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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 19, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Filling out the Oscar ballot: The costume race

I’ve got costumes on the brain today, after sitting up last night watching men’s figure skating and wondering why, why Evan Lysacek saw fit to compete with a snake wrapped around his (padded) shoulders. Snakes don’t like ice, do they? Anyway, one of my tasks in the coming week and a half is to fill out my Oscar ballot, which goes in the paper so everyone can see when I get stuff wrong. Some years I do splendidly (I think I had 21 out of 24 last year, or the year before); some years I’m lousy. (I got 12 right one year. That was embarrassing.) Anyway, this year looks like an easy year to call (top eight categories: Hurt Locker, Bigelow, Bridges, Bullock, Waltz, Mo’Nique, Hurt Locker, Up in the Air — or at least that’s today’s thinking), which probably means I’m going to screw up big-time.
Anyway, the costume category — one of my favorites because there are usually some nice hats involved — usually isn’t too hard to predict: the showiest period movie (the sort of movie that used to be in contention for Best Picture, but has gone out of fashion) usually wins. Recent winners are “The Duchess,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Marie Antoinette,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The Aviator.” But this year’s crop is a little harder to call. You’ve got the lavish gowns of “The Young Victoria,” designed by Oscar veteran Sandy Powell (an eight-time nominee and two-time winner, for “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Aviator”).

(See, I told you there’d be pretty hats. Photo credit: Liam Daniel, courtesy of Apparition Films.)
Then we have three-time nominee Janet Patterson’s imaginative, almost magical designs for “Bright Star” — for a character who is herself a dress designer.

(Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne, in her best party ruff. Photo courtesy Apparition Films.)
Colleen Atwood, also a regular in this category (eight nominations, two wins for “Chicago” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”) — and a former Seattleite, so it’s hard to root against her — made the slinky, silky, lingerie-heavy costumes for “Nine.”

(Penelope Cruz, showing that you don’t need to wear much to get an Oscar nomination. Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company.)
First-time nominee Monique Prudhomme’s fanciful costumes for “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” looked like they might have been packed away in some Victoria trunk, along with some magic dust.

(Heath Ledger and Lily Cole; photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
And finally, first-timer Catherine Leterrier re-created the spirit of designer Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel in “Coco Before Chanel,” a film which used both Leterrier’s designs and, in a late scene, many exquisite Chanel originals.

(Audrey Tautou; photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
All are lavish; all are period; all are skilled. None of the films will get caught up in an Oscar sweep, so that’s no help, so it’ll come down to which, to many voters, sounds like the worthiest. I’m thinking “Coco Before Chanel” may get a lot of votes because it’s the most self-consciously fashion-y movie, but it’s a bit tricky because Leterrier did not design every costume in the film (though she did do the vast majority). I personally would like to see “Bright Star” win, as it’s an exquisite film that deserves recognition, but Patterson was not working with the budget some of the other designers were. “The Young Victoria” might be the most conventional choice — and, yes, the gowns are gorgeous — so I think I’ll predict Sandy Powell for now. But oh, where is “Cheri”?

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