This is a category that, in a typical year, I tend to get out of the way quickly. Part of the reason for that is that it was the last field to expand to a full slate of five nominees. Having only three in previous years made it stick out, so I preferred to dispense with it early, rather than going through several full breakdowns and then pausing for a 60% category. Along similar lines, as someone who can count on both hands the number of occasions where he’s worn makeup, this is very much not my forte, so I usually have less to say about this than almost any other part of the Blitz. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I have no expertise.
For me, this basically just boils down to how good I think the overall job looks. I also like to take the quality of the underlying film into account, as a) I don’t like it when mediocre or terrible movies use “Bake-Off” categories like this to try to steal some Academy endorsement or credibility for a piece-of-shit movie (I mean, for fuck’s sake, Norbit got nominated for this award), and b) when there’s a focus on the makeup as part of the total profile of a picture, a good job enhances the enjoyment, while a bad one detracts even further.
As it stands this year, I had to delay covering this category until the very end. Between this and Best Actress (which share a common nominee), I had more of a catch-up to do here than anywhere else. For as long as I’ve been doing this Blitz, I’ve never had to track down more than one Makeup nominee in a given year, regardless of the size of the field.
While I am loathe to endorse any part of the horseshit decision to cut a third of the categories, this year’s group is one that I could do without. There’s one Best Picture nominee in the bunch, and of the other four, only one has a Rotten Tomatoes score north of 70%, and that’s a case where I’d wholeheartedly argue that the critics who endorsed the film in question are dead fucking wrong. There is not a true quality contender in the group outside of the one that’s up for the top prize. Now I don’t approve of relegating the fields to the pre-show, but I’m 100% behind the idea of simply declaring a winner or suspending the category for a year if you don’t have qualified entries. This, sadly, is a year where I think that applies.
This year’s nominees for Makeup & Hairstyling are…
Coming 2 America – Mike Marino, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer
The original film’s HMU team was nominated in this category as well, and for good reason. Back then, it was a novel idea for two actors – Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall – to play so many characters in the same scene through the clever use of editing, visual effects, and highly-detailed makeup jobs to ensure that none of the actors were recognizable underneath it all. For what it’s worth, Rick Baker, who’s won the award seven times, including the first time it was handed out for his work on An American Werewolf in London, was the nominee back then, and took a rare loss to the team behind Beetlejuice. You really can’t knock that one.
Here, we have three artists up for the prize, and while the work looks nice, with some of the characters aged up a bit (but certainly not enough to account for 35 years), it’s just a rehash of what’s already been done. Let’s be honest, the effects are now outdated, and rely entirely on your nostalgia for the first movie to work. And unless you’re the biggest Eddie fan in the world, that’s just not enough. The idea of using makeup to play multiple characters was innovative for him back then, but he’s done it half a dozen times since, in progressively worse movies (again, fucking NORBIT!), and the novelty has worn off. It’s not a terrible job, but it left me wondering out loud, “What else you got?” This doesn’t just apply to the makeup, but to the movie itself, because in a film where the script even acknowledges that there’s no reason for it to exist, there seems to be no purpose to the entire affair other than to get Eddie and Arsenio back in the makeup chair. And that’s fine, but do it as a YouTube series or something. You don’t get an Oscar for it.
Cruella – Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon
In addition to Disney’s avarice and apparently crippling inability to leave well enough alone, Cruella feels like it was made purely to campaign for this Oscar and the one for Costume Design. It will likely win the other one, but it deserves neither. With the exception of the patently idiotic moment where she spray paints “The Future” on her face, the entirety of this film’s styling comes down to the title character’s hair, a series of increasingly impractical and physically impossible black-and-white split wigs that look atrocious.
The whole concept is predicated on the idea that Cruella was born with evenly split hair, a full head of it, mind you. And that’s just dumb. Yes, poliosis is a real condition that some people are born with, where they develop a discolored patch of hair somewhere on their head. Bonnie Raitt is a famous example. But does she have an even split right down the middle? Of course not. That would be patently stupid. Did she have a full head of multicolored hair at birth? Of course not. That would be bullshit. But we’re just supposed to buy it here because we know about the character from the original One Hundred and One Dalmatians movie.
But here’s the thing. That was a cartoon. There are different rules for what you can get away with and still have the audience suspend disbelief. Also, it should be noted, in that movie, Cruella is significantly older, so her hair could purely be an affectation, given her affinity for furs and other luxurious oddities. There was no reason whatsoever to make her be born with that hair when it makes no goddam sense. And teasing it out to cartoonish proportions makes it look even more ridiculous, almost as moronic as the conceit that when she’s working as “Estella” for the Baroness, she can just cram all of that underneath a shoulder-length red wig, which is closer to Emma Stone’s natural look. I mean, just look at that monstrosity. You’re not pinning that down under a straight wig. And that’s one of the more sane-looking proportions. What a craven attempt to steal credibility for a film that has none, and this was the one that actually got the “Certified Fresh” rating. What in the actual retail fuck?
