Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Mister Tee
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:19 pm

I see I never weighed in here. My take on the category is fairly straightforward. Darkest Hour is too drab for consideration. Victoria & Abdul has bright colors, but the movie is too minor (both critically and commercially) to win in this group (last year, it might slipped through). The Shape of Water is a bit like La La Land last year -- if you squint just right, you can convince yourself it's got enough color and inventiveness to win, but voters aren't likely to go along in the end.

The race seems to me clearly down to Phantom Thread vs. Beauty and the Beast. The commentariat seems to have settled on Phantom Thread (it's a runaway winner in the Gold Derby/Movie City News polls), and this worries me: I don't think it's THAT much a favorite, and I worry many of these same folk were sold on Jackie last year. Because Phantom Thread, while it has impressively detailed costume work, and some showy sequences (like that New Years' ball), doesn't jump off the screen the way Beauty and the Beast does. If you're looking for recent precedent, Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby lead you to Beauty and the Beast well before they take you to Phantom Thread. What Phantom has going for it is a much higher profile as a film (the best picture/director citations really help) and the very fact it's about dress designing (which gets mentioned in almost all predictions). I hope the pundits have it right, but I'll be nervous about this right up till the end.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:48 am

By the way, Sandy Powell is the designer for Mary Poppins Returns which is all but guaranteed to put her in the running next year. Jenny Bevan has Marc Foster's Christopher Robin, also for Disney, in which Winnie-the-Pooh and friends come alive to put joy back in the life of the grown Christopher Robin. Ewan McGregor stars. Tom McCarthy had a hand in the script so as awful as it sounds, it might not be too bad.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:36 am

While that's true, much noise was made on the internet at the time that double nominee Sandy Powell, who was on her 11th and 12th nominations, already had 3 Oscars while Jenny Bevan who as on her 10th nomination hadn't won since A Room with a View. That said, I doubt it was much of a factor in Bevan's win which was one of six for her film. Sometimes they just check off boxes for a film they like. In the case of Mad Max: Fury Road and La La Land last year, I didn't get it. I doubt there will be a similar phenomenon this year. It looks more like it's going to be one of those years in which the awards will be spread out amongst numerous films.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Sabin » Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:50 am

anonymous1980 wrote
Correct me if I'm wrong but the Oscar ballot only lists film titles for the below the line categories. Therefore, many Academy members wouldn't know the names behind the films unless they bother to look it up or if there's extra hype and publicity surrounding that particular nominee.

Didn’t know that. I was feeling iffy about my fourth caveat anyway. There’s always the danger of putting too much thought into these things.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:23 pm

Sabin wrote:The other reason 'The Artist' won perhaps had something to do with the fact that voters were tired of honoring Sandy Powell, who had just picked up her third Oscar for 'The Young Victoria' two years prior, and was also up for 'Carol' and 'Cinderella' in the year that 'Mad Max: Fury Road' triumphed. Double nominations didn't help Sandy Powell that year. This year, Jacqueline Durran is up for two films ('Beauty and the Beast' and 'Darkest Hour'). She's already won for 'Anna Karenina.' There doesn't seem to be anyone who is terribly due.


Correct me if I'm wrong but the Oscar ballot only lists film titles for the below the line categories. Therefore, many Academy members wouldn't know the names behind the films unless they bother to look it up or if there's extra hype and publicity surrounding that particular nominee.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Sabin » Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:49 pm

Big Magilla wrote
I never go by statistics in predicting these things. It may just be coincidental that the winning costumes are usually from films that also have award-worthy, and thus nominated, production design, as is usually the case, but I think the bigger problem Phantom Thread has is that its innovative costumes may not be enough.

I go by patterns, not statistics. And your point is a very good one.

Maybe "innovative" is the wrong word. Maybe it's "stylish." Just like with 'Bonnie and Clyde,' style can be the kiss of death here. For the past twenty years, it's all come down to a few factors:

1) MOST COSTUMES WINS: And by that, I am talking about winners like 'Anna Karenina' (if they don't have a Best Picture nomination) or 'Moulin Rouge!' (if they do). For the third year in a row, it's difficult to say what film has the "most" costumes? Last year, we mostly went with 'La La Land' expecting a sweep. But it lost to 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,' which makes some amount of sense but was anybody confident that this film would be the first to break the 'Harry Potter' curse? I wasn't. I haven't seen 'Beauty and the Beast' because I don't year to see Disney stomp on the memory of one of my beloved adolescent pleasures but it would seem as though it fits the bill. But by that rationale, wouldn't 'Cinderella' before it lost to 'Mad Max: Fury Road?'

