Oscar Blitz 2023 – Makeup & Hairstyling

I’ve said it numerous times on this blog that I’m always impressed by people who do with ease the things I can’t no matter what effort I put in. This category is no exception. I mean, have you SEEN me? I’m a basic as hell dopey white boy with a high and tight haircut that I just get trimmed every 2-3 months. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a style was growing a rat tail through middle and high school, then during my freshman year of college I overcompensated and shaved my head on a dare. I looked like Uncle Fester on chemo. I’ve thought about dying my hair a dark shade of blue or green, but that’s as bold as I get. When I was a drama nerd in school, I once tried to apply my own makeup before a show because the parents were busy with others. Two of the girls looked at me and went, “Bill, you look like a 19th Century whore,” and promptly gave me a 15-minute pity makeover so that I looked presentable.

Suffice to say, I have no practical expertise when it comes to this category. I simply know what I like and what I don’t when I see it. This is why my coverage in this category is typically brief compared to some of the others. It’s not that what the nominees accomplish here isn’t exemplary. It’s just that I can admit my limitations. I may be verbose at times, but only when I feel I have something worthwhile to say. I don’t like rambling on just for the sake of it.

So I ask forgiveness in advance if tonight’s analysis isn’t as in-depth as some of the others. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to date an HMU artist so I can get a better perspective on these things. Seeing as how I work in the same industry with quite a few of them and have never had the guts to actually talk to any of them, I’m guessing my odds are low.

This year’s nominees for Makeup & Hairstyling are…

All Quiet on the Western Front – Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová

As I’ve compiled footage from this movie for the various video analyses and breakdowns I have planned (it shows up three of five times over the course of the selected categories), I’ve gotten to examine all the elements of this film with a finer-toothed comb than I would have anticipated when I first saw it. I expected that it’d be shortlisted for International Feature, maybe even nominated, but I never would have guessed it would get so many nominations in so many disparate areas.

But this is a category where the project gets a boost due to its surprisingly high profile. I’ve gone over it before, but my major complaint about the story is that we don’t really get to know Paul or the others because so much time is spent away from the front lines in service of what the filmmakers think is a whammy ending. However, within that context, the hair and makeup team does an amazing job of servicing the premise.

See, the reason we never spend all that much time with Paul or his fellow soldiers is because they’re considered homogenous and disposable. They’re interchangeable to the point that their personalities and appearances aren’t even all that distinguishable from one another. Kat has a mustache, and one of Paul’s schoolmates who died on the first day only stood out because he wore glasses. If Paul and his piercing light blue eyes weren’t in center frame for most of his scenes, you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a crowd.

But that’s sort of the point here. There’s more identity in their dog tags than in the characters, and with that in mind, the makeup artists do an excellent job of making the core ensemble look strikingly alike. The hair is cut the same way, with only the individual colors setting anyone apart. When the fighting gets intense, most of the actors end up deep in the mud, which cakes on their faces, hiding what few unique features they have. For what it’s worth, this is an excellent demonstration of what the film was going for.

The Batman – Naomi Donne, Mike Marino, and Mike Fontaine

There are some fun touches here and there in The Batman. There’s the gruff look that they give Andy Serkis’ version of Alfred Pennyworth. There’s an interesting design on Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon that puts him halfway between Gary Oldman’s take and the one from The Animated Series in terms of grizzled, weary, facial hair. Catwoman basically gets whatever wig she wants at a given moment. Despite the Joker only being teased at the end, the petty thugs of Gotham wear clown-like makeup, including the first fight where Elliot Warren looks like Nostalgia Critic and initiates a new member of the gang who’s only in partial makeup to signify his “progress.” The inclusion of heavy eyeshadow on Robert Pattinson serves both the thematic purpose of making him look as emo as possible and the practical purpose of covering up the areas around his eyes that aren’t protected by the mask.

But really, the only thing that matters here is Colin Farrell as the Penguin. My God this was an incredible job! Farrell is a strong enough actor who’s willing to go that extra mile to be villainous and silly in a comic book movie that he could have pulled off the performance looking like his normal self. But he is just unrecognizable in this getup. I honestly had to double-check IMDB when I got home just to be sure it was him after I saw his name in the credits. I’m not 100% sure I’ve got it right even now. You could name just about any actor as being the man under all those prosthetics, and as long as they can do a convincing Italian gangster voice, I’d probably believe you. That’s how convincingly the HMU team transformed Farrell into this version the Penguin. Bravo!

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Camille Friend and Joel Harlow

A lot of attention gets paid to Ruth Carter’s costume designs, and deservedly so, but the high bar she sets makes it difficult at times for the other art teams to keep up. The makeup crew is sadly no exception. It’s not that they don’t do a good job, it’s just that it’s not all that memorable.

