Tuesday, July 05, 2016

OVP: Costume (2007)

OVP: Best Costume (2007)

The Nominees Were...

Albert Wolsky, Across the Universe
Jacqueline Durran, Atonement
Alexandra Byrne, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Marit Allen, La Vie en Rose
Colleen Atwood, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

My Thoughts: Another year, another series of period clothing put forth for the Academy's approval.  It's odd, but truly the last time that the Academy went with a true contemporary (actually was clearly made with today in mind) was in fact The Devil Wears Prada (it's questionable whether or not I Am Love should count, but it technically was made nine years earlier than when it was filmed).  Here we spend an inordinately large amount of time in England, though the centuries are switching with each beat, as well as France throughout the early half of the 20th Century, and most bizarrely, the world of the 1960's in the largely-forgotten-now jukebox musical Across the Universe.

I remember having a coworker obsessed with the world of Across the Universe roughly around the time it came out (she was persistently planning a wedding with Jim Sturgess despite never having met him), but aside from sharing in her thirst for Sturgess and rather liking the sapphic take on "I Want to Hold Your Hand" I couldn't get behind the movie, which felt less like a cinematic experience and more like a series of stylized Gap commercials strung together.  The costumes here are plentiful, but not really impressive-there's a lot of color, but nothing that feels authentically to this world other than it seems to want to indulge every single fashion trend of the late 1960's in the most garish way possible.  The movie's random nomination felt odd even though it had scored a surprise Globe nod weeks earlier.  I suspect that having longtime Academy favorite Albert Wolsky's name on the ballot is largely how it won the citation.

La Vie en Rose in a large number of ways also feels like it is boring with cliches, even though here it's a period piece prior to the 1950's, so the glamour is there where it can't really compare with bell-bottoms.  The many spins on that little black dress are impressive for a while, but the lack of color and the drabness that comes out in the cast isn't particularly exciting, even if it may be authentic.  I feel like it gets washed out by the background and the constant need to show Edith Piaf as a freak of nature, someone so talented and yet intensely, unimaginably damaged.  This is one of those nominations I feel like the Academy just saw a foreign period film that was gaining traction and thought, "well, we must nominate the costumes."

The final three are considerably better, though it's clear which one isn't destined for the Oscar, and that's Sweeney Todd.  Atwood is a constant fixture at the Oscars, particularly for the cinema of Tim Burton (three of her films with Burton have gained a nomination, and Alice in Wonderland nabbed the trophy).  Atwood's work here is its typical gaudy self, but thankfully she doesn't indulge Johnny Depp too ferociously (there are no hats with fake wolf ears to worry about), and I liked the over-sized clothing on men that surely could care less about the need for a trailer.  The Johanna dresses seemed to underline the point of her chastity and the way that she is a blank canvass for men to paint upon, but that's something Burton is trying to do with the actual movie so it's not like Atwood can be faulted too heartily for sexism in her costumes.  Overall, garish but not in a bad way is probably the best way to describe it.

The final two nominations are two of the best nominees I've seen in this category during our OVP write-ups.  The first is Elizabeth: The Golden Age.  Realism in large part goes out the window in this movie, as we are astounded by a series of dresses worn by Cate Blanchett that defy comprehension.  It occasionally feels like Byrne has decided to decorate Elizabeth in every gown from a Barry Lyndon-themed Met Gala, but thanks to the over-the-top campiness of the actual film, the dresses and their indulgences actually work and it's never not beautiful.  It helps when Cate Blanchett is your muse, but Byrne, after a long drought with Oscar, final got her gold man by embracing, rather than resisting (as so many do in the picture) the ridiculously-bad nature of this sequel.

The final nomination is the green dress.  I mean, Atonement.  But really I mean the green dress.  Atonement is a gorgeously-shot film, and there are many different outfits and costumes that truly feel special on their own, from the way that Saoirse Ronan's gowns always a feel a little too large for her, but somehow that compliments how out-of-her-league she is or the way that James McAvoy's intensely-snug trousers erupt the audience sexually to the point where the library scene is more for us than for Cecilia and Robbie.  But it's the green dress, lazily draping over Keira Knightley's thin frame, that has vacuumed up all of the attention.  Arguably the most iconic single costume of this millennium in film (give me proof of another one in the comments), it's elegantly-stitched, beautifully captured within the film, and gives Cecilia an untouchable glamour that radiates into the picture.  It's thrilling to know that a single costume can so permeate and assist a film.

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.  As all of our films here are period, we ended up with an unsurprising amount of crossover there, with just Across the Universe missing in favor of 3:10 to Yuma (the victor was Colleen Atwood in a surprise I didn't really remember happening).  The Fantasy films were The Golden Compass (the CDG champ), along with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, 300, and Enchanted, while Blades of Glory won over Into the Wild, Juno, Ocean's Thirteen, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in contemporary.  Meanwhile the BAFTA's also skipped Across the Universe but this time for Lust, Caution, with them giving the trophy to La Vie en Rose.  All-in-all, it's hard to speculate who might have been the sixth place-based on precursors but I'm actually going to go with the absent Hairspray, which had enough iconic looks that it seems odd that the Academy didn't go for such a huge hit here.
Films I Would Have Nominated: I would probably go for the sublime gaudiness of The Golden Compass, which finds a wonderful amount of ways to icily dress up Nicole Kidman, and definitely would have found room for the erotic and gorgeous Lust, Caution, a truly under-appreciated movie that I wish Oscar had paid more mind.
Oscar's Choice: In what was a tighter race than I remembered (those precursors were all over the map), Elizabeth: The Golden Age won it for Alexandra Byrne.
My Choice: I have had trouble deciding between Byrne and Durran, but I'm going to go to the green dress, which I think in itself is such a cool character trait that I can't deny it this trophy.  Elizabeth, Sweeney, La Vie en Rose, and Across the Universe follow behind.

And now, of course, it's your turn.  Are you with me that the green dress deserved a tint of gold, or were you happy with the royal treatment?  Does anyone else have fond memories (or even memories) of Across the Universe?  And why do you think Hairspray couldn't get any Oscar love despite critical and commercial love?  Share your thoughts below!

Past Best Costume Contests: 20082009, 2010201120122013, 2014

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