All five costumers nominated for their film work this year have been previously nominated and all but one has at least one Oscar. The only designer not to have won an Oscar is Anna B. Sheppard who is nominated this year for Maleficent. Sheppard is better known for her work in historical films – especially those set in the 1940s: The Pianist, Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Inglourious Basterds and Captain America. Maleficent’s costumes are historically based fantasy and are an opulent recreation of the Disney cartoon classic, but it isn’t always easy to tell where the costuming ends and the CGI begins.
Colleen Atwood has been nominated for another historical-fantasy Into the Woods. Atwood often works with Tim Burton and has won Oscars for Alice in Wonderland, Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. Atwood’s work for Into the Woods is excellent, but she has had the greatest freedom to create her fairy tale characters. While fantasy film costumers are free to mix colours, periods and styles, historical costumers are limited by the reality of historical accuracy. To borrow an old adage – it’s like comparing apples and oranges.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is also an historically-based fantasy, costumed by Milena Canonero, whose long career of Oscar-winning costuming includes: Marie Antoinette, Chariots of Fire, and Barry Lyndon. Canonero’s strength is historical drama, but the Grand Budapest Hotel is a comedic film set in a non-specific pre-war European nation. Although this type of film requires no historical authenticity, Canonero creates an original alternate universe with believable period costuming.
Finally we get to the films that are historically based. The first of which is Mr. Turner. I have not been a fan of Jacqueline Durran’s work because her approach to historical authenticity is loose. Her previous work includes Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and she has won an Oscar for Anna Karenina, which although historical, was presented as a theatrical fantasy. Mr. Turner, however, is being presented as an historical film, and I find her work takes too many liberties with accuracy, although her work is exceptional at conveying mood.
Finally, there is Inherent Vice, costumed by Mark Bridges who I first noticed for the exceptional job he did on Boogie Nights. Bridges won his Oscar for The Artist, and although he used a lot of off-the-rack repro dresses for that film, he created the right look and feel for the period. Inherent Vice also captures a feeling – Los Angeles during that cusp of time when the 1960s turned into the 1970s, wedged between the Manson murders and Disco.
So who will win? The academy doesn’t like giving out costume awards for recent eras so we can safely nix Inherent Vice; Mr. Turner was my least favourite for costuming but that doesn’t mean anything since I don’t get a vote; Into the Woods is good but it’s not anything unexpected. This leaves two dark horses for winners. Anna B. Sheppard who did a magnificent job recreating the Disney inspired vision of Maleficent, and Milena Canonero who created a pre-war alternate universe. I would be happy with either and would really like to see Sheppard recognized, but I have to give Canonero the edge.
PS: Am a bit surprised Selma didn’t get a nomination for best costuming…