The nominees for Best Costume Design for 2011 have been made by the Academy, and the contenders offer an excellent field of choices. The five nominees, as so often happens, are for films taking place in past eras, and two celebrate the early age of film itself. The costumes of the five films are all excellent in their own way, and the popularity of each film will have much to do with which one wins. The costume designer members of the Academy's Art Directors Branch make the nominations, but it's the entire Academy membership that votes.
The Artist has gotten a lot of buzz and is riding with strong momentum to pick up major awards. The costume design was done by Mark Bridges, designer of There Will Be Blood, The Italian Job, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights among others. The plot of The Artist begins in 1927 Hollywood, when the flapper era was in full swing. The female lead is played by the photogenic Berenice Bejo, who displays all the pluck and irrepressibility that characterized flapper film stars like Joan Crawford and Clara Bow. In fact Bridges was inspired by the flapper costumes of Joan Crawford as designed by Adrian in Our Dancing Daughters.
Mark Bridges did careful research and looked at many actual dresses of the era. But just wearing vintage was not really an option for a variety of reasons, including that the role of a costume designer is to design clothes. Mr. Bridges reinterpreted the clean lines and sexy short skirts of the 1920s into more modern tastes. The straight lines and flattened busts of the 1920s was modified slightly to be more flattering, showing more of the figure in hips, a trim waist, and a defined bust line in the outfits for the sexy Bejo. For the beautiful gown above, Bridges used a gold lame and black satin brocade made into the border of a flapper dress modelled after a vintage original.
The styles of the late 20s changed considerably by the early 1930s. As The Artist itself moves into the 30s, Mark Bridges showed more subtle but noticeable changes in Bejo's outfits. This is when the modern look of glamour really began, and Bridges shows that flair and the increasing status of stardom that the character of Peppy Miler achieves. And the costumes of the falling star George Valentin tell his story equally well, his costumes detriorate as hers become more sophisticated.
Once upon a time costume Oscars had two categories, one for black & white films and one for color. It was felt then that color costumes had an advantage over the b&w versions. We'll see if this has any bearing today.The costumes for The Artist are in perfect harmony with the story and its characterization. It achieves all the best in what costume design is all about.
Another nominee is Jane Eyre, yes a new version of the novel filmed countless times in movies and TV mini-series. The 2011 version stars Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, with costume design by Michael O'Connor. O'Connor is very talented and skilled in designing period costume. He won an Oscar for The Duchess (2009).
O'Connor has designed very period-appropriate costumes for the film. They are not flashy but rather done in a more realistic style using more somber colors and appropriate fabrics.
Mia Wasikowska is pictured above arriving at Rochester's estate. She wears a costume made of a fabric with ribboned patterns, cut and mitered at various angles for an interesting effect.
Michael Fassbender as Rochester and Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram are shown above. The bold striping on Imogen's dress is beautiful but also shows her off as the more likely choice for Rochester's affection.
Dame Judi Dench plays the role of Mrs Fairfax, wearing a costume appropriate to her older age and station. The costumes of Jane Eyre are expertly designed and made. Movies set in this era always seem to be favored to win Best Costume.
|Sally Hawkins is shown as Mrs. Reed.|
Madonna directed the film W.E., a double-tiered story like Julie & Julia with the inspiration being the life of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, soon to be the Duke and Duchess of York. The costumes were designed by Arianne Phillips,with the huge task of costuming the role of the Duchess, a famous clotheshorse with impeccable taste and a couturier wardrobe.
Andrea Riseborough plays the Duchess of Windsor, shown above with James D'Arcy as the Duke. The costumes capture the everyday elegance that was part of the Windsor's life. Arianne Phillips went through couturiere Madeleine Vionnet's archive to recreate two actual Vionnet gowns that had been made for the Duchess. Jewelry also made up a big part of the Windsor aura. Real jewels from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels were loaned, and even Madonna loaned some of her own jewels in a pinch.
The range of costumes in W.E. was impressive, from the formal elegance and couture inspired costumes of the famous couple to the modern chic costumes worn by Abby Cornish as Wally. Ms. Phillips also had to produce the look of lavishness in the costumes on a tight budget. Nonetheless, some 60 costume changes were used for Wallis, a huge amount in a film.
The Elizabethan period is always a popular setting for costume drama. Last year Anonymous
hit the screens with a plot based on another writer having actually written Shakespeare's play.
It was not a hit at the theaters but the costumes were beautifully designed and executed.They were designed by German costume designer Lisy Christl.
Vanessa Redgrave plays Queen Elizabeth, here with Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford. The balloon sleeves and ruff collar are a staple image for Queen Elizabeth, who has been beautifully costumed ever since the early years of cinema.
Rafe Spall is shown above as William Shakespeare, in baggy breeches and an embroidered jacket. Normally Elizabethan films are a shoe-in for Best Costume awards, but the lack of success at the box office and the controversial subject matter make Anonymous a long-shot for the Oscar.
Hugo was a real crowd-pleaser and popular within the film community because of its setting at the beginning of cinema and that it was a children's film directed by Martin Scorsese. Three-time costume Oscar winner Sandy Powell designed the costumes, set in the early 20th century. While the costumes are excellently done as would be expected from Ms. Powell, the scope of the costuming was limited and therefore not likely to be the favorite for the award.
Other critically popular films like The Help were not nominated in the costume design category. The period films nominated this year would usually be the favorites for the Oscar.
With its paean to early Hollywood and its beautiful and now fashionable flapper dresses, I would predict The Artist as this year's Oscar winner for Best Costume design.