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Let's Talk Costume Design

Manuel here to talk costume design, one of my favorite Oscar categories. Today’s detour into this category comes courtesy of this very cool “Oscar by the numbers” infographic MTV came up with which makes the bold statement that “Zero” is “the number of oscar nominations for women behind the scenes.” I’m sure they were hoping to point out the absence of women like Gillian Flynn (in Adapted Screenplay) and Ava Duvernay (in Directing) but isn’t it horribly misleading? You don’t have to go far to see Oprah Winfrey & Dede Gardner (Selma), Cathleen Sutherland (Boyhood) and Helen Estabrook (Whiplash) nominated in the Best Picture category, but you’re mostly also ignoring the women nominated in Production Design, Make up and Hairstyling and, of course, Costume Design. Aren’t these women working “behind the scenes”? This last category is to my mathematically challenged mind (and I’d have to double check the shorts categories to be sure), the only one outside of the actress nominations where we see an overabundance of female nominees.

And so, I wanted to highlight the work of the five costume designers nominated this year. If there’s one thing to be said about the increasingly PR-driven world of Oscar campaigning is the careful attention to the crafts categories as showcases for those working “below the line” as one would say. And so here are sketches (with accompanying links of where to read more about these designers and their work) from the five nominated films...

“One has to immerse oneself into his world. I love his world. It seems naive at first glance but it is extremely sophisticated and has many layers" Vogue

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Milena Canonero 
Winner for Marie Antoinette, Chariots of Fire and Barry Lyndon
This marks her first nomination since winning for that gloriously decadent cake of a Sofia Coppola film.

“I kind of wanted the texture of the hair and the dress to tie together. It was all amplified” to Vanity Fair 

Into the Woods - Colleen Atwood 
Winner for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Alice in Wonderland 
I was seriously trying to come up with a "first" for Ms Atwood (not her first musical nomination, not her first Marshall nomination, not her first fairy tale nomination, not her first Sondheim nomination... well, you get the idea!)

“I don’t really do sketches and this process doesn’t really lend itself to sketches, anyway,” Ms. Durran said. “You’re just trying things on and working it out on the actor.” New York Times

Mr. Turner - Jacqueline Durran
Winner for Anna Karenina 
This marks her first nomination without Joe Wright’s muse Keira Knightley.

"[She] wears that really crazy, like, cut-out bathing suit that like comes at you, but then from the back, all it is is those shoulder straps and her little really low back where you see the little top of her butt crack," he says with a laugh to InContention.

Inherent Vice - Mark Bridges
Winner for The Artist
This marks his first nomination since his win for that French silent black and white film. With recent nominations for Nine, Milk and American Hustle has the late 60s/early 70s finally become “period” enough to be recognized?

"Every day we were talking to [Angelina] and showing her different samples and doing fittings. All the designs were led by how Angelina envisioned the savage elegance of her character." The Hollywood Reporter

Maleficent - Anna B. Sheppard 
The sole non-winner, previously nominated for The Pianist and Schindler’s List 
This marks her first nomination outside of World War II dramas (which makes her non-nominated work forCaptain America: The First Avenger and Inglorious Basterds all the more surprising)

By the numbers:
29 - Number of combined Oscar nominations
8 - Number of combined Oscar wins
1975 - Earliest win (Canonero)
2012 - Latest win (Durran)

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Into the Woods
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel 
Nathaniel's Ballot - icymi 

Will Canonero prevail, cementing Wes Anderson’s film as the below the line sweeper none of us expected it to be until the guilds spoke up? Which costume designer were you rooting for that fell short on nomination morning?

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Reader Comments (11)

GBH should take this easily. Brilliant work from start to finish.

I liked the work in Snowpiercer. Although you mostly just see the passengers in the back, there was some terrific stuff done in the front cars that just flashed by.

I remember when it actually was true that women weren't nominated. The best picture nomination for The Sting was ground breaking because one of the producers was a woman and this had never happened before. There were think pieces on whether the film had a chance to win because of this.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

GBH should and will win!

My ballot:

The Book of Life
God Help the Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Northern Soul
The Zero Theorem

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I hope Canonero wins.

Patricia Norris, The Immigrant.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Atwood's first Streep nomination?

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Wait-Lemony Snickett. You're right-that is hard!

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

If Atwood wins, it will be the first time she does without competing against Sandy Powell.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

My vote goes to GBH - Canonero did such a variety of uniforms, suits, and dresses that brought that film such life. I really hope this film takes both production design and costuming. Such a delight to step into this vivid world.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

If Budapest wins (and I think it will), they will truly be honoring the best work of the year. Stunning! Though I actually think the costumes were marvelous in all three of Tilda's 2014 films.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

When Ms. Canonero's name is announced, she'll have won an Oscar in four of the past five decades. Amazing.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Milena's victories were all so well-deserved. Simply stunning achievements. GBH is in that canon. When she wins, it will be a highlight of the evening.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Of the 3 I've seen, I'd pick GBH too.

I haven't seen Inherent Vice or Mr. Turner. Jacqueline Durran's costumes on Anna Karenina were so memorable and swoon worthy. That was one of my favorite recent wins.

I think Stephen Noble had a good year. His costumes for The Theory of Everything were just right, very character based. I regret that his work on The Two Faces of January didn't get more recognition. Those costumes were striking and told so much about the characters, both in their pristine state and their carefully arranged dissolution.

The biggest disappointment for me this year was the costumes for Into The Woods (and the production design, omg). They were "nice enough", "good enough", but didn't say anything specific about character, and had no sense that Stephen Sondheim's work is different from everything else. I'd never seen Into The Woods before, and I still feel like I haven't seen it.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteradri

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