The Academy Awards’ rules are always in a state of flux, and two categories which have been subtly reshaped this year are those for Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. In the latter’s case, the Academy added the tag “and Hairstyling” to more accurately convey the contribution of that field. The former’s change won’t take effect until next year, when the newly created costume designers branch of the Academy could offer some variation in the nominations. With both these categories in a state of flux, this year could be ripe for surprises on either end. With that, let’s dive into the races.
Best Costume Design
A wary eye for Best Picture nominees is helpful in any of the craft races, though historically they’ve rarely had a choke-hold on this category. Closest they’ve come in the past decade was in 2003, when Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the sole omission between the two categories in favor of Frida. Since then the costume design race has become further independent, not even nominating one of the ten Best Picture nominees in 2009. The closest candidates from that year would be An Education, for reasons of obvious loveliness, and A Serious Man for less obvious reasons of period and character precision.
As such, I do not expect this year’s winner to fall within the Best Picture race, which would be a disappointment in either case. Steven Spielberg’s regular costume designer Joanna Johnston’s work on Lincoln is undeniably vast, though the costumes rarely beckon for attention, with the obvious exception of Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln. Contrast that to Paco Delgado’s work on Les Miserables, where the costumes seem weighted solely on economic class, and most of which are drenched in a layer of grime obfuscating whatever character imbuing qualities they hold.
That narrow us down to three films non-existent beyond the craft categories, two of which are based on the fairy tale Snow White. Favoritism dictates I throw favor indisputably in one corner, but both films are perhaps defined by their distinct costume decisions. Snow White and the Huntsman‘s attempt at a gothic influence came to best fruition through Tim Burton regular Colleen Atwood’s razor-punk apparel. Though in my mind the choice is still clearly in favor of the late Eiko Ishioka’s fantastically lunatic and magnificently overcompensating wardrobe on Mirror Mirror. The crazy imagination behind her work is even put on display as Snow White tries on a wide variety of get-ups until she finds the self-realizing blue bandit outfit that comes to uniquely define her.
I wouldn’t frown upon either of those winning, giving Ishioka a well-earned sendoff award to match the one she received two decades ago for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or else awarding Colleen Atwood her fourth win in the category, the highest tally underneath historic heavyweight Edith Head. In the end, though, I expect the win will go to Jacqueline Durran’s colourful costume work on Anna Karenina, a film whose below-the-line aspects are blended so perfectly into its DNA. I’ll never understand why the film isn’t a contender in the big races, and I expect viewers on Oscar night will be similarly perplexed. While Durran’s wardrobe may too be defined by economic situation, it’s more to an emphatic point of character development. To my eye, and to the Academy’s tastes, it simply cannot be denied.
Predicted Winner: Anna Karenina
Preferred Winner: Mirror Mirror
Write-In Vote: Lawless
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
I find myself able to forgive most of the categories this year for one reason or another, but I’m sad to denote my absolute disappointment with, yet understanding of, the decision of the Makeup branch. From this writer’s opinion – feel free to disagree – this is the weakest slate of nominees in the category for some time. Though I wasn’t overly enthused with their shortlist (I’ll assume none of them saw Holy Motors), I was ready to forgive at the prospect of genre fare like Men in Black 3 and Looper slipping in. Alas not even Film Misery awards favorite Lincoln made the cut, defusing some tension from the race and implying few outcomes for a race already narrow in possibilities.
In a category which most often goes for the obvious choice, Les Miserables is possibly the weakest link here. The work is definitive of the film, but it’s also as simple as covering its characters’ faces in grime. The Academy could very well go for that, but I suspect their tastes will edge a little cleaner. Cleanest of all (not a compliment) is Hitchcock, which seems voted in for Anthony Hopkins’ prosthetics alone. I wouldn’t know, having not seen the film yet. The Academy didn’t warm to it enough to give Helen Mirren an Actress nod, so I’m not counting on this one.
So bearing in mind the salient possibility Les Miserables could take this, I expect it will go to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The work on Peter Jackson’s rampant return to Middle Earth arguably makes sense of the overpopulated world. With so many cooky characters being given distinct silhouettes, expect the Academy to award this first encounter with middle earth, if only so they don’t have to repeat the act for three consecutive years.
Predicted Winner: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Preferred Winner: [abstain]
Write-In Vote: Holy Motors