2) PLUS PRODUCTION DESIGN: ...but of course, 'Mad Max: Fury Road' had a Production Design nomination to go with it. As did 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' 'The Great Gatsby,' 'Anna Karenina.' The last two films to win Best Costume Design without a corresponding Production Design nomination were Elizabeth: The Golden Age' and 'Marie Antoinette.' Why did they win? Or rather, why did 'Dreamgirls' and 'Atonement' lose? Let's just say style. I think we can all agree a Costume Design win doesn't require Production Design nomination, but 'Phantom Thread' seems to be working at an inverse disadvantage that 'Cinderella' had two years ago. That film arguably had the most costume designs, but didn't have a corresponding Production Design nomination, and was up against a more stylish film that did. 'Phantom Thread' is the most stylish nominee, doesn't have a corresponding Production Design, and is up against a film with the most costumes that does. Ultimately, these two categories favor 'Beauty and the Beast.'

3) WHAT ABOUT BEST PICTURE? In the last ten years, only three winners in this category have been up for Best Picture: 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' and 'The Artist.' (It's worth noting, I only predicted one of these would win). Mistakenly thinking a Best Picture nomination is indicative of "widespread support" would lead one to predict 'Les Miserables',' 'The King's Speech', or 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. All of these films had production design nominations as well. What's the tipoff here? Rather than throw stats here and there, I'll go in another direction: how did 'The Artist' (Mark Bridges) beat 'Hugo' (Sandy Powell, a likelier victor in this category) or the other nominee in this category? It certainly didn't have as many wild costume designs as the others. I think the reason is voters remembered it having more costumes than it did. Memories of 'The Artist' conjured images of black and white classic Hollywood films of yesteryear, which helped it. And that's something that helps 'Phantom Thread.' It's literally about costumes. It's worth noting that Mark Bridges created the costumes for both 'The Artist' and 'Phantom Thread.'

4) NOMINATIONS PAST & PRESENT: The other reason 'The Artist' won perhaps had something to do with the fact that voters were tired of honoring Sandy Powell, who had just picked up her third Oscar for 'The Young Victoria' two years prior, and was also up for 'Carol' and 'Cinderella' in the year that 'Mad Max: Fury Road' triumphed. Double nominations didn't help Sandy Powell that year. This year, Jacqueline Durran is up for two films ('Beauty and the Beast' and 'Darkest Hour'). She's already won for 'Anna Karenina.' There doesn't seem to be anyone who is terribly due. So, the two likeliest winners in this category already won in 2011 and 2012. Is there anyone on deck? Luis Sequeria ('The Shape of Water') is a TV grad and might be seen as lucky to be invited into the club, while Consolata Boyle ('Victoria and Abdul') is up for her third nomination without a win, all for Stephen Frears wins. A win for 'Victoria and Abdul' wouldn't be unprecedented (it has a nomination for Best Makeup) but pretty close. I think the only question here is whether Durran’s two nominations work against her.

Right now, I would bet on 'Phantom Thread' simply because I think voters will remember it having more costume work than it does, but I am really quite uncertain.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:13 am

I never go by statistics in predicting these things. It may just be coincidental that the winning costumes are usually from films that also have award-worthy, and thus nominated, production design, as is usually the case, but I think the bigger problem Phantom Thread has is that its innovative costumes may not be enough. You only have to go back to the first year of the color/black-and-white combined category to see that.

In 1967, everyone was sure that the highly influential design of Faye Dunaway's wardrobe was going to win that one for Bonnie and Clyde, but, nope, the Oscar went to the elaborate designs for the underwhelming film version of Camelot. It's been that way ever since. The most and/or most elaborate costuming wins with rare exception. In fact, I can only think of one real exception, the rags in Mad Max: Fury Road over the elaborate costumes in Cinderella and the exquisite mid-20th century costumes in Carol.

I think Phantom Thread has a chance, especially if they want to throw a bone to the film, but Beauty and the Beast is tailor-made (no pun intended) for this one.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby OscarGuy » Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:20 am

After the unification of Costume Design in 1967, now 50 years ago, there have been only ten winners, or one-fifth, that won Best Costume Design without a corresponding Art Direction/Production Design nomination. It has only happened once in the last ten years: Elizabeth: The Golden Age just at the edge of that ten years in 2007. The prior decade featured only one: Marie Antoinette in 2006. That was the first time in 12 years that it had happened and it happened two years in a row. Notable as the only such occurrence in that fifty-year period of back-to-back non-Art Direction winners. Before that, it was two: Priscilla Queen of the Desert in 1994 and Henry V in 1989. The others were: 1981: Chariots of Fire. 1978: Death on the Nile. 1976: Fellini's Casanova. 1974: The Great Gatsby. 1970: Cromwell. 1968: Romeo and Juliet.

