This year brings a wealth of costume-rich movies to see, and several veteran costume designers have secured nominations for Best Costume Design by the Acedemy of Motion Picure Arts and Sciences. The Nominess are: The Grand Budapest Hotel; Inherent Vice; Into the Woods; Maleficent: and Mr Turner. Each of the movies and their costume designs are certainly excellent in their own way. The Academy’s voters have traditionally favored historical costume movies, or fantasies. Rarely has a contemporary costume movie won this award, only once, in memory. Below is my summary of the costumes for each of these nominees and my prediction for the winner.
Watch for my annual Silver Screen Modes Most Glamorous Gown Award here after the the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night February 22nd for the most glamorous red carpet gown.
Wes Anderson’s film about the Grand Budapest Hotel located in the fictional Alpine country of Zubrowka as told through its old concierge M. Gustave, is a bravado of costume design. The costumes were the work of Italian designer Milena Canonero. Ms, Canonero has won three Oscars and has been nominated nine times for Best Costume Design, including her first Oscar for Barry Lyndon in 1975; and for Chariots of Fire; and most recently for Marie Antoinette in 2006.
In the movie M. Gustave is adorned in a purple tailcoat with red piping that complements his dove-gray pants and cutaway vest. The lobby boys’ costumes are also in purple with red striping.
M. Gustave, as played by Ralph Fiennes, is intimate with the old ladies who stay at the hotel, here seen below with Madame D. Madame D. was played by Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup. Ms. Canonero was inspired in the scene below for the design of her gown by a painting by Gustave Klimt.
Jeff Goldblum is shown below as Deputy Kovacs. His costume heightens his demeanor as the serious lawyer he is trying to be. The wide notched lapels are the styles of the 1930s. Ms. Canonero said she drew inspiration by looking at the photos of George Hurrell and the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka.
Into the Woods, brings us into a more typical fantasy, with costume designs by veteran designer Colleen Atwood. Ms. Atwood has won three Oscars for costume design, and this is her eleventh nomination. Into the Woods is based on the Stephen Sondheim Boadway musical hit, adaptated as a movie and directed by Rob Marshall.
Into the Woods stars Meryl Streep as the witch, Johnny Depp as the wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, and Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Atwood used the motif of wood bark to design the textile and gown for Meryl Streep. A leather and satin cording was woven into the chiffon to give it a special texture. For the pouffy-sleeved gown shown above and shown in many publicity shots, ribbons were woven into the fabric.
For Cinderella’s step-sisters, Ms. Atwood used black and taupe colors. She wanted contrast without using black and white. After trying different colors contrasts, she liked the ones shown above the best. Ms. Atwood also used a pale pink for Rapunzel’s costume, with a sheer overlay, giving the ensemble a pale, ethereal look emphasizing that she had been held captive in the tower for so long.
Johnny Depp had suggested the Zoot Suit look himself as a design theme for the wolf’s costume. Ms. Atwood ran with it. The zoot suit had exagerated features and was made famous by singer and band-leader Cab Calloway in the early 1940s and worn by many of the young Mexican-American “Pachucos” in Los Angeles. The long fur collar and tail were actually made from thread. Little Red Riding Hood’s cape and hood were made of specially dyed lamb’s wool.
The third Best Costume nominee is Maleficent, designed by Anna B. Sheppard, and it too is for a fantasy, this one a Walt Disney production starring Angelina Jolie. This is Ms. Sheppard’s third nomination. She has previously been nominated for Schindler’s List, (1992) and The Piano (2002).
Ms. Sheppard stated that she used Disney’s original animated Sleeping Beauty from 1959 as the model for Maleficent’s costume, only slimmer. In her original form, above, Maleficent has her wings. Angelina Jolie makes a great looking fairy Maleficent, her pale skin a contrast to the black horned headpiece and high-collared gown. In the Maleficent costume shown below, Ms. Sheppard used Python skin for the horns. Duck feathers over leather were used for the capelet.
The costume of the three fairies are each very different as they hover over the infant Aurora.. The clothing style is from the High Renaissance.
The next nominee, Mr.Turner takes us to early19th century Britain, and the art world of the eccentric but brilliant painter J.M.W. Turner. Jacqueline Curran designed the costumes in the film directed by Mike Leigh, in their sixth collaboration. She won an Oscar for Anna Karenina, their last film together. Her emphasis was to design in a muted palette of colors, with Mr. Turner’s being on the dark side, typical of the period. This was also done to contrast with the light which was such a focus of his paintings.
Timothy Spall plays Mr. Turner, shown in the photos above and below
The film only covered a twenty-five year time period in his life, so the silhouette of his costumes didn’t much change. The film’s costume budget was also modest. But it was intentional that all the costumes looked “lived-in.”
And now for something completely different, we go to Hollywood in 1970, a place and time I knew well. Inherent Vice, designed by Mark Bridges is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and is based on the Thomas Pynchon 1970-era novel. Bridges has designed all of Anderson’s previous movies, and he won the 2012 Best Costume Oscar for The Artist.
Although set in 1970, the styles were very much that of the hippy-chic modes of late 1960s. In the Pynchon book in particular, the women’s styles emphasized sexiness. The men were either hippies mobsters, or the detectives that were after them for drugs, or various musicians and other gonzo characters.
Katherine Waterston is seen above in one of the vintage styles of the period. Designer Mark Bridges tried to have a short crocheted dress made out of macramé but it never worked. He ended up finding the perfect dress in a vintage store. He did dye it to make it more orange, however. And with a dress this short, pantyhose would have been worn in those days.
Joaquin Phoenix is shown above as detective “Doc” Sportello, next to the prim Reese Witherspoon playing a D.A.. Mark Bridges said he kept his main characters like Doc in very similar costumes, since the plot was complicated, the character’s costumes helped ground the story.
Mark Bridges went to the L.A.County Museum of Art to study the iconic fashions of 1960s/1970s designer Rudi Gernreich. This became the inspiration for Serena Scott Thomas’ bathing suit, shown below. This knock-out piece had no straps in the back and had a very low back at the posterior. It took several fittings to make it work. Serena is the younger sister of Kristin Scott Thomas. Below is shown Mark Bridges’ costume sketch and a photo of her wearing the bathing suit, playing a mobster’s wife named Sloane Wolfmann. Bridges said the bathing suit was one of his favorite costume pieces in the movie.
As I mentioned previously, contemporary costume design rarely wins the Best Costume Design Oscar, which is voted on by all Academy members. Whereas the big marketing and publicity budgets and other techniques of influencing the voters do have a significant role, this is less a factor in the costume award, as is the case with the other craft awards as well.
The costume designer nominees are all experts with excellent work presented here and with notable past achievements. There are several fantasies and historical movies that would seem to please the voters among which to choose from. My own prediction would be that The Grand Budapest Hotel will win. The film’s visual exuberance exempified by its costumes is one of its trademarks. It has already been awarded the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Costume Design Award, and seems to be the front-runner. We will see on Sunday, February 22.