A director’s vision is nothing without the ability of other artistic minds to carry it out, or in some cases, create it entirely on their own. Art direction, costumes and makeup all add authenticity to a film or sometime give it that extra sparkle to become a sterling example of a visual story. Art direction is the umbrella, the whole concept/look for the film and costumes and makeup are two bi-products of this master plan.
Before I dig into the nominees, I have to rant a bit here about period pieces. A film can’t take place or seem to take place any later than 1980 for it to get a nomination. The Academy just loves to reward 18th Century British stuff, for example, in these categories, especially costumes.
Let’s list the winners of the last five Best Costume awards: The Duchess (2009 winner), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2008), Marie Antoinette (2007), Memoirs of a Geisha (2006), The Aviator (2005). The last three were European period films, the others period films too. Makeup can vary a bit with sci-fi makeup and such and Art Direction is a bit more flexible, but these awards are always easier to predict than you’d expect.
Best Achievement in Makeup
- Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)
- Il Divo (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano)
- The Young Victoria (Jon Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore)
There are two kinds of films that win the makeup Oscar: the sci-fi fantasy films and those darn period films. Last year’s winner, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was a combination of the two, so easy win. Previous period films to win in recent would be La Vie En Rose in 2008. Previous fantasy films of late that won are Pan’s Labyrinth and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
This year pits two period dramas against one science-fiction film. I have to say that the odds don’t favor Star Trek all that much. With only Romulans, Vulcans and a green chick in this movie, there’s not a whole lot of make-up to gawk at. The makeup designers are all first-time nominees as well.
The dramas are Italian political biopic Il Divo and The Young Victoria, that one queen/duchess film that’s in every year. Signoretti and Sodano, the Italian duo behind Il Divo have been nominated twice previously for their work on Apocalypto and Moulin Rouge!, but only Jenny Shircore, the “Victoria” designer, has won the statuette (for the original Elizabeth in 1998).
Prediction: The Young Victoria
This just feels like a year for the period drama to sweep up more than the obligatory costume design award.
Best Achievement in Costume Design
- Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier)
- The Young Victoria (Sandy Powell)
- Bright Star (Janet Patterson)
- Nine (Colleen Atwood)
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme)
Given my comments on the previous category, you would guess where this one’s going, but it’s not as cut and dry. The Young Victoria costume designer Sandy Powell has – as you’d imagine – been nominated for 8 Oscars and won twice, most recently for The Aviator. Giving her this assignment is like throwing a steroid-era Mark McGwire a fastball down the middle.
On the other hand is costume maven Colleen Atwood, nominated her eighth time for Nine as well having already won two for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago, both other Rob Marshall collaborations. She’s a very tempting pick and the costumes did look pretty sexy in all the Nine trailers.
The rest are rookies to the big dance, except for Bright Star designer Janet Patterson, earning her fourth nomination (no wins). Here’s yet another period romance, this one about the young man version of the poet Keats.
I have to say that my Oscar sense is tingling. I’d normally consider The Young Victoria a shoe-in, but with Bright Star lingering, it could lose some of its votes, which would let this happen:
Bold, I know. I’m crossing my fingers I reasoned this one out right. The one thing I didn’t take into consideration was quality of overall film here. Granted if I’d seen either film it would’ve helped. I just have to like Atwood’s chances on yet another Marshall collaboration victory (I wonder if she’ll follow him on to the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie he’s directing …!) The chain of queens/duchesses has to end at some point!
Best Achievement in Art Direction
- Avatar (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg)
- Sherlock Holmes (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
- The Young Victoria (Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray)
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Dave Warren, Terry Gilliam, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith, Shane Vieau)
- Nine (Jon Myhre, Gordon Sim)
Art direction is a tough category to guess. Every vision is so different and the criteria don’t appear to be very set in what is great art direction. Generally you just have to look at how pretty the set is and guess it from there. Previous winners range from last year’s “Benjamin Button” to Pan’s Labyrinth.
John Myhre is the biggest name to know in this category. Like Colleen Atwood, Myhre has won twice for production design on a Rob Marshall film and was also nominated for his work on Dreamgirls. Naturally the film we’re talking about is Nine.
The wrench in this whole thing is that megafilm, Avatar. Rarely do you see a film get nominated with two credits in art direction: one for the guy that designed all the sets and one for the guy that designed the entire computer-generated world. Is the Academy ready to award non-traditional art direction?
The last film that strikes me on the list is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. David Warren was part of the team that won for Sweeney Todd a couple years back and “Parnassus” looks visually stunning.
I think voters are going to think about how mind-blowing the world of Avatar was and they’re going to reward it.