Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Category at a Time: Makeup and Hairstyling

Usually, Best Makeup and Hairstyling can be a frustrating and unpredictable category at the nomination stage. Despite having the field of possible nominees pared down to a paltry seven in advance, many pundits fail to anticipate the final three nominees since this branch has a bit of a history of snubbing excellent makeup in excellent films in favour of commendable makeup in horrible films -- much to the vexation of Oscar completists everywhere, who hate having to sit through the likes of Click, Norbit, or The Lone Ranger.

Picking the winners, however, has usually been relatively easy. How can it not be, with only three options to consider (time to expand it to five, AMPAS!). I myself have guessed the winners correctly for eight consecutive years, a longer streak than I can boast in any other category, and I'm far from the only one with such a record. This is all very usual for Oscar prognosticators.

But this year, things are a bit unusual. In fact, they're downright topsy turvy. Not only are all three movies worthy contenders for their remarkable transformations, but all three movies are actually... good movies! And more unusual yet is that all three of them feel like potential winners, making this one of the true toss-up categories of the year.

Let's dive into the cases you could make for each nominee:

The case for Guardians of the Galaxy: Oscar loves creatures in this category. Makeup magician David White has done some stellar creations for Marvel movies before (Captain America and Thor: The Dark World), but none of his previous projects required the sheer volume and variety of bizarro characters that he and Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou get to show off in this immensely popular sci-fi spectacle; Drax's full-body tats, Ronan's tribal markings, Gammora's verdigris... All of it looks great and is fittingly reverent to the original comic book artwork. The pair are enjoying their first career nominations, and a win would be especially sweet for White, who designed prosthetics for the Oscar-winning La Vie En Rose, only for his name to be left off the ballot (odd, since the latex aging of Marion Cotillard is essentially what it won for). The blockbuster's mammoth box office can only help, perhaps convincing undecided voters that such a successful film deserves to take home hardware for something. Narnia, Pan's Labyrinth, Star Trek and The Wolfman all set a hopeful precedent in its favour, suggesting that the Academy often votes for "most" makeup...

... unless there's a Best Picture nominee in the mix...

The case for The Grand Budapest Hotel: Oscar loves Best Picture nominees in this category. For the last decade and a bit, Best-Picture-nominated films have ruled the roost here, whenever the makeup branch has nominated them, that is. You have to go back to 1998 -- an era when this was simply called 'Best Makeup' -- to find a Best Pic contender that lost to something other than another Best Pic contender: Titanic lost to Men in Black for the obvious reason that the latter's makeup was more noticeably amazing. I guess you could argue that, likewise, Frances Hannon's quaintly specific designs aren't "noticeably amazing" either, apart from the unreal aging work that she and Oscar-winner Mark Coulier did on Tilda Swinton. But the recent name change of the category to include the word 'Hairstyling' goes a long way in reminding voters to consider the film's many period coiffures. Wins for Lord of the Rings, Benjamin Button, Les Miserables and especially Dallas Buyers Club (probably the subtlest makeup winner ever) go to show that sometimes the clout of that top nomination can be hard to trump.
The BAFTA win is a compelling bit of evidence.

The case for Foxcatcher: Oscar loves unrecognizable transformations in this category, and Oscar-winner Bill Corso had a tough one to make happen. How to turn Steve Carell -- with his bushy brow, broad smile and bright eyes -- into the hollow-gazed John du Pont we need to see on screen? The work extends well beyond that famous nose piece, involving dental prosthetics, skin tone adjustments and other subtle touches that most viewers wouldn't notice because they're so realistically achieved. First-time nominee Dennis Liddiard does similarly nuanced work on Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo that probably won't even cross voters' minds if they go for this option on their ballots. I might say the work is too low-key to win, but Foxcatcher is clearly respected and doesn't stand a chance on its other four nominations. Could this be the area where its supporters push it through? Let's not discount the fact that Carell's performance really sells the makeup job, and being nominated himself will draw lots of attention to it. Frida, La Vie En Rose and The Iron Lady are good examples of how impressed the Academy can be by makeup that assists an Oscar-nominated portrayal of a real-life person.

Honestly, I have no idea which way this one will fall, but for now I'll follow the BAFTA decision and put my chips on Grand Budapest.

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Runner-up: Guardians of the Galaxy

Should win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should have been nominated: The Theory of Everything

1 comment:

  1. Who I want: Foxcatcher
    Who I think it will be: Guardians

    However, I would not be surprised to see ANY of these win.