The Academy’s makeup and hairstyling branch is difficult to peg down. Of all the various branches, its members often seem the most uninterested in a film’s critical or box office success. Movies like “The Lone Ranger,” “Norbit,” “Click” and “The Time Machine” have scored nominations in the past, regardless of being perceived as creative failures otherwise.
Not only that, but this is a branch that can drag hidden contenders into the light. Look at movies like “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” or “Il Divo,” which went on to out-of-the-blue nominations.
So it can make for an exciting race. How do things appear to be shaping up this year?
One film has stood out considerably in the field since hitting theaters over the summer: “Star Trek Beyond.” Once again featuring a variety of alien designs, it would be a bit of a surprise if it fell off, particularly with the work done to actor Idris Elba, completely covered in prosthetics as the film’s antagonist. Then again, the last film in the franchise, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” missed the cut.
Speaking of prosthetics on stars, Ryan Reynolds sports gnarly burn patterns and scarring in Fox’s box office smash “Deadpool.” The film isn’t exactly an Oscar contender besides (though the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. sure took a shine to it), but this arena makes the most sense for recognition.
Fun fact: Every single Mel Gibson-directed film has been nominated in this category except one. And interestingly enough, the one that missed — his 1993 debut “The Man Without a Face” — featured a heavy makeup component. That’s not necessarily reason enough to assume “Hacksaw Ridge” is poised for a spot, but it’s noteworthy. The film boasts an array of gruesome war injuries that only add to the harrowing experience.
Often the branch can zero in on period-specific hair design and detail. Members have a number of films to choose from this year in that regard, from “Rules Don’t Apply” and “Florence Foster Jenkins,” to “Hidden Figures” and “Love & Friendship.” The most likely of them to stand out is “Jackie,” which elegantly brings Jacqueline Kennedy to the big screen.
Another period piece to keep an eye on is the Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” The 1950s Hollywood throwback involves a fair share of era-specific work, but also examples of movie-set makeup for certain backlot sequences. It’s a film that shouldn’t be counted out in the crafts categories across the board, to be honest.
A few other actors besides Elba and Reynolds had their dashing good looks futzed with by makeup artists this year. Aaron Eckhart, in addition to putting on weight for “Bleed for This,” saw his hairline scooted back quite a bit. Ditto Matthew McConaughey in “Gold.”
The practical elements of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” or “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” could certainly find love. The work done on Ruth Negga and particularly Joel Edgerton in “Loving” may get some respect, too. And you shouldn’t underestimate the best picture heavy — “La La Land” — in any category.
But what completely unexpected contender is lurking? “Suicide Squad,” with Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn designs leading the way? How about something like Matteo Garrone’s fantasy film “Tale of Tales?” Perhaps “Nocturnal Animals” could show up? There are some brutal injury effects in “Green Room,” as well as some gross dead-guy stuff in “Swiss Army Man.”
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?” “The Neon Demon?” “The Handmaiden?” You could throw just about anything up against the wall.
We’ll see what’s left of the field after the Academy narrows the category down to seven bakeoff contenders next week.