Oscar History

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12 Days Until Oscar - Colleen Atwood, Anyone?

With 12 days until Oscar let's focus on 12 time Oscar nominee & 3 time winner Colleen Atwood for today's trivia post. As first reported on this site, and since echoed everywhere on other sites for years now, one of the most delightful if idiosyncratic Oscar facts is that Ms Atwood does not win the Oscar unless she is competing against Oscar's other 12 time nominee & 3 time winner, Sandy Powell, and vice versa. We thought this endearing stat would be dismantled last season via either Carol or Cinderella for Sandy Powell but she lost both bids with her peer Atwood out of the race. This season Powell is sitting one out (she had no films released in 2016) while Atwood returns to the short list with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Curiously the situations are reversed next year when Sandy Powell returns with two likely sartorial showcases...

...via the punk & aliens oddity How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Todd Haynes' Carol follow up Wonderstruck which finally reunites him with his original actress muse Julianne Moore. Colleen Atwood will be sitting the year out with no pictures scheduled for release. Perhaps they'll square off again in 2018 (Powell's Mary Poppins Returns vs. something from Atwood... Tomb Raider? Fantastic Beasts 2?) allowing one of them to win again. 


Beloved (1998) was meant to be a major Oscar force in its year but Atwood received the film's only nomination


  1. Little Women (1994)
  2. Beloved (1998)
  3. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  4. Chicago (2002) WINNER
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
  6. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) WINNER
  7. Sweeney Todd (2007)
  8. Nine (2009)
  9. Eyesore in Wonderland (2010) WINNER
  10. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
  11. Into the Woods (2014)
  12. Fantastic Beasts (2016)


But let's get more specific and personal.  I'd argue that the following 7 films contain Atwood's Best Work. They are (in chronological order)...

Not nominated but we'll definitely cover this film in our Three Fittings series around the time we hit it during "Pfandom". The costumes are a constant source of delight throughout the already delightful movie. And, as with her work in Tim Burton's best films, Atwood's invention and inspiration isn't just reserved for the principal actors. 

Not nominated but so iconic. 

ED WOOD (1994)
Not nominated for costumes but the deliciously fuzzy sweatered and quirky work on dozens of true "characters" is special. They preferred her more traditional lovely costuming of Little Women in that same year but, to be fair to Oscar, it was an unusually competitive year: 1994 is surely among the strongest Oscar lineups of all time in that category

If Colleen had to lose this particular Oscar, perhaps the worthiest work of her Burton-specific career and the apotheosis over her fantastical gothic habits, at least she lost to something as genius as Topsy-Turvy (1999) 

CHICAGO (2002)
Okay so she didn't need to WIN the Oscar for this one but the costumes commit to the razzle dazzle and in relatively unobtrusive ways (unlike similar later effort Nine). This was a  strange year for Oscar as the worthiest winner was not even nominated despite a high profile (Far From Heaven)

Won the Oscar -- but let's be honest. It's the type of film that wins costume design Oscars even if the costumes aren't this good.

Among the most imaginative and impactful costuming of any fantasy film. The dropoff in quality between this and its sequel, also designed by Atwood, is kind of alarming though.

What are your favorite Atwood designs? And do you embrace or reject Oscar's constant fascination with her puffy shoulders and ornate gothic fussiness? 

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Reader Comments (15)

Eyesore in Wonderland? Alice in Wonderland.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Nathaniel has been calling it Eyesore in Wonderland for years now.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I'm not a fan.

Seems almost impossible that Edward Scissorhands wasn't nominated.

I love Uma's look in Gattaca and the ugly suit that Jodie wears to her interviews with Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

P.S. We should have a Married to the Mob week or something. I love everything about it.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

On purpose, I might add.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Thanks Troy!

February 14, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Thanks for posting this appreciation. Right there with you on Snow White and the Huntsman, Chicago, Sleepy Hollow, and the delight that is Married to the Mob, and I like that Peggy Sue brings in Silence of the Lambs and Gattaca (and I suppose her work in In Time is somewhat similar to that). I think her work in Fantastic Beasts is strong, but I'm inclined to agree with y'alls take in the podcast that La La or Jackie is likely to win this year.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I think Atwood's best will always be the impeccable costumes in "Little Women". It's a shame she had to compete against "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Queen Margot" that year, two other films with completely brilliant costumes!

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Eyesore in Wonderland--it never gets old! They need to officially just go ahead and change the title in the credits of the movie.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

What's crazy about Edward Scissorhands not being nominated for costumes is that it also wasn't even nominated for its production design OR score! Such easy calls.

I could write a compare and contrast thesis about Atwood and Powell for ages but I will say this about Atwood... when she really hits it out of the ballpark there's a kind of fantastic magic you just can't buy and she manages to conjures it up.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

Ad much as I love Ms. Atwood and I do. Memoirs of a Geisha was truly brilliant on all levels. She should only have 2 Oscars. Her Alice in Wonderland Oscar should have be for I Am Love.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Her film work is always wonderful, but it's rarely mentioned that Atwood also does specialty costumes for TV series. She created the superhero suits for Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

I love her work in Sweeney Todd. I love how she makes the colors pop up even in such a gray movie. Truly inspired and underrated work.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The costume she was making for Superman Lives was awesome. It's a shame it never made it to the big screen.

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Doctor Strange: Also, those superhero suits are among her weakest efforts. Among those, though, the central superhero costume for Arrow might be the absolute weakest single costume of her entire career. (If I didn't tell you it was Colleen Atwood doing it, would "Green-sassin's Creed" there make you have even an inkling that one of the most inspired and respected costume designers ever designed that as opposed to an overzealous and dumb gamer with a needle and thread?)

February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Oh, I totally agree about the Arrow costume.

Full disclosure: I enjoy The Flash and Supergirl, but have never been able to get into Arrow. I only mentioned it because it was Atwood's first costume for this group of shows.

Have you seen the Flash costume for Ezra Miller in the DC features? Admittedly, we've only seen glimpses of it thus far, but the I think her TV costume looks better!

February 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

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