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Oscars 2021: Best Makeup and Hairstyling Predictions

Viola Davis' dramatic transformation into Ma Rainey leads the contenders.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Netflix

 IndieWire The Craft Top of the Line

The race for makeup and hair is particularly noteworthy this season. It includes transforming Viola Davis into the pioneering blues singer of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” turning Glenn Close into the fiery Appalachian grandmother of “Hillbilly Elegy,” adding floral flourishes to Anya Taylor-Joy’s titular matchmaker in “Emma,” meticulously recreating Hollywood’s Golden Age in black-and-white in “Mank,” and creating a unique wooden look to the titular puppet of “Pinocchio.”

But with the Academy tilting toward historical transformation in recent years, the odds are with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” especially after it swept period makeup and hair at the 8th annual MUAHS Guild Awards on April 3. This becomes even more prominent with Davis landing her fourth Oscar nomination — the most of any Black actress — as the sexy, subversive Rainey. In addition, the actress was boldly uncompromising in demanding verisimilitude with the help of gold teeth, charcoal-like makeup, and a wig made of horsehair. She tapped her personal makeup stylist, Sergio Lopez Rivera, to lead the transformation, in collaboration with hair department head Mia Neal. Indeed, the nomination for Neal and Jamika Wilson, Davis’ personal hairstylist, marks a first for two Black women in the category.

Despite the negative reception for Ron Howard’s adaptation of J.D. Vance’s divisive “Hillbilly Elegy,” Close is very well liked by the Academy and her transformation is impressive. She tapped her long-time prosthetics artist, Matthew Mungle (“Albert Nobbs”), who collaborated with makeup head Eryn Krueger Mekash. They provided Close with a bulky nose, long ears, and tattered complexion to pull off the elderly, outspoken matriarch.

For Autumn de Wilde’s sumptuous adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” makeup and hair designer Marese Langan brilliantly riffed on the costume silhouettes and color palette of Oscar-nominated costume designer Alexandra Byrne. She honed in on the necklines and bonnet shapes, but also added seasonal flowers in the hairstyles to reinforce the floral designs throughout the movie, supplementing with paper flowers and other textures.

Roberto Benigni and Federico Ielapi in “Pinocchio”

Roadside Attractions

For Matteo Garrone’s Gothic “Pinocchio,” two-time Oscar winner Mark Coulier (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Iron Lady”) recreated the look of real wooden puppets for the titular hero (played by (Federico Ielapi) and his theater friends. Coulier and his team captured the flavor of the original illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti and Carlo Chiostri by using every prosthetic technique available. This also extended to the imaginative animal characters as well, including the Raven and Owl doctors, which required detailed feather and fur work.

David Fincher’s black-and-white “Mank” underplayed the makeup for titular Hollywood screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Oscar winner Gary Oldman), while focusing on actress/San Simeon hostess, Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). Makeup department head Gigi Williams paid close attention to the monochromatic tone in applying makeup that split the difference between Davies on and off screen.

Key Oscar Indicators

The Academy’s makeup and hair branch currently has 254  members, of which 225 are active and 29 are retired. The Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild, meanwhile, contains more than 2,100 artists worldwide. The last three Oscar winners (“Darkest Hour,” “Vice,” and “Bombshell”) have gone to transformations of real life people, so that bodes well for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Monday, February 1, 2021
Preliminary Oscar voting begins

Monday, February 15, 2021
MUAH nominations voting ends 5:00 pm PT

Thursday, February 18, 2021
MUAH nominations announced

Sunday, February 28, 2021
Submission deadline for the Oscars

Friday, March 5, 2021
Oscar nominations voting begins; MUAH final online voting begins

Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Oscar nominations voting ends 5:00 pm PT

Monday, March 15, 2021
Oscar nominations announced

Thursday, March 18, 2021
MUAH final online voting ends 5:00 pm PT

Saturday, April 3, 2021
Winners announced at the 8th annual MUAHS Awards (date subject to change)

Thursday, April 15, 2021
Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Final Oscar voting begins

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Final Oscar voting ends

Sunday, April 25, 2021
Winners announced at the 93rd Academy Awards (Oscars)

Frontrunners
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Contenders
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Emma”
“Pinocchio”
“Mank”

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