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Oscars: It’s ‘Hobbit’ Vs. “Hustle’ Vs. ‘Slave’ Vs. ‘Gatsby’ In Production & Costume Design Races

Oscars: It's 'Hobbit' Vs. "Hustle' Vs. 'Slave' Vs. 'Gatsby' In Production & Costume Design Races

The Coen Brothers‘ glorious “Inside Llewyn Davis” hits theaters at long last this week, and while its award prospects in general are somewhat on the tightrope, some of its better chances lie in the design categories: the beautifully realized world of early 1960s New York has a good chance of nominations in the Production Design and Costume Design categories. As such, we’re going to spotlight these areas this week, along with their less-loved little brother, Make-Up and Hairstyling.

The latter category, with only three nomination slots, is probably the easiest one to deal with first, not least because it tends to differ from the rest of the awards narrative. Years in which Best Picture nominees triumph, as with “Les Miserables” last year, tend to be rarer than the ones where the line up is made up of outliers like “Hitchcock,” “The Way Back,” “The Wolfman,” “Il Divo,” “Hellboy II,” and, uh, “Norbit.”  This year, the top contender for the “how did they nominate that?” slot is, of all things, “Bad Grandpa,” which has some surprisingly convincing old-age work on Johnny Knoxville.

As ever, the possibilities (which will be narrowed down to a seven-strong bake-off in a few weeks) are made up of a mix of old-age stuff (winner of three of the last five years), genre fare and, occasionally, some period films. The rivals to “Bad Grandpa” in the wrinkly prosthetics side of things include Best Picture hopefuls “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and (more subtly, and probably too much so to make the cut) “12 Years A Slave,” while “The Lone Ranger,” “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom,” “The Invisible Woman” and “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” are also possibilities, if more remote ones.

Genre-wise, “Star Trek” won the category in 2009, but the work was less prominent this time in sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” (give Benedict Cumberbatch pointy ears or a knobbly forehead and you’d probably be a nominee), so it’s a longer shot, although it could still make the bake-off. A nomination for “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” is a near-certainty given that three of the four previous Middle Earth adventures made it in (but not middle LOTR entry “The Two Towers,” though that was in a year when only two films were nominated, so who knows).

Otherwise, there’s zombie duo “World War Z” and “Warm Bodies” (though the former was so CGI-heavy and the latter such a long time ago that it’s likely to be a zombie-free zone this year). With all its dark elves, “Thor: The Dark World” could be viable, as could “Pacific Rim,” which combined its CGI with some icky practical work, but “Oz The Great & Powerful” may have the best chance in the sci-fi fantasy world—we weren’t particularly impressed with Mila Kunis‘ green-faced witch look, but of course questionable work has been rewarded plenty of times in the past (i.e. the nomination for “Hitchcock” last year).

Period films tend to be more about the hairstyles than the make-up (if any film can get a nomination for the hairdressing alone, it’s “American Hustle,” which is definitely a dark horse to figure in here too, for Bradley Cooper‘s perm alone), but “Rush” has the advantage of capturing the horrific burn injuries suffered by Daniel Bruhl‘s Niki Lauda. It’s one of the more impressive single make-up jobs of the year, and though the film’s lost heat elsewhere, it should figure in here. Full predictions for the category on the next page.

Period and fantasy always dominate the costume design category, to the extent that, of the fifty nominees in the last decade, only the fashionista-y duo of “I Am Love” and “The Devil Wears Prada” fall outside those two categories (you could include “The Queen,” too, given that 1997 barely makes it a period film). That’s likely to be the case this year too (although things may change, now that Costume Designer has its own distinct branch, rather than being lumped in with Production Design), with the present-ish day likes of “Philomena,” “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” “August Osage County” “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and even “Gravity” unlikely to figure in. Last year, “The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey” failed to tick the fantasy box and missed out and we imagine that’ll be the case again, but this time around, “Oz The Great & Powerful” has a good chance, and we’d keep an eye on Penny Rose for “47 Ronin“—having been on set, there’s a pretty impressive selection of outfits in the film, and Asian period films can be vote-grabbers (“Ran,” “The Last Emperor” and “Memoirs Of A Geisha” were all winners in the past thirty years).

