Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2011: Best Costume Design

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.


1. True Grit

2. I Am Love

3. The King’s Speech

4. Alice in Wonderland

5. The Tempest

Missing: Black Swan

I’m still unclear regarding the Black Swan scandal (two of the designers were ineligible because they were not members of the guild, but the supervising designer is a guild member, so…), but regardless, the tulle tutus and freaky feathery swan monster at the end of the film deserved recognition for their striking design.  Instead, the Julie Taymor-Sandy Powell collaboration swiped a spot for what can only be described as Elizabethan punk — black leather, silver metal zippers, studs by the hundreds — for The Tempest, which looks only slightly more visually cohesive than Taymor’s Spiderman. The Tempest was only in theaters for a hot minute, which means few saw it — including me (shame) — thus ensuring that the Academy all but ignores it come voting time.

My aversion to Tim Burton & co.’s dreary visual design extends to Colleen Atwood’s dark-fantasy Barbie-esque costumes. While some predict Alice in Wonderland could be the upset here, the blurred lines between costume and CGI may give members pause when casting their votes. As per usual, it’s safe to bet on Bertie: The King’s Speech‘s gorgeous mid-twentieth century royal attire is complete with lush fabrics and fine furs, ensuring its place in the hearts and votes of the “historical period piece”-obsessed Academy.

That leaves us with the two underdogs: the opulent upper-class Milanese costumes of I Am Love and the, well, gritty western garb of True Grit.  I Am Love is mesmerizing visually, in large part thanks to the sleek, modern lines and bold colors of the Hitchcock-inspired looks visually showcasing Tilda Swinton’s character’s transformation from a solemn Russian to a passionate Italian lover. But with only a costume nomination for the film (especially strange after Swanson received such great reviews for her performance), it’s unlikely to make a stand here. While True Grit has little to no chance of winning this, after taking a look at the video below, its clear how vital the costuming is to this film. Designer Mary Zophres knows her history, and from Rooster’s eye patch to the silly fringed buckskin and layered petticoats and the white animal fur chaps (!), she didn’t fail to miss a single detail, even in the largest of crowd scenes. Zophres created these western misfits just as much as did Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfield, and co., but despite its period nature, the rough fabrics and dark shades of blacks and browns craft a design that is simply too rough to be fully appreciated without a second look.


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This entry was posted on February 26, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Costume Design, Oscar-Nominated.



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