Tech Support: Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar race features 'Rush,' 'The Butler' and… 'Bad Grandpa?'

Posted by · 4:31 pm · November 21st, 2013

Welcome to the second year of Best “Makeup and Hairstyling.” Last year”s long overdue official addition of hairstylists to the title of this category did not officially change anything; hairstylists had always been rewarded. But it was nice to see the recognition in the name.

Did that affect who was nominated? In this extremely unique category (with only three nominees), probably not, but one never knows as “Les Misérables” trumped “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “Hitchcock” for the win. This branch loves aging, monster makeup, period makeup and transforming famous actors into famous persons and there’s plenty of all of that on display this season.

The branch also frequently tips its hat to a film that may not show up anywhere else on the list of nominations, focused on the work more than getting swept up in, well, sweeps. Indeed, nine of the past 24 nominees in this category received no other nominations (“Hitchcock,” “Il Divo,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “The Way Back,” “Barney”s Version,” “Norbit,” “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” “Click” and “The Wolfman”). That said, there are also seemingly sure things that frequently do not make the cut (“Lincoln””s omission from last year immediately jumps to mind).

Moreover, being a Best Picture nominee does not seem to be a huge advantage as it is in many of the other crafts races, with only two of the past 27 nominees also scoring in the top category (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Les Misérables”). Being a past nominee helps but there are newcomers welcomed to the fold every year.

So with all of that being said, who should we keep an eye on this year? From my vantage point, this is a very competitive category this year. Let”s analyze.

“Lee Daniels” The Butler” featured period and aging makeup and I do suspect it will garner a Best Picture nomination. (Though, as noted above, it may be better for its chances if it doesn”t!) Makeup and hair department heads Debra Denson and Candace Neal would be first-time nominees but prosthetic makeup designer Matthew W. Mungle won this category for “Dracula” and has earned three nominations since then (“Schindler”s List,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” “Albert Nobbs”).

“Dallas Buyers Club” is another film with a very good shot at a Best Picture nomination. I personally found the work on both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to be extremely realistic and effective. The low-grade glamor on Leto didn”t hurt. The crew members (led by Robin Matthews) are all awaiting their first Oscar nominations but I”d say they have outstanding chances. Jean-Marc Vallée”s “The Young Victoria” was a somewhat surprising nominee here.

I fully expect Ron Howard”s “Rush” to be in the running here with the burn effects used on actor Daniel Brühl. Often enough when makeup is mostly apparent on one character, that can make the work stand out all the more. Mark Coulier won this award for “The Iron Lady” and is seeking nomination number two as part of an extensive crew.

“American Hustle” was set in the same era as “Rush” and like Ron Howard”s film will feature some late-1970s/early-1980s glam (though probably more of it). Where this film could really benefit, however, is in what appears to be memorable hairstyling. The crew seems to be made up of Oscar virgins but if the film hits with AMPAS, this could be a spot that stands out.

The one surefire Best Picture nominee that strikes me as firmly in the running here is “12 Years a Slave.” As I”ve said before, I expect a massive amount of nominations for this film and the period work here is fine. Moreover, the brutality inflicted on many of the slave characters is depicted with disturbing realism through the makeup. Ma Kalaadevi Anada and Adruitha Lee would be first-time nominees.

Now it”s time to look at titles that could represent that odd one-off nomination that this category is famous for. “The Lone Ranger” was, by all accounts, a flop. But that doesn”t always matter here. There’s plenty of wounding and period makeup on display but the work put into aging Johnny Depp’s Tonto, among other things, could really click. So let”s not rule out this crew led by Joel Harlow (who won this category for “Star Trek”) and Gloria Pasqua Casny.

On that note of “Star Trek,” let”s not forget the sequel to the 2009 film, “Star Trek Into Darkness.” While not as impressive (critically or financially) as its predecessor, and also losing some of the novelty factor, the work on alien species remains iconic and this time two-time Oscar winner David LeRoy Anderson (“The Nutty Professor,” “Men in Black”) is leading the crew.

“Bad Grandpa” would be a rather bizarre nomination, but this is the branch that nominated “Norbit” and “Click.” Johnny Knoxville sat through hours of makeup to create this character, which has delighted the loyal group of “Jackass” fans. We”ll see if this crew of makeup artists, with no real history of awards success, can make a dent in the race.

Going back to quite early in the year, “Oz the Great and Powerful” provided us period makeup, witch makeup (albeit heavily aided by CGI) and, most importantly, a variety of races of creatures. Howard Berger, who won this category for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and was nominated for “Hitchcock”), Peter Montagna (also nominated for “Hitchcock”) and Yolanda Tousseing (winner for “Ed Wood” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” and nominee for “The Way Back” and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”) were part of a massive crew. Watch out for this one.

“The Great Gatsby” brought the roaring ’20s to the screen in all their glory. While the film was divisive (in typical Lurhmann style), both the makeup and the hairstyling sought to be memorable and unique. And they were. Maurizio Silvi (Oscar nominee for “Moulin Rouge!”) is on board this crew.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” could be well-received upon release but it didn’t light up the Toronto Film Festival – and the makeup has certainly taken its knocks. But the film nevertheless recreates a famous and revered figure and deals with aging techniques across many decades. That”s enough to warrant some consideration here. Mark Coulier is also on this film, giving him a second chance this year to earn nomination number two.

I”ll end with a film many people seem to think is assured here: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” This would be the fourth Middle Earth film from Peter Jackson to get a nomination here (only “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” missed). Rick Findlater, Peter King and Tami Lane thus may seem assured of nominations, especially as more elves will be joining this year”s group of characters. Even so, I cannot help but wonder if the novelty will wear off in the face of such a strong group of contenders. I suspect this film will be nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Production Design but cannot help but think it will not get as many nominations as its predecessor. Just a hunch.

So those are the top dozen contenders as I see them. How do you handicap this race?

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