Best Makeup and Hairstyling is traditionally easy pickings for pundits. Just choose whichever one of the three (since this branch stubbornly refuses to expand to a more appropriate five) is a Best Picture nominee, or in the absence of one, choose whichever has the most obvious makeup.
But this year is a veritable coin toss between two Best Picture nominees who happen to be squaring off in almost every craft category, including this one. Trying to decipher how AMPAS will split the love between them is a maddening game indeed.
The Revenant team is stepping hard on the gas with their campaign, making it known just how long Leo had to sit in the chair each day to get mauled up.
For this laborious daily feat, the makeup branch as seen fit to credit the applicators of Leo's elaborate prosthetics (Sian Grigg and Duncan Jarman), rather than the makeup department heads (Adrien Morot and Graham Johnston) with the nomination. It's a worthy accomplishment, as the work is nauseatingly realistic, but will that turn voters on or off? They rarely go gory for the win in this category, unless it's of the creature feature variety. Braveheart is the only example I can think of off the top of my head that claimed this prize for jarringly unstylized blood and bruises.
And if Academy folk find Leo's battered look to be too one-note, the obvious alternative is Mad Max: Fury Road, which boasts a bevy of unique character designs by Lesley Vanderwalt. The variety is striking and in your face the whole film through; Immorten Joe's boiled back, Furiosa's grease-painted forehead, the detailed tattoo artwork on Miss Giddy, all those pasty warboys and their various injuries... But this too, like The Revenant, would feel an uncharacteristic winner. In a category whose past victors can almost always be compartmentalized into
A) old age, B) famous person transformations, or C) inhuman creatures, where does something like Mad Max: Fury Road fall? Still, a Best Picture nomination is usually all the convincing your average voter needs.
This all but officially rules out The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which ironically features the most Academy-friendly work of the lot. The old age makeup by Love Larson and Eva von Bahr is decent enough (though not the best the branch had to choose from this year), but I was actually more amused by the cleverly styled historical figures who make cameos through this man's 100-year life. The thought of this obscure Swedish comedy sneaking up the middle of a Mad Max/Revenant split is fun to theorize, but in all likelihood would be misguided.
So as I said, it's a coin toss. I may have to wait for the BAFTAs to weigh in before finalizing my guess, but for now...
Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Runner-up: The Revenant
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should be nominated: Mr. Holmes