Much like everyone else on the planet I have always watched the Academy Awards. Be it at an Oscar party with co-workers checking the results for our office pool, or on the TV of whatever bar I was tending at the time, I haven’t missed one yet. And while I am primarily concerned with who wins best picture or best screenplay, for some reason, I always paid attention to costume design (which is ironic, as anyone who knows me will tell you my fashion sense consists primarily of jeans, converse and out of date band t-shirts). Ever since the 1995 Academy Awards where the brilliant and imaginative costumes for 12 Monkeys (designed by Julie Weiss) lost to Restoration (designed by James Acheson), this category has pissed me off. While I understand the need for historical accuracy, costume design should be so much more than research and clever stitching. It should be imagination and clever stitching. So, that being said, here are the nominees…

Anna Karenina – Jaqueline Durran
Anna-KareninaA boring, Russian period piece, these kinds of things always find their way into the Oscars, if in no other category than this one. Of course, the costumes are lavish and decadent. They are also expected.  Not to say the costumes themselves aren’t inspired by the era of the film — they are — I just don’t see why they were nominated seeing as how these are what the actors pretty much have to be adorned in given the scripts setting.

Les Miserables – Paco Delgado
helena-bonham-carter-sacha-baron-cohen-les-miserables-photoA more difficult challenge, re-imagining a treasured musical that has been done to death. Good luck right? Doesn’t seem like this costume designer needed it. From Javert’s uncomfortable authoritarian garb to Valjeans disheveled desperate threads, this is what a “historical” epic should strive for. Of the three period pieces, this one deserves to be the top of the bunch. But once again, there is a historical template with which to draw “inspiration” from.

Lincoln – Joanna Johnston
LincolnAnother authentic costuming job, well tailored and representative of the iconic characters they cover. Given the fact that 60% of this category are pictures that have some sort of historical context, it is no surprise that Lincoln was nominated as well. Of the three films based on true events, this one must have taken the most research, but again, costume “design” is the key term here. Yes, impressive, but best design?  We know what the soldiers wore, we know what Lincoln wore, we know what everyone wore, so where exactly is the opportunity for a unique blueprint?

Snow White and the Huntsman – Colleen Atwood
Snow-White-and-the-HuntsmanThe first nominee that required some creativity, though to be honest, the drab nature of the outfits, while attempting to serve a purpose one can only lightly describe as “gothic-inspired”, seems to exist only to point out the sharp contrast between the plain-Jane natural beauty of Snow White with that of the carefully tailored extravagance of the wicked queen. Does it serve the purpose of this attempt at a movie? I suppose so, but does it merit an Oscar nod?..

Mirror Mirror – Eiko Ishioka
Mirror-Mirror-CostumesNow we’re talkin’! This movie slipped under the radar it seemed (tongue in cheek fantasy movies clearly went out of style with the 80’s) and the box office embraced Snow White and the Huntsman for some unknown reason. But this film’s worth aside, the costumes were phenomenal! Not so much over the top, as sumptuously insane, the play on traditional fairytale themes combined with sublime nods to folk tales past (as seen especially in Snow White’s varied attire and the playful yet hobo-esque outfits of the dwarves) makes this one stand out from the above mentioned standard Oscar fare.

PREDICTION: Screw it. In the spirit of young me who wanted to see 12 Monkeys get the accolades it deserved I am predicting a win for Mirror Mirror. Here’s hoping the academy takes a walk on the wild side this year and votes accordingly.

Road to the Oscars Series

January 14: Best Visual Effects – Ian Murphy

January 16: Best Sound Editing – Ian Murphy

January 18: Best Sound Mixing – Michael Benedict

January 21: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

January 23: Best Costume Design – Ian Murphy

January 25: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Rebecca Susmarski

January 28: Best Film Editing – Dan Schindel

January 30: Best Production Design – Scott Youngbauer

February 1: Best Animated Feature – Carlos Aguilar

February 4: Best Documentary Feature – Dan Schindel

February 6: Best Documentary Short Subject – Dan Schindel

February 7: Best Live Action Short – Carlos Aguilar

February 8: Best Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 10: Best Foreign Language Film – Carlos Aguilar

February 11: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 12: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Screenplay – Dan Schindel

February 14: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Supporting Actor – Angela Stern

February 17: Best Supporting Actress – Hiko Mitsuzuka

February 18: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 19: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 20: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Picture – Kit Bowen

February 24: 85th Annual Academy Awards