Monday, February 8, 2016

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is probably this year's strangest nominee.

Welcome to Last Cinema Standing’s Countdown to the Oscars, our daily look at this year’s Academy Awards race. Be sure to check back every day this month for analysis of each of the Academy’s 24 categories.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The nominees are:

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

One really has to hand it to the makeup and hairstyling branch of the Academy. Last year, I listed a few of its more outré selections from past years. Allow me to name a few more: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. That last one, by the way, was nominated alongside The Color Purple, and they both lost to Mask. Idiosyncratic is one word for it. Daffy might be another, but few among the nominees could be considered without merit.

To its eternal credit, the makeup and hairstyling branch just likes good work and will embrace films the rest of the Academy would not touch with a 10-foot pole. That is not to say prestige films never get nominated here. It happens all the time, and in fact, this year’s two nominations leaders are among the three selected films here. The third nominee is a different story altogether.

Now, about that 10-foot pole – the branch can nominate whatever it likes and usually does, but it is the Academy as a whole that votes for the winner. Films with high nominations totals tend to have a leg up here, especially those nominated for Best Picture. In fact, no Best Picture nominee has lost in this category since 2003, when Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World lost to eventual Best Picture winner The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The same dynamic is most likely to play out this year, unless the weirdest of this bunch surprises everyone.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – If you could not tell just from that title, this is the outlier nominee. You may never have heard of it, but it is the highest grossing film in Swedish history. With $51 million in the bank, it actually has made more worldwide than three of this year’s Best Picture nominees. So, though we may find it strange, just know there are people in Sweden wondering how this film earned only one nomination.

“What is it?” you ask. It is about a 100-year-old man with an affinity for blowing things up who escapes his stifling nursing home and goes on a road trip through the Swedish countryside. Along the way, we learn about his insane life, which includes meeting various dictators and presidents, working on the Manhattan Project, and just generally raising hell and changing the course of modern history. It is kind of like Forrest Gump and The Bucket List wrapped into one darkly funny Swedish film.

Its inclusion in this category is owed entirely to the branch’s deep and abiding love for old-age makeup. They cannot get enough of watching younger actors transform into older people. Recent victories for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Les Miserables, and The Iron Lady, as well as nominations for films such as Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and Il Divo, stand as testament to this. Lead actor Robert Gustafsson reportedly spent around three weeks’ worth of production time just having makeup applied and removed, and he does creditably play a man aging from about 30 years old to 100.

Makeup designer Love Larson previously worked on the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and its American remake, while co-nominee makeup designer Eva Von Bahr also worked on the remake. Both are first-time nominees, and though the work is stellar, should their names be called out, they will constitute two of the most shocking first-time winners in recent memory.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Back to a film we should all be familiar with by now, Mad Max: Fury Road has a lot of showy makeup and prosthetics work, particularly in its sequences at the Citadel and in Immortan Joe’s lair, home to freaks a traveling sideshow would be loath to put on display. However, there is also a lot of subtle, world-building work in the bruised, battered, and dirty faces of the main characters who have traveled a long way through hell but still have a ways to go.

Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin are all first-time nominees. Makeup and hairstyle designer Vanderwalt has worked extensively in Australian cinema, having been part of several Baz Luhrman productions, as well as director George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Happy Feet. Meanwhile, Vardega and Martin have experience primarily with big-budget fantasy-adventure films such as two of the Star Wars prequels (Martin) and The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy (Vardega).

The Revenant – That nominees Sian Grigg and Duncan Jarman are listed in the credits as “personal make-up artist and prosthetic make-up effects for Leonardo DiCaprio” tells you pretty much everything you need to know about what got this film nominated here. Through the course of the film, DiCaprio’s character is beat up, bloodied, and broken, and it falls to Grigg and Jarman to portray the trauma and transformation convincingly, primarily as it concerns the wounds Hugh Glass suffers in the bear attack.

Grigg has been DiCaprio’s makeup artist on every film the actor has done since 2000, while Jarman worked on The Beach, The Aviator, Body of Lies, and J. Edgar with DiCaprio. Hair stylist Robert Pandini, who is nominated with Grigg and Jarman, has spent most of his career working in television or science fiction or both, having contributed to most of season three of The X-Files. Pandini may just be along for the ride based on the makeup effects, but his work on The Revenant is subtle and layered in ways that enhance the film.

The final analysis

In some categories in which Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant are matched against each other, there is the possibility for a split vote that would allow a third contender to slip through to the win. That is not the case here. Those two may split the vote, but they will also garner about 98 percent of it, making the split something like 49-49-2. Hopefully, just from the nomination, more people will check out The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. It is streaming on Amazon Prime now, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for a daft, delightful experience. As for the winner here, Mad Max: Fury Road probably takes this both for having the most makeup and the makeup that best helps create the world of the story.

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should have been here: Crimson Peak

Tomorrow: Best Original Song

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