Like it was this time last year, I find myself running around in illogical circles trying to determine the winner of this year's Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Do I go with the most liked film, the coolly received but star-transforming biopic, or the fantasy with the “most” makeup?
Howard Berger, who last won this award in 2006 for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, could take home his second Oscar for (sort of) morphing Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock. Transforming stars into other well known figures has turned the trick in the past, such as with last year's The Iron Lady or 2007's La Vie en Rose, but those films also had extensive aging effects to bolster their claim to the trophy. There's also the possibility that many might not find the transformation all that convincing, but I wouldn't rule Hitchcock out.
The most typical-looking winner of the three is The Hobbit, whose makeup team includes Oscar winners Peter King and Tami Lane. The whimsical dwarf designs and all other manner of goblins and orcs give the makeup a high profile that could indeed carry it to a win (it would be the third of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth series to do so), but then some voters might consider the movie's virtuoso visual effects a larger contributor to the realization of its fantasy creatures. I still maintain that it has a very good chance to win.
Finally, the nominees I'm tepidly laying my chips on are Julie Dartnell and three-time nominee Lisa Westcott for Les Miserables. Being a Best Picture nominee already makes this film a very viable winner, but perhaps its true ace in the hole is the variety of work on display. It ages characters across decades, applies gruesome prosthetics on plagued peasants and wounded revolutionaries, and imposes details of period and social class that are just noticeable enough for voters to recall. This may be one craft category where Tom Hooper's decision to shoot so many tight closeups will actually benefit the film's chances of winning.
Will win: Les Miserables
Runner-up: The Hobbit
Should win: The Hobbit
Should have been nominated: Lincoln (worst snub of the year)