When I did my very first Blitz on this blog two years ago, I started with this category as the simplest way to explain my thought process, as at the time it was the only Oscar field that defaulted to three nominees, with four or two on rare occasions. But no more. This year, the Academy has finally brought all the categories into full equality, first by making Animated Feature a permanent five-nominee field (before it was contingent on the number of entries) and making Makeup & Hairstyling into a five-film category at long last.
Now, given the list of nominees we have this year, honestly you could make an argument to keep it at three, because I don’t really feel that two of our number should be given serious consideration. But at the same time, it’s always felt awkward for this to be the only category still stuck at three, especially because it’s one of the few where foreign films can get some major recognition (in recent years we’ve seen a good number of Scandinavian entries). But more importantly, after last year’s fiasco where the Academy tried to bow to Disney and shift some of the categories into the commercial breaks, the last thing we need is to give them incentive to try again, and keeping categories at three nominees is the perfect way to do that, either by promoting them as “short” affairs while shunting five-nominee fields off to the side, or by declaring a category unimportant and expendable if there are only three contenders. Either way, that just doesn’t fly with me.
This year’s nominees for Makeup & Hairstyling are:
Bombshell – Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker
Kazu Hiro, formerly known as Kazuhiro Tsuji, came out of retirement two years ago and finally got his Oscar due for his work on Darkest Hour, transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. With Bombshell, he’s hoping lightning will strike twice, as the crowning achievement of the film is his ability to turn the lanky John Lithgow into the globular mass of evil that was Roger Ailes. The techniques between the two projects are very similar, requiring fat suits, prosthetic jowls, and liver spots galore! And while this time you could still kind of tell it was Lithgow under all that (whereas Oldman was completely unrecognizable), he definitely looked the part.
Not to be outdone is the way the team made the other Fox News personalities, especially the on-air ones, look like their real-life counterparts. I have a few issues with this movie, but you can’t deny that Charlize Theron looks like Megyn Kelly. You can’t deny that Nicole Kidman looks like Gretchen Carlson (even during a scene where she makes a statement about not wearing makeup). You can’t deny that Malcolm McDowell, Bree Condon, Kevin Dorff, and Spencer Garrett really look like Rupert Murdoch, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity. In a film that has a lot of problems with verisimilitude, at least the cast really looks like the the real deal.
Joker – Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
I mean, he’s a clown, right? It kind of goes without saying that makeup will be a tremendous aspect of the production. Arthur himself wears all manner of pancake patterns as both a party clown and as the Clown Prince of Crime when he emerges. There’s also all his clown cohorts from the first half of the film. There’s certainly a lot of makeup to go around.
But really, what struck me most was the hair, particularly for Arthur. Throughout the film his hair is slicked back in this almost dignified, yet at the same time almost dingy sort of way. More than anything, it’s what made me think the name “Fleck” was appropriate for the character, as the word is synonymous with “spot,” “mark,” or “streak.” Every time I saw his hair, it made me think that here was this almost completely emaciated and disheveled man, but with a “fleck” of product to make it seem like he had his shit together, only for that “fleck” to be more of a grimy oil than a distinguished gleam. The focus will obviously be on the clown makeup, but this is one entry where the hair is subtly just as strong.
Judy – Jeremy Woodhead
Like the rest of the film, the makeup job here really only applies to its lead, Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland. I will say that Woodhead does a decent job of making Garland look a bit decrepit in the months before her death, but just like my main critique of Zellweger’s performance, it just looks more and more like Liza Minnelli than anything else.
In a weird way, the nomination is almost a backhanded compliment to the modern standards of beauty. Zellweger was born in 1969, just under two months before Garland herself died. Garland died at 47. Zellweger is now 50. But the Zellweger we see looks like she’s in her late 30s, and the Garland we watched on the screen looked like she was kissing 70. So in that respect, Woodhead’s work was a sort of affirmation of the old axiom that “you’re only as old as you feel.”
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White
I both love and hate categories like this that do their nominations via special caucuses called “Bake-Offs.” On the one hand, it allows the relevant branches to see presentations featuring the exact elements that they’re considering, so you get more of a side-by-side, short-term memory comparative process that prevents people from just voting for whatever they saw last, which is sadly the business model of the entire film industry when it comes to releasing films for Awards Season. On the other hand, it also allows for terrible, Terrible, TERRIBLE films like Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to get the prestige of a nomination, and sometimes even a win despite its shittiness (see: Squad, Suicide).
We have two previous nominees in the category working on this project. Arjen Tuiten was nominated two years ago for the great work he did on Wonder, while David White earned his stripes on Guardians of the Galaxy. Here, the bulk of the focus is on Angelina Jolie in the title role, which is disappointing, as the bulk of her hair is hidden under her horn helmet, and her makeup is basically bright red lipstick, green contact lenses, and cheekbones that could stab a motherfucker. However, the other “feys,” (her dark fairy people, led by Chiwetel Ejiofor) actually get a decent amount of makeup, mostly in the form of scars and war paint, even though the bulk of their time on camera is under heavy darkness and/or CGI. Same goes for Warwick Davis as a de-winged pixie working on ways for the queen to kill all of his countrymen. If the focus had shifted a bit, this might be a legit contender. Instead, it’s a minor rack for Disney to hang their hats on, content that at least one of their nearly universally shitty remakes got a nod.
1917 – Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis, and Rebecca Cole
This film is another example of why I’d love to attend a Bake-Off, mostly because, honestly, I don’t know what we’re nominating here. What was the grand makeup design on 1917? Some of the soldiers have a few cuts and bruises, and when Schofield ends up under some rubble in a bunker he temporarily has dust on his face. But apart from that, what are we dealing with? Mustaches for Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch (who also sports a faint scar on his left eye)?
The only other possible thing I can think of is during the early sequence when Blake and Schofield cross No Man’s Land. During this first major portion of the trek, they stumble and fall across some dead bodies on the battlefield. These dead soldiers have bloodied faces and are in various stages of decay. But I have to ask, are these actors? I could have sworn these were dummies and mannequins, and if they are, does that really count for the Makeup team, or is it more Production Design? I mean, if they are actual people made up to sit there and be dead, then kudos on the realism, but I honestly couldn’t tell. And even if they were, you have to reach pretty far to feature that as your case for the Oscar. This is a brilliant movie on a lot of fronts, but I don’t recall this being one of them.
3. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Next up: The lights and camera get all the action. It’s Cinematography!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Who would you pick from this list? Are you happy the field’s finally been expanded to five? Could we have two clowns win this category in the space of just a few years? Let me know!