The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Makeup

by Dylan · February 1, 2009 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 5 Comments

Editor’s note: Welcome to the fourth of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Jessica of Insight Into Entertainment.

The Oscar award for Best Achievement in Make-up is fairly recent, only given regularly since the 1985 ceremony. Usually only 3 movies are nominated, often one of the best Picture nominees, a major movie, and then something random. This year is no different, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (best Picture nominee), The Dark Knight (major movie) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (random!).


I looked at the trends of the past 24 awards. Awards for real people transformed by make-up: 13, awards for creation of creatures: 11, giving a slight edge to transforming people, with one in particular winning for aging (Driving Miss Daisy). However, with a previous winning entry by Guillermo del Toro, and a trend toward creatures for the past 10 years, that might not help in predicting this year’s winner. Here’s the list so you don’t have to look it up.

2008 La Vie En Rose
2007 Pan’s Labyrinth
2006 Chronicles of Narnia
2005 Lemony Snicket
2004 LOTR – Return of the King
2003 Frida
2002 LOTR- Fellowship of the Ring
2001 How the Grinch Stole Christmas
2000 Topsy-Turvy
1999 Elizabeth
1998 Men in Black
1997 The Nutty Professor
1996 Braveheart
1995 Ed Wood
1994 Mrs. Doubtfire
1993 Dracula
1992 Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1991 Dick Tracy
1990 Driving Miss Daisy
1989 Beetlejuice
1988 Harry and the Hendersons
1987 The Fly
1986 Mask
1985 Amadeus

So to examine what I thought of each of this year’s nominees from a makeup perspective here are this year’s nominees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, nominee: Greg Cannom won Oscars for Dracula and Mrs. Doubtfire and a technical Oscar for creating a new product for prosthetics. Mr. Cannom had a Herculean job ahead of him, as the movie hinges on the viewer’s understanding of how Benjamin Button starts old and becomes young.

While much of that was done with CGI to put Brad Pitt’s face on several other bodies, the other part of the movie that isn’t often discussed is that all the other characters much age in the proper order to provide contrast to Benjamin. Cate Blanchett goes from around age 20 to around 90. As far as I know, none of that was done with CGI, just plain old fashioned make-up and prosthetics. An impressive job considering the real Cate is somewhere in the middle. The other factor taken into consideration with the make-up throughout is the period and place appropriateness of everything – Cate’s 1950’s make up when she’s in her 30’s or when Tilda Swinton is in Russia. Overall, a fantastic job of making Brad Pitt look younger, and Cate Blanchett look older.


The Dark Knight, nominees: John Caglione Jr. won an Oscar for Dick Tracy; and Conor O’Sullivan who was nominated for an Oscar for Saving Private Ryan. While a worthy nominee, there’s not a lot to the make-up in my opinion.


The obvious one is Heath Ledger’s Joker, whose make-up deteriorates appropriately throughout the movie, but gets refreshed when Joker is free. Later in the movie, Harvey Dent becomes “Two-face” and there’s some spectacular effects going on, but I have trouble believing that was make-up and not CGI, which falls under the category of visual effects I think. Both are extremely important to the story, and probably to the actors creating the characters, but beyond that I didn’t find much in The Dark Knight making it worthy of this particular Oscar.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, nominees: Mike Elizalde, who also worked on the first Hellboy, and Thomas Floutz, first nominations for both of them, but they’ve been part of all kinds of critter flicks. Written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, creator of Pan’s Labyrinth, he obviously can imagine very creative creatures and this movie isn’t any different. He and the amazing make-up artists create a whole digital/mechanical army, but the really creative beings are done with make up and costumes. The prince and princess are given elfin qualities without looking anything like the Lord of the Rings imagining of elves. In addition to the main characters, Hellboy in his completely red suit, with filed horns, and our meticulous Abe Sapien in his blue suit with eyes and all, the new prince and princess are well done. There’s even a moment in the Market where we see a supposed family of demons. When Hellboy pats the baby on the head, he replies, “I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor”, and you see how it’s actually growing out of the female. This movie, from a make-up perspective is inventive and definitely worthy of the Oscar.


So, in my opinion, Hellboy II: The Golden Army should win the Oscar, but I think given the overall quality of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and its number of nominations, the Oscar will go to Benjamin.

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5 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Makeup

  1. Nick says:

    I agree. The majority of the effects in Ben Button were CGI, not makeup. Again, the exceptions were the 20s (or teenage) Brad Pitt and the super-old Cate. But while I think the young Pitt was excellent, the super-old Cate was rather ‘blah’ and oftentimes distracting.

    On the other hand, Hellboy II is almost purely makeup and costumes, and there’s a plethora of it throughout the entire film. I think it should go to Hellboy II. It would be a ripoff to go to Ben Button in this particular case.

  2. Jess says:

    Nick, I agree. In the not too distant future they’re going to have to make more categories for things that are somewhat non-traditional and not actually one of the current categories. Andy Serkis was robbed by not fitting into any category as Gollum and Ellen Degeneres voicing Dorrie in Finding Nemo was one of the best performances ever.

  3. Buttercup says:

    A very thoughtful analysis.

  4. Jason says:

    As an avid VFX geek, I feel like i have to correct you on Benjamin Button’s youthful make-up. The scenes where Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett are in their 20’s is not traditional make-up, it is CG. This is the same technique that was used in the 3rd x-men movie to make patrick stewart and ian mckellen younger. It’s still an AMAZING trick, and they have perfected it in Ben Button, but its a visual effect, not a make-up effect.
    I’m rooting for Hellboy 2, i’ve got my fingers crossed!

  5. Jess says:

    Awesome! Thanks for informing us all – that’s amazing to know. Great trick – I can see why post-production for Benjamin Button was so long! I wonder if they’ll do a huge make-up behind the scenes for the DVD, that’d be worth seeing.

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