There are basically three things that stick out to me within this narrow context. One is the eye makeup on Letitia Wright as Shuri during the funeral scenes. The small white dots that line her cheeks and nose are subtle yet distinctive. The next is the royal guard, led by Okoye and Aneka. The Dora Milaje were a big part of the last movie as well, standing out in every scene due to their bright red suits and shaved heads (I swear they’re shaved, Will! It’s not a bald joke! Stay back!). Both of these aspects are familiar to fans of the franchise.

The third element, and the only real new one, is the blue skin and hairstyles of the Talokan people. Namor has bronze skin as a Mesoamerican, which ensures that he’s distinguishable from the rest of his tribe in battle, but everyone else is tinted a light but bright shade of blue. During larger shots, all of these warriors are clearly CGI because their character models are small enough that they don’t need definitive features, only enough color to separate them from the water in which they reside. But in normal scenes, those bodies are 100% applied makeup. The amount of time the actors spend in the chair to cover every possible exposed inch is admirable in and of itself, but the fact that the team was able to make it all look realistic is pretty impressive, and one of the few innovative touches in this already great sequel.

Elvis – Mark Coulier, Jason Baird, and Aldo Signoretti


*deep intake of breath*


You’re serious? You’re really serious here? Eleven years ago, J. Edgar got torn to shit for the horrible makeup job they did on Leonardo DiCaprio while prostrating themselves before the Academy as a fake prestige film. Now you’ve got an even more monumentally worse job done on Tom Hanks, and it actually gets nominated?

This is why people say the Academy has no integrity anymore. When bad movies spend more time and money on campaigning and marketing than actually making their product good, this is what you get, a doughy pile of nightmare fuel that actually gets a nomination for what is, by a considerable margin, the worst element in the entire film. Get right the fuck out of here with that bullshit!

The Whale – Adrien Morot, Judy Chin, and Anne Marie Bradley

While the main job here is just on Brendan Fraser, it was an incredible amount of work, and the defining element of the film. Fraser spent four hours a day in the makeup chair getting fitted with all the prosthetics, adding up to nearly 300 pounds most days, and had to work with a dance instructor to figure out how to move around in it.

This is no joke. While the fat suit was relatively light compared to the actual amount of weight needed to bring Fraser to the over 600 pounds of his character, that’s still a lot of excess baggage to carry around. Honestly, I sincerely doubt they ever had to spritz him with water between takes. I’m guessing he really was sweating that profusely.

I know this from a bit of personal experience. Thankfully, I’ve never been nearly as heavy as the character of Charlie is in this story. However, at my worst, in early 2009, I weighed about 325 pounds, and doing just about anything caused me to sweat buckets. Merely sitting at my station at work, with almost no physical exertion, I’d consistently perspire through my shirt, to the point that I made it a part of my daily ritual to go to the bathroom a few times per shift just to fold up some paper towels and stick them under my armpits to soak everything up before it showed on my clothing.

Later that year, I got my shit together, and I dropped nearly 90 pounds, before evening out a bit to the 250 I weigh today. I’m still overweight, but at least I can live a somewhat normal life again. The next year, things started to fluctuate, however, as my work schedule changed and I wasn’t able to maintain a routine of going to the gym. So I had to figure out other ways to get my calorie burns in.

As such, I bought two 25-pound dumbbells from the local Walmart and stuck them in my backpack. In essence, I put 50 pounds back onto my frame and walked around with it, fooling my body into thinking it had to put out the same level of effort to get around as I did when I was at my largest. I didn’t lose any more weight, but I was able to burn enough each day to keep things level. And let me tell you, it was uncanny how heavy it felt. This was weight that was just on me for so long, and once I had gradually rid myself of it, putting a good chunk of it back on in one motion was jarring. It took several days for me to figure out how to balance my stance again, and climbing stairs was an ordeal.

That was 50 extra pounds on me. Imagine what Fraser had to do to make an extra 300 work. That’s the undertaking that the HMU team had to do in order to make this character work before Fraser uttered a single line of dialogue. That’s how incredible this group was. Normally I prefer it when the hair and makeup job is exemplary across the entire cast, but in rare cases like this, or The Darkest Hour a few years ago, keeping the entire focus on the main character is warranted, especially when the result is this convincing.

My Rankings:
1) The Whale
2) The Batman
3) All Quiet on the Western Front
4) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
5) Elvis

Who do you think should win? Vote now in the poll below!

Up Next, we take a look at one of the big surprise nominees of the season, as Brian Tyree Henry sneaks in to the ring alongside a group of heavyweights, two from the same film! It’s Best Supporting Actor!

Join the conversation in the comments below! What are some things about hair and makeup that I should know to better inform my judgments? Could you sit in a chair for hours to don all those prosthetics? Should Tom Hanks pretend his turn as Col. Tom Parker never even happened? Let me know!

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