Dune – Donald Mowat, Love Larson, and Eva von Bahr
Of the previous two nominees, one was focused almost solely on makeup while the other was almost entirely devoted to hair. This is the first that truly combines the two, and it does a better than average job. Just about every character has a distinctive look on their head and shoulders, from Duke Leto’s neatly-trimmed beard, to the wild flowing locks of Chani, to Baron Harkonnen’s grotesque form as he oozes black ink in his recovery tub in the image shown above.
While the total makeup job isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s consistent throughout, with the large ensemble cast being recognizable and distinguishable because of the HMU artists. If you’re not familiar with the story or the panoply of personalities on display, you can still give a vague description and people who’ve seen the film will know who you’re talking about. If someone mentions a bald, muscly man with uncomfortably pale skin, you know that they’re referring to Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban. If they describe a ruggedly handsome man with a slightly scarred face and a long ponytail, you know it’s Duncan Idaho, even if you can’t remember the name.
That goes a long way towards being able to engage with the film. This is a dense story, filled with plot and character bursting at the seams, and you can easily get lost if you’re not paying close enough attention. The fact that everyone is distinguishable from everyone else (at least the important ones rather than the copy/paste minion fodder who intentionally have no faces) gives you an anchor to help mitigate confusion. That all of these looks make sense within the established boundaries of this universe is an added bonus.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh
I will give credit where it’s due. Jessica Chastain looks and sounds nothing like herself in this movie. And from a visual standpoint, she very much reminds me of the evangelical ghoul that was Tammy Faye Bakker. The film even opens with her in a makeup chair (see above), face so horribly scarred by permanent cosmetic jobs that the actor serving as the HMU artist in the scene really can’t do anything for her. Her appearance is seared in. That’s a cue to the Makeup & Hairstyling Branch that they’re supposed to vote for this movie, and to the Academy as a whole. Clearly it worked and continues to do so, as this is considered the front-runner for the prize.
It’s a very believable transformation, and brings to mind previous winners in this category, like Darkest Hour, where Gary Oldman was completely metamorphized into Winston Churchill. The problem is that with that previous film, Oldman as Churchill was the only character who really mattered. Everyone else was a glorified background player. That’s not the case here.
And this is where you have to dock points. Because while the team nailed Tammy Faye, they came up woefully short with the other major characters. Their version of Jim Bakker (played by Andrew Garfield), looks like a bastardized hybrid of Mr. Rogers and Dana Carvey’s imitation of George H.W. Bush. Vincent D’Onofrio looks more like himself than he does Jerry Falwell. I’d even believe him as Dick Cheney before I saw him as Falwell. And as for turning Gabriel Olds into Pat Robertson? No. Just, no.
Yes, I know they showed some side-by-side photos during the credits, but those are some cherry-picked images, as if they were trying to justify the half-assed job on everyone but Chastain by finding the ONE image they could where the others kind of looked like their real-life counterparts. You’re not fooling me on this one. The team did a great job on Chastain, but very nearly failed everywhere else.
House of Gucci – Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock, and Frederic Aspiras
This is honestly kind of basic. Really not all that much to go on. They pretty much just took the main cast and teased their hair out enough to give it a late 70s-early 80s vibe and sprayed some bronzer onto Al Pacino. I mean, what are we really talking about he–
[sees Jared Leto]
OH MY GOD! KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE! WHAT IN THE UNHOLY MOTHER FUCKING FUCKEDY FUCK FUCK IS THAT?! BURN IT BEFORE IT GETS TO THE CHILDREN!
Seriously, what the fuck were they thinking? I don’t care if that’s how Paolo Gucci looked in real life (the picture of him on Wikipedia looks a LOT more flattering), but this is just monstrous. If this was the real look, then this is a case where it’s better to cut the character entirely rather than have him look this bad. I mean, it’s not like Ridley Scott didn’t fuck with a whole bunch of other stuff, including cutting Maurizio and Patrizia’s second child. Leaving Paolo out wouldn’t have been a stretch.
I mean, Jesus Christ! He looks like the saddest Jeffrey Tambor character ever went into the Cronenberg Fly machine with Ron Jeremy! Who in their right mind would ever think that this was a good idea? To quote R. Lee Ermey, he’s so ugly he could be a modern art masterpiece. And this is before you get to Leto’s performance where his accent channels Super Mario huffing helium throughout.
How? How is this considered an achievement? I’ve taken less off-putting dumps after eating Taco Bell. I’ve run over less disgusting things than this. What in the ever-loving fuck? There’s some seriously lacking makeup in this set, but this takes the shit cake!
2) Coming 2 America
3) The Eyes of Tammy Faye
5) Hold on, I’m still vomiting.
6) House of Gucci
Who do you think should win? Vote now in the poll below!
Up Next, we’ve only got two categories left, and tomorrow I get to do one of my more beloved activities, writing about writing. It’s Original Screenplay!
Join the conversation in the comments below! What makes for a good makeup job for you? Do you prefer a more believable style or a more abstract one? Seriously, does anyone have any Dramamine for the next time I have to look at that picture of Jared Leto? Let me know!