Editor’s note: Welcome to the seventh of a multi-part series dissecting the 2008 Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every weekday leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category (or more) of the Oscars (there are 24 in all). To read any other posts regarding this event, please just click on the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Marilyn of Ferdy on Films, etc.
M…A…K…E…U…P! Bang! The giant powder puff slaps some poor sap in the kisser. Perhaps this vaudeville gag was in the minds of the Academy during the three uninterrupted decades it ignored the talents of movie makeup artists. It certainly had nothing to do with achievements in makeup, from Castle monsters to Bette Davis’ various grotesques in both her younger and later years.
The first Academy Award for Makeup—an honorary one at that—went to William Tuttle in 1964 for the many looks he created for Tony Randall in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. One more honorary award followed in 1968, to John Chambers for Planet of the Apes, and then the award went back into the deep freeze.
Finally, in 1981, the Academy established the first competitive race for the Makeup Oscar, with Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) beating Stan Winston (Heartbeeps). The award became a yearly ritual in 1984.
Oscar favors the imagination when it comes to makeup. Monkeys (especially monkeys!), insects, ghosts, vampires, aliens, and cartoon characters have all captured the Academy’s fancy. Period makeup also impresses, but the Academy seems to have grown tired of powdered wigs and beauty spots, casting its historical gaze toward the more flamboyant Costume Design category. Lately, Lord of the Rings-style legends have been all the rage, but you can always get a few non-PC votes for cross-dressers and fatties. In one case, a prosthetic nose, though not specifically nominated itself, may have helped Nicole Kidman garner her Best Actress statuette for being willing to look ordinary on the big screen.
This year, legendary figures, various Eddie Murphys (including a fatty), and another beauty with a prosthetic nose represent the work of the three duos vying for the top honor.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End—Ve Neill and Martin Samuel
There were 68, count ’em, 68 makeup artists, including contact lens specialists, in the makeup department for the third Pirates movie. In an interesting twist, nominee Martin Samuel wasn’t among them. The Academy, I suppose, had to account for the designs created by Samuel for the first two Pirates movies. Indeed, since the first Pirates film was nominated, it seems like this year’s nod is a tad redundant. (And why was the second one ignored? What does it matter? Pan’s Labyrinth was a slam-dunk last year.)
Norbit—Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
Perhaps reflecting the much lower expectations of a return on investment than the Pirates franchise delivers, the suits who produced Norbit kept the makeup team to 20 by bringing in ringer Rick Baker and an Oscar nominee from last year for Click (?), Kazuhiro Tsuji. Indulging Eddie Murphy’s fetish for creating body suits and prosthetics to augment—actually overwhelm—his modest acting abilities, the Norbit team created a surprisingly toned fat woman (good for her!) and several other looks that screamed, “I’m not just doing this for a money.” Well, everyone but Baker and Tsuji. It’s good work in service of a very bad movie.
La Vie en Rose
It’s nice to see the Academy voters look past the disgusting snot-crust makeup adorning the nose of the very young child who would grow up to be Édith Piaf, because La Vie en Rose’s makeup team does an awful lot right. It only took eight people to apply a nose prosthetic to Best Actress nominee Marion Cotillard, and if Nicole’s experience is any indicator, this much better nose should propel her in a landslide to an Oscar. But it’s not just the nose. It’s the eyebrows, the hair, and most interesting of all, the stringy neck and chest of the aged Piaf that help Cotillard’s characterization seem more like a resurrection than a performance. Too bad the film’s in French. You know how hard it is for Academy voters to read subtitles through their surgically induced eye slits. Where are those A Clockwork Orange eyelid spreaders when you need them?!
Personally, I’d like to see the less flamboyant, but more film-serving makeup of Lavergne and Archibald win the day. However, in a move reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Oscar for Lord of the Rings, I think that Neill and Samuel will win the day for their multi-film achievement. After all, legends are in this decade.