Categories One-by-One: Costume Design

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:46 pm

Mister Tee wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:Superman musical?

There's one for Dr. Freud

OK, Spider-Man.
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:59 pm

Sabin wrote:I guessed Atonement, and they went for Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

I made that exact same call, and on a basis much like people are making The King's Speech this time around: best picture contender with a posh 30s British look seemed like a strong enough contender. (Damien, as I recall, got it right)

I should have listened to my wife. Two years in a row, with Marie Antionette and Elizabeth 2, we watched the DVDs just days before the ceremony, and, both times, shortly into the films, my wife called out "Hello...costumes!"




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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:55 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Superman musical?

There's one for Dr. Freud

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:43 pm

Isn't Julie Taymor, in addition to not having a track record with eh Oscars, sort of persona non grata right now because of the notoriety surrounding the Broadway Superman musical?
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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:30 pm

BJ, I think the one factor that played in those films' favors more than The King's Speceh is that they featured dozens of fancy gowns, an Academy favorite. The King's Speech is utterly void of such spectacles. Matter of fact, King's Speech is also far more contemporary than those Victorian and Edwardian-set features.

I still have King's Speech pegged, but a lot may come out of Tuesday's Costume Designers Guild awards.

Personally, I think The Tempest, despite not having been seen, has more of a Topsy-Turvy kind of vibe and could be a spoiler here. Of course, Julie Taymor's films don't have a great track record, so it probably won't, but something to think about.
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Postby Sabin » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:21 pm

Interesting. You can make a pretty good career out of picking this one wrong. The only winner recently that fits the now-obsolete model of it being a swept-along category is The Aviator, whose classy suits can't compete with the more elaborate costuming of Lemony Snicket.

Three times since, a Best Picture nominee hasn't competed in this category. Memoirs of a Geisha likely would have been with an increased roster. And Nine's omission is an embarrassment to the Weinstein Machine, but it lost to The Young Victoria. I guessed correctly. Dreamgirls' omission was rather shocking, but not as much as its loss to Marie Antoinette. I'm glad to be wrong about that one. I guessed Atonement, and they went for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I guessed The Duchess, and was right.

What do all these movies have in common? Well, they all kinda suck. Marie Antoinette is actually rather good, but it had a decidedly split reaction. Atonement for me was one of the most shocking Best Picture nominees if only because I truly have a hard time believing that people enjoyed the entirety of that film. It's not bad, but it's nowhere near as good as it should have been. A film does not have to be beloved to win in this category. So why should Alice in Wonderland be any different? I haven't seen it but it seems by all accounts that the Academy actually does make an effort to vote for Most Costume Design rather than simply the company line all the way down. The costumes in The King's Speech just aren't very eye-catching at all. They're fine as far as that kind of thing goes.

The Original BJ makes a good point that it seems like the kind of film the Academy likes, but so did Atonement.
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Postby Okri » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:33 pm

BJ, wouldn't you argue that those four you mention are in fact a great deal MORE eye-catching than The King's Speech, though?

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:13 pm

I think recent history may be helpful to look at here.

Marie Antoinette. Elizabeth: The Golden Age. The Duchess. The Young Victoria. Obviously, the default-to-royalty vote will stop at some point, but maybe not in the year of a top Best Picture contender.

The King's Speech just seems like the KIND of movie that wins Costume Design, even if Alice in Wonderland's outfits were far more eye-catching.

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:13 pm

This category has yielded a number of surprises and they do like colors so I think a win for underdog I Am Love is not only possible but more likely this year than any other in the wake of Sandy Powell's scolding at last year's awards that contemporary designs never win.
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:55 pm

It seems logical to consider costume design alongside art direction, since they go together a good bit of the time, and the occasions on which they haven't might be instructive.

The nominees:

Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi)
The King's Speech (Jenny Beavan)
The Tempest (Sandy Powell)
True Grit (Mary Zophres)

First thing to note: the correlation with a best picture nomination is way down from the art direction category. Nearly half the winners in the past 50 years were from secondary-level films...including those with only a few or no other nominations.

The second things is, voters seem to like to let their freak flag fly here. A certain dutiful drabness may get by under art direction, but when it comes to costumes, they like COLORS!! Consider 1974: Godfather II won art direction, and no one would have groused too much had the film won costumes, too...but Oscar voters instead went for the flashy flapper outfits of the otherwise-disliked Great Gatsby. Likewise, 1985 saw Out of Africa take art direction, and the various African garb on display would have made an inoffensive costume winner...but not when compared to the vivid battlefield hues of Ran, which took home the prize. 1992 -- Howards End vs. Bram Stoker's Dracula -- and 2008 -- Benjamin Button vis a vis The Duchess -- are further examples. About the only major exception I can think of is 1982, when the dread Gandhi swept the board, a result that makes Victor/Victoria fans (and even not-especial-fans like me) groan to this day.

So, where does that take us this year?

Complete flops like The Tempest have no chance. True Grit has drabness and little best picture buzz, so can be ruled out. And contemporary films win about once in 25 years, so the actually quite beautiful I Am Love is reduced to praying for a miracle.

The competition appears down to Helena Bonham Carter's two entries, Alice in Wonderland and The King's Speech. The latter is more loved by a factor of infinity, but what's the precedent for such non-eye-catching costumes, however in period, winning this award? Topsy Turvy, maybe -- though the onstage costumes probably had a lot to do with that winning. Chariots of Fire, the upset signaler of 1981? That at least had Alice Krige's frocks to carry it. No, the precedent is probably nearer Gandhi -- which is to say, if King's Speech is truly the steamroller many think (and that Attenborough's film was), it could win.

But there's more history behind n Alice in Wonderland win, because of its flash. It all comes down to whether people hate the film enough to deny it the prize.

I'm still thinking.


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