OSCAR GUIDE: Best Makeup

Posted by · 8:15 am · February 4th, 2011

The makeup branch of the Academy has often been criticized for making “Oscar nominees” of artistically dubious films. But I submit that it’s one of the bravest and noblest branches, sticking properly by the point of their task: to single out the greatest achievement in their field, no matter the other factors.

This year’s line-up is a clear indication of as much. Each nominee is unique to this category, having not been recognized in any other field. The variety of work is also compelling, including realism and fantasy in equal measure. But the branch once again turned its back on a number of more gruesome makeup depictions this year, which seems to be a hurdle yet to be cleared.

The nominees are:

“Barney’s Version” (Adrien Morot)
“The Way Back” (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
“The Wolfman” (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)

If you’re dying to know more about these nominees, I’d suggest you check in with Gerard in next week’s Tech Support Interview. He’ll be sitting down with nominees from each film and will surely dig up some interesting stories.

One attribute of quality makeup work this branch consistently respects is transformative work that is realistic. Whether it’s “Il Divo,” “La Vie en Rose,” “Click” or “The Sea Inside” in recent years, they’ll raise a glass to practical application every time. This year, “Barney’s Version” was always lurking as a potential nominee in this regard, and in lieu of fantastical approaches in “Alice in Wonderland” or “Jonah Hex” (and over similar tasks in “The Fighter” and “True Grit”), the branch opted for the impressive aging work done to Paul Giamatti by Adrien Morot in Richard J. Lewis’s film. It’s actually quite a sight to see the actor moved so effortlessly through the decades in the film, but it’s possible the film just doesn’t have a high enough profile to register any further.

But high profiles aren’t the point as far as this branch is concerned. Otherwise “The Way Back” certainly wouldn’t have shown up, but with exceptional work from multi-time nominees, it was always going to be difficult to ignore this one. Edouard F. Henriques and Yolanda Toussieng were both singled out for their work on Peter Weir’s last film, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” while Henriques had one prior nomination and Toussieng had two. (It’s Gregory Funk‘s first trip to the dance.) Clearly they’re respected veterans, but did the Academy at large even get around to seeing the film? If they did, maybe they’d be swayed by effective blistering and swelling effects put to stirring use on the film’s ensemble to reflect a range of conditions — heatstroke, sunburn, etc.

In the final analysis, though, “most” is probably a suitable replacement for “best” in this and many a design field. And “The Wolfman” certainly flaunts its stuff. That’s not to diminish the work, though, because makeup legend Rick Baker and co-nominee Dave Elsey really came up with some brilliant and incredibly detailed effects work in this big budget horror entry. Perhaps it’s not the most critically acclaimed film of the bunch (which I recognize is putting it mildly), but the makeup is easily the most memorable. Though I guess when you’re working with iconic imagery, that always helps. If the film wins, it’ll be Baker’s seventh Oscar to date (his first since “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” 10 years ago).  Another fun fact: Baker and “The Way Back” nominee Yolanda Toussieng won here in 1994 for Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”

Will win: “The Wolfman”
Could win: “Barney’s Version”
Should win: “The Way Back”

Should have been here: “Shutter Island”

Check out my current rankings for this race at its dedicated Contenders page here.

What do you think deserves to win this year’s Oscar for Best Makeup? Have your say in the sidebar poll!

[Photos: Newmarket Films/Wrekin Hill Entertainment, Universal Pictures]

→ 26 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Oscar Guide

26 responses so far

  • 1 2-04-2011 at 8:53 am

    JJ1 said...

    I have not seen Barney’s Version, but the make-up looks very good; and it looks ripe for a surprise win.

    Wolfman, blech, we’ve seen wolves all before.

    The Way Back, some of the best make-up work I’ve ever seen on film. It should win, but probably won’t.

  • 2 2-04-2011 at 8:55 am

    Alex in Movieland said...

    I thought the most memorable elements of Wolfman were Milena Canonero’s costume work and the art direction.

  • 3 2-04-2011 at 8:58 am

    Sam C. said...

    The makeup category is voted upon by all AMPAS members, right?

    I wonder if voters will think Baker’s work on The Wolfman seems…a little 90s-ish, or for that matter not something he’s done many times before, and been rewarded for it.

  • 4 2-04-2011 at 9:00 am

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    I echo your will/could/should win picks.

    Should have been here: The Fighter

  • 5 2-04-2011 at 9:05 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m going to call it for Barney’s Version. I just have this feeling general voters aren’t going to remember The Wolfman — and many of those that do might choose to reward the more “respectable” film. (I’m thinking of Transformers in 2007 here.)

  • 6 2-04-2011 at 9:12 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Actually, typo. My “should win” is “The Way Back.”

  • 7 2-04-2011 at 9:12 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Guy: Even if they don’t remember the movie, they certainly remember the production stills, like the one above. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

    But Barney is indeed the upset call to make here.

