Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

For the films of 2015
The Original BJ
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Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:58 pm

Well, now that the diversity brouhaha has settled a little bit, perhaps some of these categories at least merit discussion? I'm going to start with what I see as a pretty easy category.

First off, of excluded entries, I'm most disappointed (and surprised) that Brooklyn didn't make it here. Obviously voters liked it enough to get it into Best Picture, and the lovely costumes were one of the movie's standout elements, so it's hard to come up with a reason why they didn't place. Except for, as with any category, voters just liked the actual nominees better.

I would say that, barring a sweep on a level that seems unimaginable, The Revenant is the least likely to take this prize. Despite being a historical epic leading the nominations, its costume work is just so drab. Appropriately so, of course -- everything gives off a very cobbled-together-in-the-wilderness vibe -- but movies this lacking in glamour don't typically win this prize.

Mad Max: Fury Road probably has a bit more going for it -- it, too, has a very rough-and-tumble aesthetic, though with a bit more innovation along the way. The dystopian outfits have some funky details, and there are some odd accessories (like the crazy belts, or the villain's mask) that catch the eye. But this too, just doesn't seem to be traditionally beautiful enough to win here.

The remaining three nominees are all movies I thought would be nominated here as I was watching them. Given The Danish Girl's subject matter, the costumes get a fair amount of focus, as the incongruous nature of Redmayne in dresses draws quite a bit of attention to the clothes he's wearing. I found the outfits perfectly beautiful, and if The Danish Girl were a more popular movie, I could see it having enough strength in this category to prevail. But it isn't The King's Speech or Les Misérables -- Tom Hooper's last two hits I thought COULD have won here -- and I don't think the costumes are eye-popping enough to carry the day on their own.

The last time Sandy Powell was nominated twice, her losing nomination came for a Todd Haynes film. Of course, I rate her chances of winning for Carol far higher than Velvet Goldmine. Carol, with its focus on 1950s female fashions, is far closer to what traditionally wins here, and Powell's choices across-the-board are aces -- Blanchett's radiant outfits perfectly convey the commanding force with which Carol enters people's lives, Mara's dowdy plaids and sad Santa hat fit her awkward timidity, even Paulson's more drab get-ups contrast the bright colors of Blanchett's as Abby's pragmatism contrasts Carol's recklessness. This would be a perfectly strong choice, and maybe if Carol had gotten those top nominations, I might have considered it even more.

But last time Powell competed against herself, she won with a dazzling ballroom scene, and for much the same reason, I think Cinderella will just about run away with this prize. Even from the movie's early scenes, the costumes wow -- every Cate Blanchett outfit is runway ready, and the amusingly garish matching dresses for the stepsisters are a hoot. But by the time the movie gets to that ball sequence, it just puts on a fashion show of eye-popping magnitude, showcasing outfits that are lush, intricate, and with a full rainbow spectrum of color. I don't think the fact that Cinderella just has the one nomination will hurt it -- the movie was one of the year's biggest hits, and a classy enough production that I doubt anyone would be offended at the thought of making it an Oscar winner. I'd be pretty surprised if it lost.


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