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Transformations of ‘The Whale,’ ‘The Batman,’ and ‘Blonde’ Lead Makeup and Hairstyling Oscars Shortlist

The last five MUAHS Oscars have gone to transforming historical figures.

THE WHALE, Brendan Fraser, 2022. © A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Whale”

Courtesy Everett Collection

 IndieWire The Craft Top of the Line

This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Makeup and Hairstyling predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.

The State of the Race

Wednesday’s makeup/hairstyling shortlist is one of the most artistically diverse in years, but it’s clear that the branch continues to adore amazing transformations. Indeed, the last five MUAHS Oscars have gone to transforming historical figures from “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Bombshell,” “Vice,” and “Darkest Hour.”

Among this season’s standouts are “The Whale,” “The Batman,” and “Elvis.” They are joined by “Babylon,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Blonde,”  and the surprising “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Amsterdam,” “Emancipation,” and “Crimes of the Future.” With its extensive use of hair and makeup to distinguish between its many distinct universes, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had previously been seen as a frontrunner in the category; the Daniels’ sci-fi romp failed to make the shortlist, as did “The Woman King” and “RRR.” The final five nominees will be determined after the January 15 “bakeoff.”

The most innovative work of the season, can be found in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” where Brendan Fraser is transformed into the 600-pound English teacher through the first-time use of all-digital prosthetic makeup for a major feature, pioneered by prosthetic makeup designer Adrien Morot. This pushed Fraser’s weight to the severest extreme without covering his fave and obfuscating his emotional range of expression.

However, the most unrecognizable prosthetic work can be found in Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” where Colin Farrell is transformed into Oz/Penguin, the low-level gangster, without being inhibited at all in delivering his funny, volatile performance. Prosthetic makeup artist Michael Marino provided a total transformation: scarred, swollen face, bald forehead, fat suit to add more girth.

For Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” Best Actor Oscar frontrunner Austin Butler was transformed into Elvis Presley in a progression from the ’50s through the ’70s, led by Shane Thomas (hair and makeup designer), two-time Oscar winner Mark Coulier (prosthetics designer), and Jason Baird (prosthetics supervisor). Although they colored the actor’s hair for the early ’50s, wigs were employed for the later years of Presley’s life. Facial prosthetics were applied and became more chiseled as Presley got older and his jawline hardened. And his dreamy eyelashes and eye makeup completed the look. Even greater prosthetic work was applied to Tom Hanks’ transformation into nefarious manager Colonel Tom Parker.

David O. Russell’s screwball mystery, “Amsterdam,” finally got some craft recognition, with makeup head Nana Fischer and co-hair heads Lori McCoy-Bell and Adruitha Lee keeping to the ’30s era without idealizing it for post-war buddies Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington. In addition to referencing period mugshots, they were influenced by Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Clara Bow, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and William Powell.

David Cronenberg’s body horror thriller “Crimes of the Future” provided one of the season’s prosthetic highlights with the creepy underground performance artist known as the Ear Man (Tassos Karahalios). Prosthetics co-designers Alexandra Anger and Monica Pavez stitched him together with nearly 40 ears and other assorted body parts.

In Antoine Fuqua’s historical actioner, “Emancipation,” Will Smith’s scarred body as runaway slave Peter (loosely based on real-life Gordon) was a tour de force for the team of makeup head Ken Diaz, prosthetic makeup artist Christien Tinsley, and hair head Andrea Mona Bowman. They applied all of the fake wounds and other dirty and nasty touches to authenticate the legendary transformation.

Working on Edward Berger’s harrowing World War I drama, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” makeup and hair designer Heike Merker immersed herself in the fine details of applying mud to protagonist Paul (Felix Kammerer) and his fellow soldiers on the battlefield, since they spend most of their time crawling around in a rain-soaked dirty mess.

Frontrunners

“The Whale” (A24)
“Elvis” (Warner Bros.)
“The Batman” (Warner Bros.)
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel/Disney)
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix)

Contenders

“Amsterdam” (20th Century)
“Babylon” (Paramount)
“Crimes of the Future” (Neon)
“Blonde” (Neflix)
“Emancipation” (Apple)

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