  • 8 2-04-2011 at 9:16 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Also, I’m not sure the Transformers parallel fully works because members at large have no idea what to listen for with sound. They just blindly vote. But with makeup, it’s all right there. They know what they’re seeing. And Barney’s Version isn’t a grand transformation like, say, turning the gorgeous (and Best Actress-winning) Marion Cotillard into Edith Piaf.

  • 9 2-04-2011 at 9:20 am

    Hans said...

    Definitely not an easy call like last year. I very much like that Wolfman still.

    Thankfully Wasn’t Here: Alice in Wonderland

  • 10 2-04-2011 at 9:29 am

    JJ1 said...

    I could really see cases for all 3 of these movies winning (on merit or otherwise).

    Wait, we have an unpredictable category?


  • 11 2-04-2011 at 9:54 am

    Estefan said...

    The Wolfman winning here would be practically interesting, as I recall earlier this year, Rick Baker complaining about the filmmakers using too much CGI for the transformation scene (and this is the same man who did the amazing transformation scene in American Werewolf in London, so he easily could have done an amazing job there).

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Baker won, but I wouldn’t mind if Barney’s Version took it. I’m still surprised Alice in Wonderland didn’t find its way in here.

  • 12 2-04-2011 at 10:13 am

    Kel D said...

    Should have been here: Black Swan

  • 13 2-04-2011 at 10:26 am

    RHS said...

    I’m with you, Kris. “Shutter Island” should be here.

  • 14 2-04-2011 at 10:41 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Kel: I’d be sure your reasoning for that isn’t something that depended on visual effects. Just sayin’.

  • 15 2-04-2011 at 11:22 am

    Gabriel said...

    May I ask why there’s only three nominees in this category? It is surely not the same rule as animated feature, isn’t it?

  • 16 2-04-2011 at 11:29 am

    Blake said...

    I recently watched The Wolfman and it takes over an hour before you actually get to the showy makeup FX. My question is will most voters be able to get through that tortorous first hour without turning off the DVD. Once you do get to the makeup scenes, you keep thinking how much is manipulated by CGI. The camerawork and editing is so incoherent you never get a really good look at Rick Baker’s work.

    Or do you think, in a case like this, voters won’t bother to see any of the films and will just vote for The Wolfman because it looks the most impressive from the production stills?

  • 17 2-04-2011 at 11:30 am

    Tom C. said...

    Should have been there: “127 Hours,” all the way. The one award that I gave to this film.

  • 18 2-04-2011 at 11:35 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gabriel: It’s in the by-laws. Sound editing and visual effects used to follow the same track. It’s possible makeup will change in the future, too.

  • 19 2-04-2011 at 12:19 pm

    al b. said...

    I was one of the few who actually enjoyed The Wolfman! I’d love to see it take an Oscar here! If there were 5 nominees, I’d put in Alice in Wonderland and Shutter Island.

  • 20 2-04-2011 at 1:30 pm

    Rashad said...

    Rick Baker’s best work by far (and imo the greatest makeup ever) was Burton’s Planet of The Apes and not even a nomination.

    Transformers losing effects was a joke too

  • 21 2-04-2011 at 2:01 pm

    Ali E. said...

    I still don’t see The Wolfman winning here (well, I wasn’t predicting it for a nod too, but look how it turned out). Not only because the film is not much liked, but also because the makeup relies too much on cgi effects. I think they’ll prefer honoring one of the other two respectable nominees, which I want to believe both have been seen by enough people (Barney’s Version for the acting, The Way Back for Weir’s name). Barney’s Version is my prediction for a win. The Way Back is my runner-up.

  • 22 2-04-2011 at 4:05 pm

    John said...

    Here’s an interesting category… none of these look like winners. I agree with the comments on THE WOLFMAN that the Make-up was too intermingeld with CGI to be appreciated. Even then, it may have been elaborate, but I didn;t tink it was wery effective. Rick Baker won an Oscar for this 30 years ago for much better work on a much better movie.
    Sometimes ignoring the frontrunner is the wrong move. ALICE IN WONDERLAND was a great make-up movie, it would have been a worthy winner. SPLICE would have been even better. Why is it that this branch never gloms onto the right oddball choices?

    I think BARNEYS VERSION will win.

  • 23 2-05-2011 at 9:56 am

    JJ1 said...

    Despite what people think about the film, Alice has great make-up (literally, cgi, eye contacts, hair). I’m still surprised it missed.

    And I’m still predicting Barney’s Version, though The Way Back deserves it.

  • 24 2-07-2011 at 9:13 pm

    Chris78 said...

    Saw all three movies and to be honest, after doing a little research – it should be Barney’s Version that wins it but most likely will be Rick Baker in the Wolfman (horrible). Here, found the makeup guy that did it and turns out, all the makeup was done with prosthetics but no one could tell. The aging makeup is so much better than Benjamin Buttons which looked like makeup the entire time.


  • 25 2-09-2011 at 1:14 pm

    vavince said...

    found the make up in wolfman a bit dated? did anyone else thought of thriller when they saw the movie?