Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy, some extra thoughts on each nominee/film, who was snubbed, and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominee: Colleen Atwood
Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Oscar History: 12 previous nominations, 3 wins (Alice in Wonderland, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago)
Thoughts: The true veteran of this year’s roster of nominees, Atwood has had a long professional relationship with Tim Burton and with films that allow for imaginative flights of fancy. First nominated in 1995 for Little Women, the large bulk of her nominations have come from films that allow her outside of the box approach and exemplary eye for detail to shine. For her nomination this year, she successfully blended drab period clothing with a touch of colorful wizardry. Personally, I like Atwood’s work when it’s more dramatic like for Snow White and the Huntsman but her costumes here more than earned her a spot among the year’s best.

Nominee: Consolata Boyle
Film: Florence Foster Jenkins
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (The Queen)
Thoughts: Last nominated exactly a decade ago, Boyle’s costumes for Florence Foster Jenkins never outshined their leading lady. Dressing a character that fancies herself an opera singer might suggest a more eccentric style but Boyle let fellow nominee Meryl Streep worry about the mechanics and decked her out in appropriately dramatic performance wear. Her other period costumes had nice touches and the stiffness of her shirt collars mirrored the society the title character was trying to impress.

Nominee: Madeline Fontaine
Film: Jackie
Oscar History: First time nominee
Thoughts: Jackie Kennedy has been portrayed in so many mediums that it might seem Fontaine had it easy when faced with dressing Natalie Portman and others. Not so, first time nominee Fontaine had to recreate several famous looks but give them a Technicolor vibrancy to really pop. The exquisite textures and trims were truly a remarkable sight.

Nominee: Mary Zophres
Film: La La Land
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (True Grit)
Thoughts: A real head-scratcher of a nomination in my book, I’m guessing Zophres earned the nomination through a combination of La La Land Fever and for a sequence near the end of the film where costumes were key identifiers of time and place. Other than that, the work seemed to exist in the retro-chic clothing of now with a jazz hipster vibe. With the other nominees, I definitely remember being impressed by the costumes…but in La La Land nothing stood out as special.

Nominee: Joanna Johnston
Film: Allied
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (Lincoln)
Thoughts: While I’m sure stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard would look good in a potato sack and Crocs, Johnston challenged herself a bit more with her elegant costumes for the 1940’s set spy tale. Having collaborated with director Robert Zemeckis on many of his films, she likely knew how to dress her actors in clothes that would provide some dazzling visuals their director couldn’t recreate on a computer. Cotillard’s evening dress in particular from a key scene alone might have netted her this nom.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson for The Dressmaker
Why?: For a film all about the effect haute couture has on the residents of a small town in the Australian outback, I’m surprised there was no nomination for these two.  Wilson is credited as the designer of star Kate Winslet’s gorgeous clothing but Boyce crafted some fiery looks herself.  The Dressmaker fizzled out when released here but at least the two were recognized by the Australian version of the Oscars for their designs.

So…four deserving nominees and one that doesn’t quite fit with the rest. The Academy has long eschewed giving the award for a contemporary film so but I’m not entirely sure La La Land is out of the running. My vote would be for Jackie with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Florence Foster Jenkins neck and neck for second place.

Movie Review ~ The Space Between Us

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The Facts
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Synopsis: The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.

Stars: Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

Director: Peter Chelsom

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 120 minutes

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: There’s going to be an easy litmus test as to how well you’ll enjoy The Space Between Us. If you can make it through the first five minutes without groaning and/or rolling your eyes than maybe, just maybe, this sci-fi adventure/teen romance will be worth your time. For everyone else, do yourself a solid and have a back-up movie prepared because as the film begins to lose all control of logic, tension, and interest the groans will just get louder and the eye rolls more strenuous.

In the vision of 2018 suggested by the movie, colonization of Mars is a reality and the first settlers are ready to blast off. Dubbed East Texas, the endeavor is the brainchild of Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and serves as a chance to not only explore life on another planet but a chance for Shepherd to live out a childhood fantasy. Unable to physically make the journey due to an illness never fully defined, Shepherd voyeuristically watches the crew blast off and tracks their movements while big wigs from NASA (including an authoritative, if bored looking, B.D. Wong, Jurassic Park) keep an eye on the progress.

Early into the trip, mission leader Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) discovers she’s pregnant but they’ve gone too far to turn back and she winds up having the baby shortly after arriving on the red planet, dying in childbirth. While the identity of the father isn’t immediately known, plenty of talking heads dub Sarah’s ‘behavior’ as inappropriate…making me wonder if the movie takes place in 2018 or 1968.

Flash forward 16 years and the baby has grown into angsty teen Gardner (Asa Butterfield, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children). Aside from a ramshackle robot (a stock character right down to his Brit accent and uppity demeanor), Gardner’s only real friend is Kendra (Carla Gugino, San Andreas) an astronaut that seems to have other responsibilities but is shown only as a well-educated babysitter. In between shifts in the colony greenhouse (leading me a first to be confused if Gardner was his name or his profession), Gardner chats up a lonely foster child (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride) who doesn’t know her internet pen pal is literally from another planet.

Finding a clip from his mother’s personal items of a man that could be his father and driven in no small part by his developing libido, with Kendra’s help Gardner is eventually brought down to Earth. However, whatever freedom he thought he would have isn’t in the cards and he becomes a science experiment kept in quarantine. In short order, Gardner stages a daring escape and tracks down Tulsa who isn’t so happy her pal ditched her for 7 months while returning home through the stars. A cross-country chase ensues with Gardner and Tulsa hilariously pursued by Kendra and Nathaniel with all the conviction of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Along the way, secrets are revealed, love blooms, and every scene is written and performed like the cliffhanger final moments of a season finale.

On the performance spectrum, the range is anywhere from passively engaged to Gary Oldman. As a teen finding his Earth legs, Butterfield gets the gangly piece down…but unfortunately, Allan Loeb’s (Collateral Beauty) script sets him up first to be an introverted orphan in search of answers before switching it up to make him a romanticized dweeb that loses key brain cells in his new environment. On Mars, he’s marveling at the deeper context of Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire but on Earth he recoils in horror when he spots a horse trotting down the street. Gugino is typically dependable for a dose of grounded reality but paired with Oldman’s awkwardly earnest portrayal of a smarty-pants wunderkind, there’s no balance for either to find good footing. Also, Oldman can never decide if he’s from London or the Midwest. One moment his accent strains on the consonants and the next he’s practically demanding tea time. Robertson’s fairly one-note as a tough on the outside soft on the inside tomboy. It’s hinted she may have a talent for music but after plunking out a song on a keyboard at Sam’s Club, it’s never mentioned again.

Director Peter Chelsom doesn’t do much with the material either, moving actors and set pieces through a variety of hackneyed action sequences with little fanfare. He also isn’t able to inspire many sparks between Butterfield and Robertson, as both seem uncomfortably ill matched and kept together for the sake of the plot. Taking place in 2034, Chelsom’s spin on future living is delivered with little bells or whistles. Aside from some upgrades to personal computers and communication devices, teens still dress like hobos and no one is traveling around in flying cars.

Worth keeping your distance from, The Space Between Us was originally set for release in August and then pushed back again to December. Ostensibly, it was moved to the less busy pre-Valentine’s Day weekend with the hopes to attract some of the date night business for those unable to go for Fifty Shades Darker. Too light to stay Earthbound and too lackluster to be fueled by a mission to Mars, this misfire has no atmosphere to speak of.