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Makeup

The analysis

There’s only three nominees in the makeup category, and Oscar has never gone with more than four since its inception as a stand-alone category in 1981. While there is no obvious pattern to what Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members like, showier displays of makeup transformation such as those in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Men in Black” tend to win. (Did Salma Hayek’s transformative unibrow help “Frida” secure a statuette?)

“The Passion of the Christ” scored one of its three nominations for makeup. The work of Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley, who led an enormous team of artists, might not seem award winning, but there is subtle magic in making up a face for the camera that must not look made up. It was a big job, and the authentic look of the wounds that Jim Caviezel receives on his way to Cavalry might sway voters.

The transformation of Jim Carrey into several different characters may push “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” into pole position. Makeup artist Bill Corso experimented with a big bag of tricks. “We basically supplied Jim with the world’s greatest disguise kit,” he says. “We started putting stuff on him and coming up with different characters.” Corso is proud that “people were standing right next to Jim on set and they didn’t even know it was him.” The work of Corso and Valli O’Reilly is the most obviously elaborate in the category, and Oscar voters like to see what they get in makeup.

“The Sea Inside” delivers an Oscar-friendly mix of transformation and subtlety. Jo Allen and Manuel Garcia had to turn the hunky 35-year-old Javier Bardem into a convincing middle-age quadriplegic. The results? Too real. Bardem’s facial expressions are preserved despite the wrinkles wrought by makeup; his dark thick hair is thinned and grayed. It is an amazing alteration that Oscar voters might honor. The history of the voting seems to go against a film like this although, in this category, sure bets are hard to find.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Valli O’Reilly and Bill Corso

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: None

Why they’ll win: The transformation of Jim Carrey.

Why they won’t: Voters might go with the expertly applied gore of “The Passion of the Christ.”

The Passion of the Christ

Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: None

Why they’ll win: The huge task of making up a large cast in a camera-ready yet natural-looking way will sway voters; the gore factors in big as well.

Why they won’t: “Snicket’s” mastery of the fantastic will make it hard to beat.

The Sea Inside

Jo Allen and Manuel Garcia

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: None

Why they’ll win: The transformation of Javier Bardem into middle-aged Ramon Sampedro is so convincing that flashbacks of a younger Sampedro — Bardem sans wrinkles — are startling.

Why they won’t: Oscar usually goes for a flashier display of the makeup arts.

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