This year’s Academy Award nominees for Excellence in Costume Design take us all over the spectrum, through fantasy, history and even somewhere in between. But who’s going to be taking home that little golden statue at the end of the night on Sunday? Well, the DD office has looked at the choices once again and is ready to take bets on the winner!
And the nominees are:
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
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This one doesn’t stand a chance. How it even made it on this list is beyond us, when there are plenty of other serviceable 20th century period dramas that easily could have taken its place. (Take a look at the CDGA17 nominees for Period film and replace any of those in this spot.) A lot of press has been made lately about the demographics of the Academy Award voters: 94% white, 76% men, with an average age of 63. Well you can bet that all those 63 year old voters think the 1970s was the greatest decade in human history, and how! Because they made it so! Just look at that photo: Jesus was a hippy, ya dig! For the sake of being objective, I’ll actually discuss the costumes for a moment. Here’s a rundown of the plot: Hippy vs. The Fuzz meets drugged-up psychedelic pseudo-noir. Denim, brown suits, orange, dirt — what more can I say? The movie is a mere caricature: a caricature of its genre, a caricature of an era and a caricature of a good movie. Save yourself 148 minutes and take our word for it, odds do not favour this one.
The last time director Mike Leigh made a Victorian biography, we got one of the Daily Dandizette’s favourite cinematograph’s, 1999’s delightful Topsy Turvy, and costume designer Lindy Hemming got an Oscar. The film is perhaps the best dramatization of artists at work by showing both sides of the creative temperament, from the Romantic ideal of the restless artist to the driven, hardworking professional. As you can well imagine, the costumes are rich in detail and varied in scope.
Mr. Turner is another paean to the creative process, and the costumes feel real, lived in, and not museum pieces. A lot of that comes from the naturalistic performances Leigh gets from his actors, particularly Timothy Spall as intense landscape artist, Turner. As much as we enjoyed Jacqueline Durran’s costumes, the nature of the film doesn’t allow the same breadth as Topsy Turvy, which had the requisite period clothes, but added the fanciful designs of the Gilbert and Sullivan stage shows and traditional Japanese clothing as well. Also, it’s the least known film in the category and that’s never a good thing.
The first of two Disney nods in the costume category, Maleficent was not a favorite movie for me, despite my love for Disney, and we fear our bias might cloud our assessment, but it’s still more of a long shot than not. Maleficent is a revisionist telling of Walt Disney’s classic 1958 “Sleeping Beauty” with one goal to capitalize on the most marketable Disney villain of all time, and Angelina Jolie’s unnaturally defined high cheekbones. Sheppard’s take on the costumes are more naturalistic and simultaneously more fantastical — and neither do much to improve the story, rather it feels like change for the sake of change. One of the things that makes “Sleeping Beauty” truly great are the concept designs by Eyvind Earle that shaped not only the entire production of the original movie, but also the most beloved icon of Disneyland — Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It is a style that combines history, modern art and whimsy seamlessly, and which “Maleficent” does much to ignore and bastardize. Now before we totally throw ourselves under the bus here, we really love Sheppard’s work in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and many of her other credits, but as previously mentioned, the production design of this movie is simply not to the DD’s taste.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Heaven help us, we at the DD have liked the past three Wes Anderson films. Where we once had contempt for his overly whimsical dioramas, The Fantastic Mr. Fox maintained the irreverence of Roald Dalh’s original novel while marrying to Anderson’s As with all things Wes Anderson, whimsy is the name of the game and Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. Here the costumes both enforce the style of the production while simultaneously propelling the story forward through time and scenery in a very manufactured world. But also what more can we add, the look is very par for the course Wes Anderson and we even dare ask where does the line between designer and director end on this picture? Nevertheless, bravo for an exceptional use of colour.
Into the Woods
Providing original costume design for a movie like “Into the Woods” is actually a lot more challenging than you’d think. It is story adapted from a Broadway show with its own unique design, but even more so, the characters are from beloved childhood stories that everyone knows already. This is a very narrow space to word within. Little Red Riding Hood must be wearing a red hood, because the audience must both recognize and accept this character before she has even been introduced. The costumes of Into the Woods are an interesting marriage of couture, nature and sex. Just look at Meryl Streep’s post-transformation gown to get a sense of our meaning. Add in the behind the scenes magic Atwood pulled off to keep Emily Blunt’s pregnancy under wraps, and we call this one best in show.
Usually we might look to the Costume Designers Guild Award winners for a hint, but unfortunately we’ve been left out to dry this year! Both our top contenders: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Into the Woods earned top awards for costume design in separate categories. Congrats to all the CDGA winners!
So it’s up to you reader to be the judge!