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.

The Silver Bullet ~ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Release Date:  November 18, 2016

Thoughts: Now that’s how you make a teaser trailer.  I think in the din of awards season and upcoming superhero movies of 2016, we’ve forgotten that there’s a film arriving in mid-November with some serious pedigree behind it.  Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling adapts her own short guidebook for a film directed by David Yates, the man who helmed the last four Potter features (and who will be represented earlier in 2016 with The Legend of Tarzan) with a cast that includes Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice), and Colin Farrell (Winter’s Tale).  A true teaser trailer in every sense, I’ll admit this one gave me some of those good tingles that few previews nowadays can.  Highly anticipated, this only fuels the growing fire.