Monday, February 13, 2017

One Category at a Time: Best Makeup & Hairstyling

The polls are open! And with just under two weeks to go until the big night, it's time to start breaking down the previous two months of precursors and campaign antics to determine who will be the winners at the 89th Academy Awards.

All eyes will be glued to see if La La Land can tie the auspicious record of 11 wins (currently held by Ben-Hur, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), but I'm kicking off my yearly series of predictions with one of the few categories where Damien Chazelle's powerhouse musical missed the nomination: Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

This has always been a wonderfully weird contest for Oscar watchers: There is perhaps no branch of the Academy more iconoclastic than the makeup branch, with its active resistance to beloved Best Picture frontrunners or seemingly obvious contenders. And with only three slots available (umm... why?), high profile snubs are a yearly occurrence. Winning this particular Oscar is 50% quality of work, 50% the branch eliminating the heaviest competition. Suffering from their unpredictable tendencies this year was Florence Foster Jenkins, the only semifinalist to have been nominated by both the BAFTA and the corresponding industry guild MUAHS. Alas, Meryl's wigs and syphilis weren't enough, clearing the way for our first nominee.
Star Trek Beyond came and went without much critical or pop cultural fanfare last summer, despite being a perfectly watchable actioner that turned a perfectly respectable profit. Prosthetic designer Joel Harlow won an Oscar seven years ago for J.J. Abrams' original reboot of the franchise, also (you could argue) as the beneficiary of a notable snub the makeup branch bestowed upon District 9.
He looks to repeat, and this time the accomplishment would have more legitimate claim to the honour. The alien designs here are more elaborate and imaginative than the Romulan tats and Vulcan ears that mostly comprised the 2009 effort.
I expect the film to win the guild prize for special effects makeup next weekend, and the Oscar the following weekend.

I mean, when you look at its competition, it seems pretty obvious.

One is A Man Called Ove, that grouchy-old-man dramedy that's also representing Sweden in the Best Foreign Language Film race. Eva von Bahr and Love Larson heap old age prosthetics upon actor Rolf Lassgard who stars as the titular codger. If their names sound familiar, they should, as they pulled a similar "surprise" nomination just last year for another Swedish geriatric comedy, The 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared and Forced Awards Pundits Everywhere to Rush to Netflix or iTunes in Desperation to See it Before the Oscars. The transformation they perform here is again quite effective, but in this case I question whether it was really necessary. Couldn't they simply have cast an older actor? And will those few Oscar voters who seek it out even realize just how much this old dude was made up? The work may be too invisible to the casual viewer.
The other contender is the year's most critically reviled late summer cash grab, Suicide Squad. Despite horrible reviews and even worse word of mouth, this dreadful clusterf*** of a DCEU pillar still won a lot of ticket money and a lot of eyes. All the better to see its varied and distinctive character designs, I suppose.
I know plenty of cinephiles are bitching about having to declare "Oscar nominee Suicide Squad", but I'm personally fine with this citation. Alessandro Bertolazzi's gritty reinvention of the DC's B-list rogues gallery (plus Joker) was by far the film's most successful element -- Maybe its only successful element: Harley's smeared paint job, Croc's scaly visage, Enchantress' oily hair, Diablo's tattoos... All memorable and on-point. Nevertheless, general disdain may keep it from the win.

Will win: Star Trek Beyond
Could win: Suicide Squad

Should win: Star Trek Beyond
Should be nominated: Hacksaw Ridge

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