Oscar History

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Why Do Zombie Movies Never Win Makeup Nominations With Oscar?

This is a question I've never been able to fully answer but one that I've asked myself (and probably you) on occasion. Since "Best" quite often means "Most" when it comes to awardage of any kind, what does the Oscar's makeup branch have against the undead?  This question came to mind again while watching Warm Bodies, a minor hit earlier this year which is now on DVD.

Please consider this post an early FYC

After the movie I found myself watching the extras and especially enjoyed "Extreme Zombie Makeover" which charts the evolution of the makeup design by Adrien Morot (who was Oscar nominated recently for Barney's Wedding). It's easy to make Nicholas Hoult look beautiful but how do you make him look sexy AND undead? It's a silly question but the answer is crucial to the success of this particular horror/romance hybrid. Adrien had to make sure he looked like the same species as the other zombies but also sexier. Where do you place the scars? How do you keep the veins in the same exact spot every day? How do you keep your leading man's mouth looking unhealthy without making him unkissable? 

The answer to the latter question involves "zombie juice" --black food coloring with mouthwash! After the juice, the makeup artist would then fuss over Hoults mouth with a q-tip to clean his teeth so you'd still wanna makeout with him despite him being, you know, a rotten corpse. 

The inside of the lip being black is still considered to be sexy somehow but having green teeth that doesn't work!

Hoult preferred his zombie juice strawberry or vanilla flavored. The more you know... ⌒★

P.S. Since zombie movies are still all the rage I loved this little aside from the director when watching the big makeup team transform 100 or so extras at once.

You know it's funny because extras -- when they're playing humans, sometimes extras can overract a little bit. But when they're dressed as zombies and in zombie makeup, they're all like Meryl Streep. They're all just really in character and amazing. 

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Reader Comments (12)

Interesting! I really enjoyed this movie back in February. Love the soundtrack.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

The question is valid. Zombie films are generally not good in quality and treated as genre, but it's not like the branch care too much about the overall quality of the film (Norbit was nominated, The Wolfman even won). They have been nominated all kind of monsters before (LOTR and Hobbit alone contributed to a few kinds of monsters already LOL), just not zombie. Let's see if they finally add zombie to that list this year, with either Warm Bodies or World War Z. But it depends on how crowded is the monster market this year, they usually reserve one or two spots for period films.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

Since that nomination for The Young Victoria, I don't dare to understand this branch of the Academy.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

I recently watched this and the makeup really stood out to me. Great zombie work on this film.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

What?! They just awarded Thatcher...

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Ouch, Peggy Sue, that's harsh. :)

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay


June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

i LOL'd, Peggy Sue.

I've wondered the same thing though and simply put it down to lazy genre bias since they rarely have the pedigree of a WOLFMAN (period film and iconic make-up artist).

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Can't wait til your review of Warm Bodies, Nathaniel. It's one of my biggest surprises of the year. I found it charming.

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Zombies are such a great challenge for makeup artists and there is so much diversity in the genre that I don't understand why they've never been nominated. Maybe their (understandably) against anything that covers Nicholas Hoults blessing of a face?

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEl

Maybe we have to wait for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonn

The simple answer is that the style of zombie makeup has not really evolved since the B-movies that brought them into focus decades ago. Other than airbrush and stencil techniques (hohum for a long while), makeup artists still use the same basic techniques from films like Night of the Living Dead. You pale out the face, sink the eyes back, and build up details with waxes or prosthetics cast in the style of wax.

I will say that Warm Bodies had a great look to the makeup designs--the layers of airbrushed veins were really sharp--and involved the reverse transformation in a very smart way. The CGI enhancement actually made the film look better and the Academy does go for CGI (except for when it doesn't).

The real answer is that you never know what the Makeup voters are looking for. It's the wild nature of the field. You have Academy Award winning beauty makeup artists voting on the same potential nominees as Academy Award winning monster effects artists.

June 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

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