Monday, March 29, 2010

One Category at a Time: Best Costume Design

The Academy sure does love their European royalty. They've picked 'em as the "best" costumes of the year not once, not twice, not thrice, but FRICE in a row! Are we in for more of the same? From this early point in the season I can't spot any extravagant period pieces... yet, but I'll keep my eye open should anything emerge from the shadows to steal this award away from an infinitely more deserving film... again.

What I do see are the following five hopefuls and a few others we should keep in mind:

Julie Taymor's The Tempest debuts this year, starring Helen Mirren as a female version of Shakespeare's Prospero. And the costumes are being designed by... well, who do we have here! None other than this year's winner, Sandy Powell. She's a perennial consideration, but should she be the defacto frontrunner? I dunno... Julie Taymor is a bit of a fringe artiste. Will her film be the Academy's cuppa' tea?

If they're looking for more traditional fare, they may do well to consider the Weinstein Co's baity-looking The King's Speech, which features several prominent Brits done up in the finest early 21st century attire (that includes royalty) designed by Atonement nominee, Jenny Beavan. She should have been back this past year for Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps some goodwill from her branch will push her in, regardless of how well-liked the film ends up being.

You can usually count on a token fantasy nominee to pop up (Across the Universe, Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, etc.), and the quality of the film almost never comes into play. So, take your pick of the fantasy titles coming out this year. Thinking that this branch is due for a populist nominee, I'm taking a wild stab on Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean) for Prince of Persia, one of Disney's summer tentpoles.

And what of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood? His last period epic did quite well with the Academy, you may recall, and that included a win for costume designer Janty Yates, who is back on board to clothe Sir Robin of Loxley and his band of merry men... yeah, just read that last part back, and yes, it does sound a bit creepy. Nonetheless, if the film makes a strong Best Picture bid, Yates' threads may benefit.

Finally, the enigmatic Terrance Malick and his secretive opus The Tree of Life. Jacqueline West, nominated for her decade-spanning costumes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, will be in charge of the outfits. Word about the film is that it's period, and that's good enough for me! But with so little info, predicting it for anything is silly, but this is the time of year when we can all afford to be silly.

Predicted 5:
The King's Speech
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Robin Hood
The Tempest
The Tree of Life

Also consider: Gabriella Pescucci for Agora, Colleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland, Luoise Frogley for The Conspirator, Judianna Makovsky for The Last Airbender, Julie Weiss for Shangai, ??? for The Way Back, Milena Canonero for The Wolfman.


Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean about period pieces and I agree with you in part: the Academy is, most of the times, lazy and just gives the award to the films whose costumes are, lets say, more noticeable. I do think that the job of a costume designer is to help us understand the characters (after all, what we wear tells a lot about who we are). But I also think that you can't completely dismiss period pieces, because costumes can tell us a lot about the characters. You have to make an analysis of the costumes film by film (whether contemporary or period piece) and see what works and what does not work.
And Across the Universe is not a fantasy film, it's set in the USA (and a bit in England) in the sixties.

The Oscar Nazi said...

Fair enough, and I do try not to paint all period pieces with one broad stroke. Some of my favourite costumes of all time have been in lavish period films. It's just that none of the winners of the past four years have struck me as having particularly character-serving costumes. I'm just sick of the trend.

As for Across the Universe, yes, "fantasy" is probably a poor choice of words, but the film had a bit of a surreal quality to it (at least more so than any of the other nominees).