You have your artisanal popcorn and you’ve chosen your favorite Oscar drinking game. The only thing left to do is finish filling out your ballot. The Bagger’s Oscar predictions for the top categories are still to come. Until then, take some time to consider your picks in the costume design and makeup and hairstyling categories. The winners may not be as evident as they appear.
“Academy members know better than anyone else that good design is not just period clothes, but that’s always what’s been honored,” said Salvador Perez, the president of the Costume Designers Guild. He could only remember a few winners since the late 1970s that weren’t historical dramas, so the fact that “Mad Max: Fury Road” made it into the mix this year was impressive, he said.
If there is a front-runner, “Mad Max,” a wild mix of leather motorcycle gear and cancerous lesions, is surely it. The box office hit has already won awards in both costume design and hair and makeup from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
“It was so cohesive,” Mr. Perez said of the film’s looks. “Everybody worked together to create a whole world.” And unlike ‘Carol’ or “Brooklyn” (both set in 1950s New York), “where you can rent pieces for the background and some of the characters,” Mr. Perez added, “in ‘Mad Max’ every single thing you see on screen had to be made. And that, to me, is great costume design.”
Though a Bafta win portends well for the film’s chances at the Oscars, Mr. Perez still wasn’t convinced that this academy would be quite as open-minded, especially considering that costume awards often go to favorite designers, he said.
Sandy Powell is nominated twice, for her designs for “Carol” and “Cinderella,” and it’s not the first time she’s had a twofer in the same year. That kind of name recognition could garner votes from members who may not have seen all the films, Mr. Perez said. “I often wonder how many members just vote on the one everyone’s talking about. I’ve literally heard people say they heard a movie was great, so they voted for it.”
If Ms. Powell does take the prize, he said it would probably be for the lesbian romance “Carol.” The designs of the live-action “Cinderella” also create a world for its characters, but they’re whimsical, while “ ‘Carol” is “like a beautiful painting,” he said.
As for the other nominees, the gritty frontier drama “The Revenant” also broke the mold and the widely publicized stories of harsh working conditions during filming might have helped put a spotlight on the designer’s work. “The Danish Girl,” about a pioneering gender reassignment patient in the 1920s, featured solid period work but did not receive as much publicity as its competitors did. Mr. Perez said. It did best “Carol” in the period costumes category of the Costume Designers Guild Awards on Tuesday night, but that win came too late to influence academy members, who had wrapped up final voting just hours earlier.
The makeup and hairstyling winner is selected from just three nominees, which were chosen from a short list of seven, which in turn was winnowed down from more than 300 films. Susan Cabral-Ebert, president of the Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild and a member of the academy, had a hand in the process — which includes the seven shortlisted designers making presentations of their work — and said it was fair because it ensures that every voting member of the committee gets to see at least a portion of each film under consideration. Even a small film that was missed by general audiences could rise to the top.
Such was the case with “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” a low-budget Swedish film that required its married makeup designers to make the main character look decades older.
“They really are the underdogs and they have such a great story,” she said. “And they may still win an Academy Award. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
“The Revenant,” another example of hyper-realistic work, also came with a good story — or several — about difficult working conditions.
But in the end, these stories don’t have much bearing on the larger pool of academy voters who choose the victor, she said.
“Someone who is a sound mixer may not understand the difficulty of the process of aging a man to 100 years old, so they go with what is more evident to the eye,” which in this case would be “Mad Max,” the flashiest of the nominees in this category.
“Everyone has their own artistic view of what they want to see on the screen,” she added. “And whoever shows up to vote gets to support the film they like.”