Monday, November 02, 2015

OVP: Costume (2014)

OVP: Best Costume (2014)

The Nominees Were...

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

My Thoughts: For the fourth year in a row the Academy only went with period films for the costume category (I'm counting I Am Love as contemporary even though it was technically from nine years earlier in the movie, because otherwise you have to go to 2006's The Devil Wears Prada to get a truly contemporary film).  Admittedly at least two of these are not so much period films as they are films taking place in a world far, far away.  That sense of staying with the familiar also copies over to the nominees themselves.  All but one of these five nominees is a former Oscar winner, and Anna B. Sheppard, who had two nominations before this contest, is no stranger to the Oscars.  Since this is so familiar, we'll start with Sheppard, who also happens to be behind the only film who got its sole nomination in this category.

Maleficent is the sort of high-production film that lands a nomination at the tech categories, and is one of the few ways that Disney knows how to get their movies into the running when they aren't animated musicals.  The costuming in the film is adequate, and occasionally playful with Maleficent's look.  I loved the way that the brown fairy dress matches Maleficent during her woodland scenes, as it's rather unexpected when we just are accustomed to seeing this character in her black-and-purple garb.  That being said, the rest of the film's costuming seems pretty routine.  The period work is appropriately frilly and genteel, but there's nothing really eye-popping that stands out from the dozens of other similarly-themed fantasy garbs that we've seen previously.  It's the sort of work that seems impressive until you try to give it an Oscar, and then you realize it can't stack up as one of the "best of the year."

The same has to be said for Into the Woods, the other fairy-tale adventure nominated this past year.  The film's central gown is that decadently-stacked blue number wore by Meryl Streep, and it is striking, I'll give Colleen Atwood that, but the rest of the work doesn't really capture the imagination in the way that something like Anna Karenina did a few years ago or even Atwood's longtime Oscar rival Sandy Powell did earlier this year with Cinderella.  Nothing here is popping-the dresses worn by Emily Blunt and Mackenzie Mauzy are hardly memorable at all, and don't stick out in a significant way.  I do like the attention brought to the men in the film, particularly Billy Magnussen (leather pants on that man is one way to get around the censors in trying to get more sex into the movie without jacking up the MPAA rating), but that's all undone when Atwood decides to put fake ears on the top of Johnny Depp's hat, a pretty much unforgivable lapse in judgement by a woman who is teaming with Oscars.  One wonders if Depp himself snuck it in from his personal collection while Atwood wasn't looking and no one on the set had a pay grade high enough to tell him no, but the damage is clearly done there.

Speaking of Anna Karenina, we have Jacqueline Durran's first nominated work not associated with Joe Wright in 2014, what with her turning over to Mike Leigh, and here we have a much better nomination for the Academy.  The work in Mr. Turner is not showy, but it doesn't need to be in the way that a fairy tale epic sort of mandates.  Like so much of the film, the costume-work is subtly incorporated into every aspect of the movie, and the period detail is exquisite.  We feel like these people not only have worn these outfits straight-out-of-their-closet, but they have been worn down from years of use, not being able to buy new things every single week.  It's a testament to Durran's immaculate eye that you almost don't notice the costumes amidst the wonderful art direction, it blends so well into the movie's canvas-style filming.  Durran is admittedly one of my favorite designers, but that's because she has an eye on finding a balance with the movie and Mr. Turner is no exception to that rule.

Mark Bridges does that as well, admittedly, in Inherent Vice though the results aren't quite as staggering.  I kind of hated some of the garishness of the film, particularly the way that we are forced to completely objectify almost every woman in the film save Reese Witherspoon (there's a lot of literal naval-gazing going on here amidst the figurative).  When I first wrote my review of the film, I called Mark Bridges' work "absurdly stylized...the kind people will dress up in at midnight movie marathons" and I stand behind that.  It's one of those films where side characters definitely count for more than what is onscreen, and that's in-part due to the costume work, even if it feels garish and occasionally a bit sexist in the way that certain people are exploited while others aren't.  Still, kudos to Bridges for creating something memorable if nothing else and to the Academy for getting out of their comfort zone when they could have just gone with another corset-drama.

The final nomination is for the legendary Milena Canonero, who has won four Oscars in four different decades of her career somehow, and each of them are highly-different looks at period films.  Grand Budapest is no exception, with the film, like Inherent Vice, creating looks that are singular to specific characters.  We don't quite get the attention to realism that Durran is stressing, as some of the outfits look instantly brand-new and hardly like something these people have worn before, but I do love the way that, say, Tilda Swinton's outfit drips "too much money" or the way that Saoirse Ronan's clothes are constantly covered in flour, but it still matches impeccably with her look.  Canonero is also the only person to not have a robustly female cast to work with, winning this nomination based on men's clothes (a much tougher sell for a category that usually stresses femininity), but you can see why in the way that everyone from Jude Law to Ralph Fiennes has a singular appearance striking them apart from the next chap.

Other Precursor Contenders: The Costume Designers Guild is one of the only guilds to separate their nominees into not one or two categories, but three: contemporary, period, and fantasy.  Period is generally where Oscar puts his attention, and both the CDG winner in the category (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Inherent Vice were there to compete against The Imitation Game, Selma, and The Theory of Everything (Oscar-nominated Mr. Turner missed out entirely).  Fantasy went with Into the Woods over Guardians of the Galaxy, Mockingjay-Part 1, The Hobbit, and Maleficent, while Contemporary film went with Birdman over Boyhood, Gone Girl, Interstellar, and Wild.  The BAFTA Awards did find room for Mr. Turner, as well as Grand Budapest (which won) and Into the Woods, but also picked The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.  Based on what I'm seeing here Imitation Game and Theory of Everything both seem to be competing for the nomination, but I remember at the time thinking that Imitation Game had a much better shot and am therefore going to assume that it was the one that was nearest to a nod but couldn't sink the shot. 
Films I Would Have Nominated: I loved the simplicity of Belle, an under-appreciated film that managed to make pastels look interesting again onscreen, and that's a hard feat to pull off considering the slew of period dramas in the past thirty years.  I also would have found room for Selma, a movie that managed to find so much authenticity and realism in its look, making the heightened "you are there" sorts of impact feel all the more accentuated.  And finally I would have included Pride, which is one of those films that almost no one would remember in this category, but I definitely did-think of how the costume work helps to set apart specific characters, and the way that everything seems to blend and stand out in your mind while never feeling too flashy.  That's tough to do in a film, and I think it's worth noticing.
Oscar's Choice: Oscar's romance with Grand Budapest continued, giving Canonero a fourth Oscar, putting her halfway to Edith Head.
My Choice: It's a tough race for me between Canonero and Durran, but I'm going to go with Mr. Turner, which feels like a more organic feat.  Following behind it is Grand Budapest, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, and Maleficent.

And now, of course, it's your turn.  Are you with me that Mr. Turner had the most impressive costume work, or are you agog that I didn't go with the beloved Wes Anderson?  Whose idea was it to put the ears on the Wolf in Into the Woods?  And is anyone else with me on the Pride costuming?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Past Best Costume Contests: 20082009, 2010201120122013

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