The Oscar Project
Last week, I wrote up some information on two categories of nominees, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. This week, I have several more posts lined up, starting today with the Best Costume Design nominees. Unlike the categories last week, Best Costume Design only lists one person on each nomination.
This category, along with the nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling which I plan to cover tomorrow, help create the visual style of the characters in a film. You usually find two types of films in the Best Costume Design category, science fiction/fantasy blockbusters and period pieces and this year is no exception to that rule.
Mary Zophres gets the nominations started in this category. It is her fourth nomination after being previously recognized for True Grit, La La Land, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Throughout Zophres’s career she has worked extensively with the Coen brothers, costuming all of their films since 1996’s Fargo. She has also worked on several Steve Spielberg films, a few films by the Farrelly brothers, and now three films with Damien Chazelle.
This film was the largest challenge of her career to date, with over 7000 total costumes appearing on screen throughout the film. The L.A. Times had a wonderful article earlier this month titled “Elephant poop, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt: Dressing the ‘Babylon’ cast has ups and downs” showcasing a number of the looks featured in the film, along with some stories behind their creation. This could very well be Zophres’s time to finally win her first Oscar.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Ruth Carter made history several years ago when she became the first African-American to with the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther. She is back in the category again this year for her work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, after previously receiving nominations for the Spike Lee film Malcolm X and Steve Spielberg’s Amistad. Carter has collaborated with Lee on a total of 12 films and has clothed such acting greats as Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, and one of this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees, Angela Bassett.
I actually know the most about her work as I am in the process of reading a preview copy of a new book coming out in May titled The Art of Ruth E. Carter. I’m just about finished with it, and it is a fascinating look into the world of a costume designer including the process she goes through to work with the director and actors on a shoot, bringing in little pieces of the characters from all involved. EW also published a wonderful article last month on Carter’s work on Wakanda Forever. Be on the look out for my review of Carter’s book coming soon and look for Carter to potentially land her second Oscar win this year.
Catherine Martin is one of two nominees in this category who has won previously. Both times Martin has won an Oscar for Best Costume Design (Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby) she has also paired it with Best Production Design wins. This year, she is again nominated in both Best Costume Design and Best Production Design and shares a producing credit on the film with her husband and the film’s director, Baz Luhrmann which gets her included in the Best Picture nomination. She has been the costume designer for all of Luhrmann’s films since Moulin Rouge!, including a number of short films he directed in 2012.
Again, I feel it’s appropriate to reference an article from Vogue titled "How Catherine Martin Crafted Elvis’s Dazzling, Vegas-Worthy Wardrobe". The article showcases a number of the costume choices in this film and shows that even re-creating some of the most iconic styles from the King of Rock isn’t always a walk in the park.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Shirley Kurata is a first-time nominee in this category, but it feels like much of the emphasis for this nomination comes from the costumes for just one character, Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu). The looks for this character alone could easily land Kurata the nomination, but add to that the fact that the film was made on a very limited budget and you have a story that showcases a true rising star. An article titled "How Costume Designer Shirley Kurata Outfitted the Multiverse" from The Wrap explains the approach Kurata took to working on this film.
In addition to the amazing costumes for Tupaki, there are also plenty of challenges in place for a film that gives glimpses into alternate universes where the characters play completely different roles in the world. With that comes a completely new set of costumes depending on which universe they inhabit at any given time. Look out for a possible win here, giving Kurata her first win on her first nomination.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Our last nominee, Jenny Beavan, was a bit of a surprise to me on nomination day last week, but having seen the film, I was pleasantly surprised that she was recognized. This is Beavan’s 12th nomination for Best Costume Design and she has won the award three times before for her work on A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road, and just last year on Cruella. It would be hard to find three more different films to win this award for, but between them they check off all the typical types of films you see in this category.
This film in particular was interesting in that the whole focus of the story is on a Dior dress and the film doesn’t work if those dresses shown on screen aren’t wonderfully designed. Focus Features has a wonderful interview with Beavan titled "From Dowdy To Dior: Creating The Costumes For Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" that posted last summer going into more detail on how the looks for the film were created, including the dresses that were re-made based on actual Dior pieces from the time period of the film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beavan win this award as a dark horse, but worry that the reliance on pre-existing dresses might downgrade the work ever so slightly.
A film you like that is not set in the current era
There was plenty to choose from when I picked this category, but I had to go with a film that I absolutely love, and I have seen probably two dozen times or more over the years. It’s one of those that I usually watch to the end whenever it comes on TV, which sometimes takes up several hours of my afternoon/evening/night.
I have to say, this film is one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to immersing the audience in the time period and the world it exists in. From the opening sequence in Germania, we are thrust into a gritty hellscape of how war was waged two thousand years ago, give or take a century or two. The opening battle is brutal, and they don’t get any tamer from there.