More down-to-earth, the 1970s gear assembled by Michael Wilkinson for “American Hustle” has some potential, if only for Amy Adams‘ wardrobe, but looking at the track record, the period hasn’t historically been a big draw for voters—only music-related flicks “Velvet Goldmine,” “Ray,” “Dreamgirls,” “La Vie En Rose” and “Walk The Line” have picked up nods in recent years. In fact, if you exclude those music biopics, the last film to win a nomination for being set in the 1970s was, by our count, in the actual 1970s (“La Cage aux Folles,” in 1979). Perhaps it’s that many Academy voters don’t consider the 70s “period” enough, with so many having had their heyday in the decade: we’ll see if that changes with David O. Russell‘s latest.

Moving further back, Ruth E. Carter‘s work in “The Butler” spans much of the 20th century, and could (but probably won’t) figure in somewhere, while Mary Zophres and “Inside Llewyn Davis” is likely to launch dozens of magazine fashion spreads, and has a better chance than the Lee Daniels film, but may yet lose out to more traditional period fare. “Saving Mr. Banks” didn’t wow us particularly, but Mary Zophres will be in the conversation here regardless. Speaking of which, “The Book Thief” (Anna B. Sheppard) and “The Lone Ranger” (Penny Rose again) are potentials, but likely to end up outside the final five when all’s said and done.

So there are three real period contenders this year that should all be nominees ahead of them. There’s normally one British costume drama in there and while it’s unlikely that Michael O’Connor‘s work in “The Invisible Woman” will win, it should end up in the five. Meanwhile, Catherine Martin won for “Moulin Rouge!” in 2001 and aided by Prada for “The Great Gatsby,” could end up clearing more space in her trophy cabinet this year. She has some tough competition, though, from Patricia Norris‘ fine work on “12 Years A Slave.” It’s obviously less showy than ‘Gatsby’ but if there’s enough momentum behind the film itself it could still win out. Full predictions at the bottom. 


Production design normally has a certain amount of crossover with costume, and “12 Years A Slave” and “The Great Gatsby” should both recur, with nods for Adam Stochausen and Alice Baker for the former, and Catherine Martin and Beverly Dunn for the latter. ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ has a better chance at Production Design than costume, assuming there isn’t too much location crossover with the first film (which was one of last year’s nominees), and we wonder if the period stylings of “American Hustle” and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” could be more effective when it comes to the scenery, which comes courtesy of Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler for ‘Hustle,’ and Jess Gonchor and Susan Bode for ‘Davis’ (think “American Gangster” and “The Good Shepherd,” missing costume nods but picking them up in this category).

Again, “The Invisible Woman,” “Saving Mr Banks,” “The Butler” and “Oz The Great And Powerful” could end up sneaking in, but there’s also some potential for some slightly different work to be honored. While some of “Gravity” takes place in open space, the space station interiors of Andy Nicholson and Rosie Goodwin are beautifully detailed, and well worthy of attention. And the subtle near-future L.A. of “Her,” courtesy of K.K. Barrett & Gene Serdena, is, we hear, some of the best work of the year. It may be too subtle to end up in the final five here, but we hope that’s not the case. Full predictions for all three categories below, along with the Best Picture Chart for this week.

Best Make Up & Hairstyling Predictions – Monday December 2nd

“The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug”

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”


Best Costume Design Predictions – Monday December 2nd

Patricia Norris – “12 Years A Slave”

Penny Rose – “47 Ronin”

Catherine Martin – “The Great Gatsby”

Michael O’Connor  – “The Invisible Woman”

Michael Wilkinson – “American Hustle”

Best Production Design Predictions – Monday December 2nd

Adam Stochausen & Alice Baker – “12 Years A Slave”

Judy Becker & Heather Loeffler – “American Hustle”

Catherine Martin & Beverly Dunn – “The Great Gatsby”

Dan Hennah & Ra Vincent – “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug”

Jess Gonchor & Susan Bode – “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Best Picture Chart – Monday December 2nd

1. “12 Years A Slave” (2)
A spate of Independent Spirit nominations shows the way that the next six weeks or so will go: trophies will be all over the place. It wouldn’t be the first film to manage that, then miss out on the big prize (“The Social Network,” to name but one), but it could also end up building up enough momentum that it becomes the only option.

2. “Gravity” (1)
Still locked in a two-horse race, still just as likely to win as ‘Slave.’ The race is being characterized by some as ‘Slave’ as film vs. “Gravity” as movie, which makes the latter seem slighter than it is, but that’s likely to be the thought going through voters’ heads as they pick their top choice.

3. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” (5)
The film is getting out there this week, and word is strong (“Scorsese’s best in years,” we heard from someone). It’s probably the only thing that could make this more than a two-horse race for the win. But a three-hour dark comedy with enough sexual content that it nearly got an NC-17? It’ll need to be truly amazing to compete.

4. “Captain Phillips” (7)
Everyone’s second favorite movie of the year. Or are we being unfair on it? There’s clearly enough love for a nomination: if it starts picking up steam with the critics’ groups this week, perhaps it can come back strong, but we do doubt it.

5. “American Hustle” (4)
It’s been seen by more than a few critics, it’s been enthusiastically received, and consensus seems to be that it’ll get multiple nominations (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Supporting are the actors to watch, by most accounts), but is probably too purely entertaining to win. Will Academy members disagree?

6. “Saving Mr. Banks” (3)
We keep going back and forth on this one—it’s certainly a nominee, but we wonder if the film being a celebration of Disney shuts off some of the vote that it might potentially get elsewhere. Also, if “Philomena” comes through, it could be hit by that, with the two films being roughly in the same wheelhouse. Probably not the potential winner that some believed it, ultimately.

7. “Nebraska” (=)
Has more than shored up its place, especially after a very strong couple of weeks at the box office. That said, it’s likely to be essentially a replay of “The Descendants”—perhaps a chance at screenplay, but unlikely to win anything else in the end.

8. “Philomena” (9)
Thanks, MPAA and douchebag New York Post critic Kyle Smith: the former giving initially giving the film an R-rating, and the latter giving it a deeply unpleasant, poison-pen letter of a review has finally given Harvey Weinstein a narrative to get his hooks into. The successful appeal campaign for a PG-13 (which, for all the jokes, is needed for Harvey to sell the film to church audiences), and the real Philomena Lee’s response to Smith, have been a real PR boon, and started to give weight to our long-held feeling that this is a real Best Picture contender.

9. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (13)
We still wouldn’t be shocked if this missed out completely, but we also wouldn’t be surprised to see it nominated. The next few weeks will be crucial—a big turnout from places like the Globes and the National Board of Review will give it the push it needs, if it has a quiet month, it’ll fall away.

10. “Her” (10)
Still getting a lot of love, and for all the wondering about the ability of the film’s technological aspects to go over with older Academy voters, there’s something more universal about the film. Even while they’re busy with “Gravity,” Warners and their consultants are still working hard for this, but it’ll go down to the wire.

11. “Blue Jasmine” (=)
Expect Cate Blanchett to start racking up the critics’ awards from the NYFF on Tuesday onwards. That should put the cherry on top of her (very) likely Best Actress win: will it be enough to bring the film with her too?

12. “August Osage County” (15)
Has begun screening again after having gone to ground mostly since TIFF, and it feels like it’s being more warmly received this time around. It may still be a little too sharp and scabrous for awards voters, but then again, that wasn’t a problem with the Tonys…

13. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (8)
Since our last chart, we got a bad feeling about this. Something has to be overlooked, after all. Our bad feeling was borne out by the Spirit Awards nods, where the film did manage a Best Picture nod, and one for Oscar Isaac, but nothing else beyond. Our gut is starting to suggest that the film, while adored by critics, may not connect with voters. Maybe we’re just being paranoid…

14. “Dallas Buyers Club” (12)
With “Wolf Of Wall Street” and “American Hustle” coming through, this is one of the victims: box office and reviews have been fine but not stellar, and it’s struggled to be seen as more than just a showcase for a performance. Perhaps it’ll surprise (a National Board of Review slot, for instance, would help, though wouldn’t be a game-changer), but we’d be surprised.

15. “All Is Lost” (14)
Likely to be one of the better films that misses out on a nomination, it would certainly be on our ballot, but our feeling is that it’s been overshadowed by bigger and bolder competition. Then again, with Picture and Director nominations from the Spirit Awards, perhaps it’ll do better than we think?…

Bubbling Under: “Lone Survivor,” “The Book Thief,” “The Invisible Woman,” “Rush,” “Enough Said,” “Mud,” “Prisoners,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Before Midnight.”

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What about Catching Fire for Best Costumes!? They were gorgeous!

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