TECH SUPPORT: Best Makeup — Volume II

Posted by · 9:13 am · November 4th, 2010

As I said last week (and have said several times before), no category is year-in and-year-out more perplexing than Best Makeup. Each year, this branch finds ways to turn otherwise dubious awards contenders into bona fide Oscar nominees — dubious because often nominees might be abysmal or relatively obscure.  The branch seems to have its favorites – like Greg Cannom and Rick Baker – but nevertheless manages to snub them sometimes when they seem sure bets.

The category remains the sole remnant of the bake-off system, where the field is narrowed to seven and the nominees chosen from that collective.  Year after year, shocking omissions occur in both rounds.

As I stated last time, despite the general weirdness of this category, we can put some traits as more likely to be embraced than others – aging, prosthetics and illness likely top the list. Also, while the category technically rewards both hairstyling and makeup, it rarely seems to concentrate on the former (“The Young Victoria” last year is a notable exception).  So all that having been established, what do I expect to see in contention this year?

If anything looks good, I’d have to say it is Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter were all covered in significant makeup in this effort. The film’s box office was enormous and Valli O’Reilly is also a past winner. That having been said, Burton’s films actually haven’t scored here since “Ed Wood” all the way back in 1994 (and that includes a stunning snub of “Planet of the Apes” in 2001). So perhaps this isn’t such a sure thing after all?

If you want showy prosthetics, you really can’t beat “The Wolfman.” And while the film had a mediocre performance at the box office and went down in flames with critics, this does not seem to matter in this category (see a film like “Norbit,” also released in February, and also involving legend Rick Baker). In addition to Baker, the crew also includes three-time nominee Lisa Westcott.

Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest” has its own share of prosthetics, not to mention body paint and decorations, as we can only expect from Taymor.   Her “Frida” won this category, after all, in 2002. While there are no repeat nominees from the past, it would still be foolish, given these factors, to dismiss this title. However, I’m ultimately inclined to think this film will end up, like “Titus” and “Across the Universe,” confined to Best Costume Design.

Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” seems to be an intriguing possibility to keep an eye on in this field.  Given that it also involves stage life, the makeup opportunities are all the more pronounced. The crew is not awards-seasoned but I really think this could change that, especially if it becomes a below-the-line hit.

Whatever else one might think of the it’s potential, I truly believe that, at the very least, “Get Low” has an opportunity to earn Robert Duvall a Best Actor nomination.  And his obscure hermit character was significantly built by the makeup and hairstyling of Ken Diaz and Colleen Callaghan. Both are two-time nominees, so I’d say this is a dark horse candidate.

Another Best Actor contender is Mark Wahlberg in David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” though it remains a question mark for me to a large extent. Any boxing movie will have to feature the realistic physical effects of the sport to get in, the sort which landed “Cinderella Man” a nomination here five years ago. The makeup and hair artists have yet to be nominated before, but I wouldn’t put too much into that.

A very different sort of physicality is on display in “Splice” and “Let Me In.” These two horror movies both feature makeup up the wazoo. So that could, of course, propel them here.  But oddly enough, horror movies, despite a reliance on makeup, rarely find room to navigate here.

As I’ve said before, while I don’t think Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” is in any way a sweeper (or going to come close to nominations in the big categories), I feel one-to-three crafts nominations could very well happen. And the creation of its characters’ descents into insanity the kind of effects this branch might notice. Then again, no Scorsese movie has ever been nominated here. Could this be the first?

In a few weeks, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” will be released and make hundreds of millions of dollars. The series has seen mixed success throughout its run, earning nominations in five different crafts categories. Best Makeup, however, has not been one of them. I find that odd. I’m not sure what “new” makeup will be on display this time out but given the erratic nature of this series earning new nominations (probably best exemplified in last year’s cinematography nod), I wouldn’t rule anything out.

I’ll end with two films still to come.  First, the Coen brothers’ “True Grit.” This film seems to have more across-the-board crafts category potential than any film the duo has done. The makeup crew is not Oscar seasoned, but they will have the chance to capture the raw feeling of the Old West.  Meanwhile, Kris highlighted the makeup on display in Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” recently, and seeing as “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” made it in seven years ago, that’s a consideration.  Two-time nominee Edouard F. Henriques is on board.

Despite this now being the first week in November, I am sure that films could show up in the final seven, if not the final three, that I have not discussed today. We shall wait and see.And with that we have now taken a second look at half of the crafts categories!

[Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Wrekin Hill Entertainment]

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8 responses so far

  • 1 11-04-2010 at 9:43 am

    tintin(uruguay) said...

    “In a few weeks, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” will be released”

    JUST CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!!

  • 2 11-04-2010 at 10:10 am

    Duncan Houst said...

    I think that this will definitely be the year that “Harry Potter” gets its due, at least in the technical categories anyway. At present, the film looks poised to snag nods in Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and perhaps Cinematography, Makeup, and Art Direction.

  • 3 11-04-2010 at 10:13 am

    JJ1 said...

    Yeah, I also get the impression that: even though it’s not Part 2 of the Deathly Hallow … I see A LOT of tech categories where the 5th spot is up for grabs, and DH Part 1 could slip right in.

    As for Make-Up specifically, rooting for Alice, Wolfman, Black Swan, or The Way Back.

  • 4 11-04-2010 at 11:38 am

    Tye-Grr said...

    ‘HP 7’ should definitely be in the running for all crafts categories. Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Makeup, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction… It seems to have all of the above going for it. I really hope this film turns out to be another critical success, and hopefully makes it’s way into some of the big categories this year. I’d love them to snag atleast 5 nominations from a single year for once.

  • 5 11-04-2010 at 11:47 am

    tintin(uruguay) said...

    i’d love it too…

  • 6 11-04-2010 at 12:07 pm

    Graysmith said...

    Impossible to say really who the final three may be. If it were another category I’d consider The Wolfman a lock, but seeing as you’re not even guaranteed a nomination even when you’re the by-far best of the year (Planet of the Apes), who the hell knows?

    Currently I’ve got Alice in Wonderland, The Wolfman and Black Swan in my predictions, but I can’t say I will be particularly confident in any makeup prediction until the Academy narrows it down.

  • 7 11-04-2010 at 3:54 pm

    americanrequiem said...

    what about 127 hours? i think it would fit right in here, but i havent seen it so i cant be sure

  • 8 11-05-2010 at 1:04 am

    Ali E. said...

    I, personally, don’t see Shutter Island missing a nod here. And Alice in Wonderland looks like a safe bet too.

    The last spot is open. I agree about The Fighter and The Way Back’s chances. Both films could get in. The same goes with The Tempest, but seeing how poorly the film is received, I wonder if it will have any chance outside of Costume Design category.

    Since I saw the film, I believed that The Wolfman would be snubbed, since it relied too much on CGI and it should matter on a film like this. But with such a weak line-up, it’s still a strong contender.

    I wonder if Jonah Hex would make a difference, if the film hadn’t bombed. Maybe we shouldn’t overlook it.

    And finally, I think the best make-up job I’ve seen this year was in Mr. Nobody. It’s not a very good movie, not many people have seen it, and I guess it didn’t even get a theatrical release in America. That’s a shame, it could’ve been a shoo-in nominee.