushner was never really a threat to win for Munich (where he shared a credit with Eric Roth), but he’s certainly in play this year for Lincoln. The frontrunner much of the season, he’s given up a lot of ground to Argo’s Chris Terrio and Silver Linings Playbook’s David O. Russell. Kushner could certainly still win his first Oscar for this second collaboration with Spielberg, but it’s begun to look less likely.

Another newer nominee for Spielberg projects, Joanna Johnston has been doing costume work for decades but received her first nomination in Costume Design for Lincoln. She’s likely not going to see her first win until later in her career, but this nominee is proof that if you work with the man long enough, Spielberg is going to help you get an Oscar nomination.

John Williams has had one of the most successful runs with Spielberg of anyone below the line. Three of five wins for the composer have come from working with Spielberg, and 17 of his 48 overall nominations have been Spielberg-related. Williams is a master on his own, but working with Spielberg has led to great success for him as well. He’s not considered an especially likely winner for Lincoln this year, but if the Academy winds up in love with the flick, watch out for him to win this for what could be one of his final Original Scores.

Janusz Kaminski is another top-level craftsman who has seen some of his most highly regarded work come when Spielberg is involved. Both of Kaminski’s Oscar wins have been with him, and five of his six total nominations are Spielberg-related. The cinematographer constantly helps Spielberg achieve the aesthetic of his films, so Kaminski is certainly someone who deserves a pat on the back. His Lincoln output is considered a long shot to win in the Best Cinematography category, but that takes nothing away from the quality on display here.

Another top-tier category is Film Editing, and well-respected editor Michael Kahn has had a very nice run with Spielberg. All three of his wins have a Beard mark on them, and seven of his eight total nominations have Spielberg to thank. Had Lincoln been the frontrunner for Best Picture that many had expected it to be at this point, Kahn would have a much better shot at winning this Oscar. The editor certainly will be in play for future awards, but keeping the pacing of this biopic is one of his biggest successes to date.

Rick Carter has only recently started getting Spielberg-related noms, even though he’s worked with the man for about 20 years in art direction, production design and set decoration. Half of his four citations are from Spielberg movies, though his win came from a James Cameron picture. Carter shares this newest nomination with Jim Erickson, and the production designer has a shot at winning this year for Lincoln. He’ll probably still come up short, but he has a decent chance — what more can you ask for?

Lois Burwell is one of the few Spielberg crew members to miss out on a Lincoln nod, though she’s already gotten a citation for working on the makeup of Saving Private Ryan, one of her two nominations overall. The makeup artist should have more nods in her future, but for now she’ll just have to cheer on her Lincoln makes this time around.

In the categories of Best Sound Mixing, the Lincoln trio of Ron Judkins, Andy Nelson, and Gary Rydstrom have all had prior success with the Beard. Judkins is two-for-five, all for Spielberg films. Nelson has one Spielberg win and 18 citations overall, of which five are Bearded, as it were. As for Rydstrom, four of his seven wins are on Spielberg projects, and eight of his 17 nominations are from their work together as well. They have a combined 10 wins between them, and a staggering 40 noms overall. Don’t expect these sound men to win in Sound Mixing, but they’re pretty much safe bets for nominations whenever they get together with Spielberg.

On a more financial level, Kathleen Kennedy has seen five of her eight producing nods come from Spielberg collaborations. She’d be in line for her very first win if Lincoln takes Best Picture, though that’s looking less likely by the day. If Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th President manages what’s now an upset, Kennedy would finally have a winning collaboration with him, but my guess is they’ll have to wait until a future project to finally see that statue come her way.

It’s clear how well Spielberg’s people do at the Oscars, and they’re not even the only ones he works with on a consistent basis. For example, there’s no Frank Marshall this time around, but he has been a part of the group (with two of his five nominations coming from Spielberg movies) and looks to be again on Spielberg projects going forward.

I could easily see Lincoln not manage any wins below the line this year, but Spielberg’s crew did fantastic work regardless. They all have amazing working relationships, and it’s one of the many things to look forward to about Spielberg’s future movies. Those who’ve yet to win just have to sit tight — it’s likely only a matter of time for them.

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  • Chris G

    Don’t forget the fourth Indiana Jones wasn’t nominated for anything. Great article though!

  • OS PT

    WHY is everyone SO terrified to bring up
    the FACT that Spielberg, with this 13th?
    Hollywood ‘Lincoln’ —not only brings
    NOTHING new to the table, but, in 2013,
    —————TOTALLY OMITS——————
    any mention, any reference to the REAL
    Lincoln’s quite possibly —-FATAL—- diss
    of the Global bank syndicate over USURY
    finance of the war. . .