Of all of these, only one was set in a modern period: Priscilla. There were three others of these that weren't set terribly long in the past: Chariots of Fire, Death on the Nile, and The Great Gatsby. The rest were all at least set in a prior century.

So, three of these films could be used as a sample of whether Phantom Thread could win. Out of fifty. While the fact that it's about designing costumes is a good point, we're talking about the entire membership voting, not just the costume designers.

Priscilla, was most certainly a special case. So, we have only three films that really share anything in common with Phantom Thread in terms of how far removed from the present they were. Chariots of Fire is the only real head-scratcher of the group. I know we've said it before that trends are meant to be broken, but you can't have all the trends fall in the span of one year.

I'll let you decide if these three films, the most recent of which to win was Chariots of Fire in 1981 are enough to overcome an 80% win rate for films nominated in both categories. Certainly possible, but hardly a definitive case of it will definitely win. The Shape of Water and Beauty and the Beast would be the only ones to have any real chance of winning based on precedent and Beauty and the Beast sports a LOT of costumes. Not only do you have the ball at the beginning, which is an opening eye-grabber, you have all of the costumes within the village dance number, you have the legendary ballroom scene, then you have all of the costumes at the end of the film (not just the post-transformation ones, but also the gowns of the three men in the castle during the fight sequence) plus the ball at the very end. Wall-to-wall costumes, all of them original, certainly make Beauty and the Beast sound like a more likely winner.
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Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:45 am

I'd thought this category was pretty competitive before the nominations -- and it may still be -- but the way one movie performed in the nominations has me thinking it's a stronger candidate than I'd anticipated.

The nominees:
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

Darkest Hour is probably the movie that most over-performed expectations on nomination morning -- in addition to the surprise Best Picture citation, it scored all of its possible design nominations (which seemed on-the-bubble to me). There certainly are a lot of people costumed in this movie, but given that it's such a male-dominated film, most of the clothes tend to be on the drab side. Kristin Scott Thomas's outfits are probably the most attention-grabbing of the bunch, but even those are fairly subdued by typical winner standards.

The Shape of Water is a visual knockout in general, and there are certain individual costumes that stick out in the memory -- Hawkins's red coat for one, and if we're considering the creature a costume, that would have to qualify too. But on the whole, I rate production design/cinematography MUCH more eye-catching elements of the film's look. Everyone's 60's-era duds look good here, but I don't think Hawkins/Spencer's maid costumes and the men's suits are glamorous enough to carry it across the line, unless the film has way more Best Picture momentum than I anticipate.

Victoria & Abdul does have the kind of royalty outfits that have often prevailed here -- that stretch of Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Duchess, and The Young Victoria had me wondering if they'd ever vote for anything else again. And I think the combination of British finery and colorful Indian garbs gives the film's clothing palette quite a bit of range. Still, the film isn't much of a player overall, though the fact that that didn't stop any of those earlier films from prevailing makes me think it still could have the possibility to prevail as the winner.

I'll echo what Mister Tee wrote about Beauty and the Beast in his review -- if this had been nominated in last year's slate, I'd have bet on it for sure. Literally from the opening dance sequence, the film bursts with elaborate costumes, and along the way it highlights the clothes of an entire French village, real-life representations of iconic outfits from the animated film, and the wildly over-the-top get-ups once the palace residents have been transformed back into humans. (Audra McDonald's was particularly outrageous). In addition to the totally ornate clothes, it's also got the humongous box-office in its corner; against it, maybe the fact that some might view recreating an animated film's outfits as not that original an achievement, and the fact that it's not a widely-nominated film.

So...we've got two Best Picture nominees without really dazzling clothes, two minor films with far more attention-grabbing costumes...and one Best Picture candidate that's focused almost ENTIRELY on costuming. The clothes in Phantom Thread are stunning -- individually ravishing, revealing about character, and constantly given attention in the narrative as they are actually being created. I'd thought Phantom Thread might have been too divisive a film to win this -- had it been an Actor/Costume nominee only, I'd have serious doubts about it prevailing. But the blitzkrieg of nominations for the film shows that there is real support for the movie, something that just a couple years ago led to Mad Max prevailing over what I thought was a far more traditional choice in Cinderella. I think voters will simply associate Phantom Thread most obviously with achievement in this category, and it's where I'll likely place my bet.


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