Oscar History

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Bellissimo, Piero

Tim here. All of the online chatter around the honorary Oscars handed out over the weekend has focused, not unreasonably, on the actors who received awards: Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient Angelina Jolie. After all, they're famous, and in at least one case wildly iconic and beloved. But going unnoticed in the widespread Lansbury love-in (which, to be entirely clear, I support enthusiastically) is the fourth award recipient on Sunday, Italian costume designer Piero Tosi.

Making this lapse even worse than simple snobbery against below-the-line talent, Tosi has as many Oscar nominations as the other three individuals put together: five total, to Lansbury's three, Jolie's two, and Martin's zero (not even a writing nod!). Since that would apparently make him the most conspicuously overlooked among the honorees, I think it's only respectful and right to give the man his due: and what better way than a short gallery showcasing the five films that brought him Oscar attention in the past.


The Leopard (1963)

Death in Venice (1971)

Ludwig (1973)

La Cage aux Folles (1979)

La traviata (1982)

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Reader Comments (16)

Such an inspired Oscar. Well done, Academy. Keep them coming!

(I was so expecting this tribute here! Thanks Tim)

November 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue


November 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Anyone who did anything on The Leopard deserves an honorary Oscar.

November 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

The Damned should be up there as well, even if it didn't get a nom.

Death in Venice is one of the most beautiful films ever made on so many levels.

La Cage aux Folles. "Miss John Wayne"

November 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I really need to finish watching The Leopard.

November 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

I don't remember the film La Traviata well but i do remember it being absolutely scrumptious visually. like breathtaking when i was a young impressionable thing :)

i have never seen The Leopard (*hides in shame*)

November 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Such consistently stunning work from him. This was indeed a deserving honor and a bit of a pleasant surprise as well. I'll chalk it up to the newly formed costume branch getting a say, which is already starting off on the right foot.

Ugh, such beauty!

When you look at his nods and their fellow nominees for each of their years, he probably should've rightfully won for Death In Venice tho. Or La Traviata but then that was a tough field too even tho the worst of the five won in the end.

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

La traviata is the only one of his nominations I haven't seen, but I'd have certainly given him the win for Death in Venice, and maybe for The Leopard... but damn, this was a strong category in 1963.

Also, anyone and everyone who hasn't seen The Leopard owe it to themselves to fix that, like, yesterday. Such a great pageant-style narrative of a family, and probably the best gateway drug for Visconti.

November 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

Ludwig and The Damned, exquisite!

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Tim, I don´t think that picture is from Zeffirelli's La Traviata(1982). I believe it is from a stage production of the opera.

Here there are some good photos from the film: http://www.cinema.de/bilder/la-traviata,1306927.html

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterca

Tosi's costumes for Death in Venice are amazing - easily one of the chief assets of that magnificent movie. His work in The Leopard and La Cage aux Folles is also excellent. (I haven't sen Ludwig or La Traviata yet.) It was such a pleasant surprise to hear that the Academy was giving him an Honorary Oscar. I always think of him as one of the triumvirate of great Italian costume designers of his era, the others being Danilo Donati and Piero Gherardi. They both won two Oscars, so it's great that Tosi has finally been awarded one himself.

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

ca -- good catch. i thought something looked off there (the bright lighting) and was going to say in my "visually sumptuous" comment that I remember the movie looking darker and more expensive. maybe it was a stage production. I switched out the picture.

November 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The Night Porter and Senso too!

The Leopard is just gorgeous. It sort of clinched that classicist, novelistic kind of storytelling were my favorite unofficial genre in film. Just give me a long, well though out story with gorgeous people and gorgeous costumes.

And Tosi would've probably been more noticed if he was there. But we got Claudia Cardinale instead. I can live with that.

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

OMG, he was the costume designer of Senso!!!! That was mid 50's!

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is all about the costumes! (and the curves):


November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

My first instinct was to just lard a page up with some of my favorite Tosi costumes, which would have involved so, so much Senso, but in the interest of keeping this at something like a reasonable length, I stuck to just the things he got nominations for (and/or an opera production of the same name in the same year, it would seem).

I hated to end up doing that, because there is so much wonderful stuff in his collaborations with Visconti. It makes sense, when you think about it: that director was so interested in the environmental signifiers of being wealthy, and clothing is such a clear and evocative way to do that. I think that costumes in a Visconti film are as essential as sets in a Max Ophuls film, in terms of the entire film getting its visual texture from what they are and how they're filmed.

It's odd to say "that was one of the most important costumer/director relationships in cinema history", because there are so few other pairings like that which leap to mind, other than dubious things like the Atwood/Burton partnership. But both Visconti and Tosi were at their absolute best when they were working together, I think there's no doubt about that.

November 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

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