It’s easy to say that the battle and fight scenes are some of the best parts of Gladiator, yet I find many of the best parts are in the quiet intimate moments between the chaos. The personal interaction between Russell Crowe’s Maximus and his owner Proximo (Oliver Reed) about how he can win the crowd and potentially win his freedom is one of those moments. Another is Maximus’s interaction with the young prince Lucius before one of his fights. He speaks with the boy I think because he sees his own dead son in the boy and wants to connect with someone that age once again. And speaking of his son, one of the most incredible scenes is when Maximus returns to his farm to find his wife and son dead. The anguish that Crowe displays is part of the reason he was crowned Best Actor by the Academy for his work in the film.
The film also won an Oscar for Best Costume Design, and this goes back to my initial point about immersing you in the world. There are thousands of costumes in this film that make you feel like you are in ancient Rome. Everything is here from the obvious gladiator gear, to the soldiers in the army, the simple robes of the senators, and the elaborate robes of the royalty. The last time we were watching the film, my wife and I both remarked that Lucilla’s (Connie Nielsen) costumes are some of the most beautiful in the film and fit her character perfectly.
But the costumes alone don’t make this film feel like a part of history. There are plenty of scenes in the markets, the countryside, and of course, in the gladiatorial arenas themselves. The way the story progresses, Maximus fights his way through several lesser arenas throughout the Roman Empire, before venturing to Rome itself and competing in the Super Bowl of gladiatorial arenas, The Colosseum. It’s quite a scene when Maximus and his fellow slaves see the edifice for the first time and once they get inside, it’s hard to distinguish where the live replica of the building ends and the digital version begins.
All in all, Gladiator is a fantastic film. Yes, there are some historical inaccuracies, but you get that with any film based on historical events. That’s the beauty of film. It’s a chance to tell a story set in a real time and place, but with some elements of fiction woven in. It’s hard to say that there are no wasted shots in a film that stretches over two and a half hours, but I feel that this is about as close as one might come, with nearly every moment on screen contributing to and moving the story forward.
Take a moment this holiday weekend and visit ancient Rome in Gladiator. You won’t regret it.
Day 24 – A film you wish you saw in theaters | Day 26 – A film you like that is adapted front somewhere
A film you wish you saw in theaters
Despite my desire to stray away from Star Wars films in this list, I didn’t have much of a choice when picking this category. It was a no-brainer for me to pick the original Star Wars. Not Star Wars: A New Hope, as it is now known, but just Star Wars. Unfortunately, the film was release in 1977, a few years before I was born, so I was never able to see the original version when it was in theaters. Even the version I had on VHS tape in the mid-90s was slightly different than the original 1977 version and there is plenty of changes that have been applied to the film since that time.
The first time I was able to see the film in the theater was in 1997 when Lucas released his Special Editions of the original trilogy, priming the pump with audiences for the 1999 release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There have been entire libraries written, mainly on the internet, about the positives and (mostly) negatives of the Special Editions. Yes, they are different than what was originally shown in the late 70s and early 80s, but certain aspects I can understand updating, especially when it comes to visual effects shots that just weren’t possible until computer technology caught up with the vision.
But back to the original film. Star Wars is a classic hero’s journey story. You have a cast of characters that are immediately memorable. From the affable farm boy turned Jedi in training Luke Skywalker and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, to the evil Darth Vader, the beautiful yet headstrong Princess Leia to the charismatic Han Solo and his alien co-pilot Chewbacca. And let’s not forget the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the story, R2-D2 and C-3PO, as well as a cast of hundreds of aliens populating bars, spaceports, scavenging vessels and warrior tribes.
And with all those characters, I haven’t even mentioned the spaceships. Between the Rebel X-Wing fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, you have two of the most iconic spaceships in movie history. Add to that the Empire’s TIE Fighters with their distinctive screeching sound and of course the Death Star itself, and you have the makings of an entire universe.
And I still haven’t gotten to the lightsabers! This film is one that just keeps on giving. Just when you think there isn’t any more cool stuff to cram into a movie, it surprises you yet again. If not for Star Wars, empty paper towel tubes would be just that. But thanks to Star Wars, they become laser swords in the imagination of just about every adolescent boy in the last 40 years.
I know there is a section of the population that doesn’t care for Star Wars, and they are allowed to be wrong. I kid, sort of. No matter what your feelings on the films that came after Star Wars, there is no denying that the original film redefined the genre, bringing it solidly into the mainstream and in the process, cementing the concept of the summer blockbuster, pioneered a few years before with Jaws. If you’ve never seen any Star Wars film, I urge you to try and find an old copy of the original film and watch it as it was originally intended to be seen. If you’re a huge Star Wars fan, use this as your excuse to go watch the original again. Even as many times as I’ve seen it in my life, I always try and find something new when I watch it.
Here’s hoping I’ll be able to catch the next groundbreaking film in the theater and as always, may the Force be with you.
Day 23 – A film made by a director that is dead | Day 25 – A film you like that is not set in the current era
Continuing my coverage of predictions, today I am tackling four categories including Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design.
If you missed the previous prediction posts, please check out my Sound and Visual Predictions and Design, Cinematography, and Editing Predictions.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?