Friday, 17 February 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Costume Design

AMPAS often gets flack for not taking notice of contemporary films as much here, and that is a shame – but I’m always happy when a period film wins for low-key costume designs (see The English Patient - but then, that was more than a decade ago). Still, even if contemporary films don’t get love here – this is a strong group of nominees. It’s another technical category I think is not too easy to call, even if I’ve got my hunches.

The Nominees: Anonymous; The Artist; Hugo; Jane Eyre; W.E.

Fine, perhaps, there’s a straight list of “period” films, but considering that period films are considered to be any film from 1960s and back, aren’t most films period? We’ve got a 16th century one, a 19th century one and three from the 1930s. I’ve got my favourites, but it seems like a toss-up to me. I’m assessing what we have, and what we have are “period” films. No sense in griping about those not nominated, I’ll simply assess the assets of those who are. One of the things I’ll always appreciate about the costume branch in particular is that they’re more likely than the production design voters to nominate films which haven’t been generally well received by the Academy (The Tempest, Across the Universe, Troy) and a few of the films here have been generally forgotten this season, but are remembered here.

Anonymous Lisy Christl
Anonymous may have just turned up, and then subsequently forgotten, but its costumes are nominated here. And, the 16th century costumes are typically difficult to ignore. For some reason Christl was considered as one of the two surprise nominees, but period heavy or not the costumes are excellent. I’m intrigued at how despite the similarities to winners Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth: The Golden Age there are some interesting original bits of attention to detail. Christl is celebrating her first nomination.

The Artist Mark Bridges
Like much of the team of The Artist, this is Bridges first nomination. When one does black-and-white films colour in relation to costume design (well, the illusion of colour) is a whole different scenario. For example, the red dress in Jezebel was actually brown. So, Bridges has the added difficulty of that to work with. He’s recreating the costumes of the Hollywood silent films of the era. On one hand, The Artist does not have an expansive cast of characters to clothe, on the other hand the simple, chic styles are effective.

Hugo Sandy Powell
Powell currently has ten nominations, three of them leading to wins (Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, The Young Victoria) – will she prevail here, again? I think it’s possible, but then again – one never knows. The thing about the costumes in Hugo is that they’re never garishly over the top even though so much of the film is fantasy. On the other hand, the milieu offers up a range of characters all of whom Powell clothes in character-specific outfits.

Jane Eyre Michael O’Connor
The Victorian costumes of the new Jane Eyre adaptation are gorgeous. Even though I still can’t confess a strident love for the film, its technival aspects continue to impress and costumes are lovingly rendered. There are billowing gowns, but the attention to the costumes of the men are just as significant and the lived in nature of the costumes is something a few films of the era tend to forget. O’Connor does not. O’Connor won an Oscar for his work on The Duchess a few years ago.

W.E. Arianne Phillips
This film features costume for another royal, but it’s more than just an incidental nod. The Duke was a trendy monarch, and Wallis was a fashion-forward woman so the costume nod here is sensible both for the aesthetics and for (I assume) their importance to the actual characters. Phillips was nominated once before, for her work on the costumes in Walk the Line.
I think that this category really could go either way. Powell could prevail winning a fourth. Love for The Artist could spill over and lead to a win. O’Connor could garner a second. Phillips chic style could win her a bid. Or, they could give in to beautifully clothed 16th century royals.
Prediction: Jane Eyre
Alternate: Hugo

That prediction is subject to change, though. I continue to flipflop on who I think will win.

What do you think? Is this category as much of a toss-up as I think it shall be?

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