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Team FYC: "The Boxtrolls" for Costume Design

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Andrew on The Boxtrolls.

Will an animated film ever get a fair chance of making it into Oscar's costume design category?  

This past decade alone, the stop motion wing of animated film has impressed with characters from Corpse Brides to Foxes Fantastic. It's a shame to ignore fine costume design simply because it's not happening in a live action setting. Enter: this consideration for The Boxtrolls for a myriad of reasons.

The intricate designs amaze with their attention to period detail - there’s almost no question that were this a live action film Cook’s work would emerge as a significant contender. The levels of eccentricity, too, push it up beyond your standard period fare.  I’m moved to think of Jacqueline Durran’s Oscar-winning work on Anna Karenina (2012), which wasn't just ornate as period work but also overwhelmingly in touch with the idiosyncratic tone of its film and the characters inside it. From Winnie to Lady Portley-Rind to Mr Trout and onwards The Boxtrolls is an impressive case of costume actually informing character. When a character's costume is so specific it couldn't work for another character, you know it's on to something. For The Boxtrolls, costumes are not incidental (which makes the ommission of Cook's name from the credits for her work on IMDB's page for The Boxtolls that more egregious).

Laika Inc (the studio that brought us ParaNorman and the excellent Coraline) seem to be campaigning hard for Deborah Cook's work to make Oscar history. It’s an ambitious goal and, like acclaimed motion capture acting, it's probably a long road before this becomes an Oscar reality, but the fact that her work is being acknowledged and publicly discussed is a step in the right direction.

If we were to ask you to name five films this year where character attributes are so reflective in and dependent on the specificity of the costumes, wouldn’t The Boxtrolls be on your list? For sheer beauty and innovation wouldn't it make your top three? That’s a good enough reason to launch a rousing campaign for Cook’s work.

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Reader Comments (2)

I think the struggle for recognition in situations like this is probably exacerbated by category confusion. Are the costumes in a film like The Boxtrolls actually costumes, or are they production design elements? For non stop-motion animated films, are they visual effects? Contributions like these can blur the lines between the traditional Oscar categories, which is a difficult obstacle to their recognition.

December 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonny

Jonny, I say the definition is in the name of the category. Costume DESIGN. Production DESIGN. They're not recognising the seamstresses or the carpenters, they're recognising the people who put pen to paper and designed the dresses and the white hats and the box imagery. At least that's where I fall on the matter. Given the Academy has been so ready to adopt cinematography and production design into the visual effects fold where something like AVATAR is clearly a wonder of design, but also a manufacturing of computers, I wonder why they're so stand offish about this particular field. I mean, THE INCREDIBLES should've been a production design nominee, but never stood a chance. And so on.

Now, when it comes to cinematography... that's far trickier and I don't claim to have anything of worth to say how AVATAR has cinematography and not simply technicians who control everything (I know animated movies now have cinematography advisors or whatever, but I'm not sure if its cheating to say Roger Deakins did more for WALL-E than, say, the storyboard artists.

Which is why I raised the question a few days ago of why some critics organisations give awards for cinematography (even the Golden Globes used to!) but not (for instance) costumes when they are so more easily qualtifiable. We don't have to really ask about whether costume design is good or not because there aren't all these extra factors that are going on behind the scenes we're not aware of (unless it's when actual fashion designers come on board ala Armani for Chastain's costumes in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR).

Movies... they're so fluid!

December 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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