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‘It’ and the Oscars: The One Shot the Horror Blockbuster Has at Becoming a Nominee

"It" has become a record-breaking pop-culture phenomenon, and movies like "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands" prove it could be an Oscar contender.

it pennywise


It didn’t take very long, but “It’ has already become a record-setting pop-culture phenomenon. The first teaser released in March became the most-watched trailer in 24 hours with 197 million views, but that was just the first record the Stephen King adaptation broke. After opening to $123 million this weekend, “It” now holds the record for the biggest debut for a horror film in history. Warner Brothers is sure to be overjoyed with these numbers, and now they must decide whether or not they want to give one of the biggest movies of 2017 an Oscar push.

The relationship between the Oscars and the horror genre is not a strong one. “The Silence of the Lambs” remains the only horror movie to win Best Picture, and Warner Brothers must know there’s already a major horror Oscar contender this year in Universal’s “Get Out,” which was just as much of a headline-making movie event earlier this year. “Get Out” also earned near-unanimous acclaim from critics and audiences (“Get Out” holds a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, while “It” is at 86%). “It” is a long shot for any major nomination at this point, but its one possible chance at Oscars glory rests in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling race.

According to IMDb, the makeup department used for “It” consisted of 22 artists, headed by Linda Dowds and Sarah Craig, and the look of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise — his white face and dark eyeliner, the blood-red lipstick that runs up his cheeks and through his eyes, the receding hairline and ginger hair — has become the most iconic imagery of the movie. The rotting leper that attacks Eddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is also quite the makeup achievement, but voters will no doubt most remember Pennywise. The evil clown has become a fixture of the fall movie season, and the makeup is a major reason.

Read More: ‘It’: The Six Most Important Differences Between the Film and Stephen King’s Book

The Academy often gives the Best Makeup and Hairstyling prize to full-transformation movies: Think “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Tilda Swinton’s old age styling was an eye-popper), “The Wolfman” (Benicio del Toro disappeared under layers of fur), and “The Iron Lady” (Meryl Streep practically morphed into Margaret Thatcher) have all won in recent years, but that’s not always the case. The precedent for “It” winning would be “Beetlejuice” in 1988. Michael Keaton’s titular ghost dons a very similar makeup style to Skarsgård’s Pennywise, and if the Oscars went for “Beetlejuice” in the past, than “It” becoming a certified contender in the same race is definitely not out of the question.

Other nominated movies that set a precedent for “It” include “The Dark Knight” (Heath Ledger’s powder-faced Joker was as prolific in movie marketing in 2008 as Pennywise is right now) and “Edward Scissorhands.” Apparently covering your oddball character’s face in white makeup and using some well-defined eyeliner and lipstick pays off with Oscar voters, so “It” is not as much of a long shot as you might think for this nod.

Regardless, Best Makeup and Hairstyling would be the only real shot “It” has at breaking into the Oscars this year. Whether or not it could even compete against the likes of “Darkest Hour” (the photos alone of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill are jaw-dropping) remains to be seen.

“It” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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