Friday, February 10, 2012

Best of 2011: Makeup

No thoughts on Stockard Channing? None? C'mon, people...

... for nailing gradations of disease and of bureaucratic fatigue, defamiliarizing stars, and making early, horrifying close-ups count for a lot;

... for acing the lost art of making stars look casually fabulous but also making nuances of grooming pay off as key story and character beats;

... for Jung's piano-wire primness and his wife's pallor, Freud's avuncular semi-elegance, Otto's hirsute salaciousness, Sabine's ruddy darkness;

... for the way the women, in particular, vacillate between unremarkable looks and Diane Arbus uncanniness, and for Jane's well-managed severity;

... for responding with gusto to the film's Guignol trappings, managing to make sad, bloodthirsty clowns as alien as anything in Pan's Labyrinth.

Runners-Up: Lots to recognize this year. Shortly after these five came Midnight in Paris, which found delicious and character-appropriate guises for the characters who clicked the best in other ways (Wilson, Stoll, Hiddleston DALÍ!) but also those that the movie otherwise struggled with (Sheen, McAdams, Seydoux); The Artist, with its dapper resuscitations of late-20s and early-30s cosmetic regimes in Hollywood, which probably would have been a finalist if they could have gone a little easier on Penelope Ann Miller and figured things out a little better with Beth Grant; The Iron Lady, which excels at rendering Meryl Streep as a plausibly old and broken woman, even though the work captured Margaret Thatcher at some times more than others (and the work on Carol and all the advisors and Parliamentarians was also very good); Coriolanus, which smears soldiers with clots of blood and dirt just like the best of 'em, but also finds the right looks for the Cox and Redgrave characters; Margaret, which found ingenious ways to make Paquin, Damon, Ruffalo, Broderick, and Culkin look exactly as they did in 2005 (calm down, I'm kidding...); Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which hits a lot more targets than it misses in terms of taking its actors back to the 1970s and aging some of them subtly forward; Higher Ground, which did aging on a budget better than a lot of deep-coffered studio pictures do, and which settled into a semi-rural community (in period, no less) without the usual Hollywood overlay of "Pity these poor people and their hair, oh my god their hair"; and The Ides of March, which has a great feel for the snipped, buffed, and manicured look of top-line politicians, the harried and tired look of top-line campaign managers, and the oddly glammy aspects of characters like Gosling's, Wood's, and even Minghella's, which made me wonder if they're in this game for the ideals or for the eyeballs. Rounding out the runners-up are Sleeping Beauty, which extended its aesthetic of creepily meticulous refinement to Emily Browning's bone-china whitness and Rachael Blake's intimidating chignon; and Hanna, whose weird look for the title character I eventually got used to, and which had a lot of fun with Blanchett and Hollander.

Close But Misses the Cutoff: Albert Nobbs does an ample and impressively subtle job with Close, but the iffy rendering of Hubert is a demerit, and I never really bought either character as people who'd be universally believed as men; and Meek's Cutoff, which gets the right amount of sun, dust, and grit into everyone's hair and skin and nails but way overdoes it on the Greenwood character, I think.

Films I Hated to Skip Before Posting: 13 Assassins, Anonymous, City of Life and Death, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, House of Pleasures, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Mysteries of Lisbon, Potiche

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Blogger Shtajner said...

It's so unusual putting Crazy, Stupid, Love. into nominees in makeup category. I'm not sure I even noticed any special makeup in it. (I don't really know what to say about this.)
Totally agree on Contagion and Jane Eyre (the old, dying Sally Hawkins was my favorite), and also Midnight in Paris (Dali!) and Sleeping Beauty (Rachael Blake's face and character were the perfect match).
As for Albert Nobbs, I tried and tried, but I just couldn't buy any of them were men, but I'm not sure makeup artists had a lot to do with it (and to think it was her pet-project and that she worked on it for more than two decades...)!
Looking forward to reading about other categories, especially the acting!

7:48 PM, February 10, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Shtajner (Do you say "Shteiner" or "Shtayner"?): "Unusual" is a very diplomatic word. My enthusiasm for the makeup in Crazy, Stupid, Love. is about:

... honoring makeup artists not just when they succeed in recapturing bygone versions of glamor but when they succeed equally at making contemporary stars glamorous, at a time when we're both more drunk on "glamor" and less adept at evoking it;

... achieving this while letting adults look like adults and kids look like kids and middle-age look like middle-age, three tasks that a lot of movies bungle badly, especially in this genre;

... precisely calibrating just how far Carell's character has let himself go at the beginning without overdoing him as a "schlub" and then measuring his graduation into eligible bachelor in very fine degrees of complexion, precise haircuts;

... allowing us to gauge Carell's backsliding into regret for his wife or else his determination to succeed without her based on how much he looks like he's maintaining even tiny details of grooming, or when he's letting himself slip (which is also a silent indicator of how much he's buying the Gosling character's schtick or not);

... finding a haircut, a skin tone, and details of manicure and primping that show us that Gosling isn't just casually dashing but works at it, maybe a little too hard, but not so much that he becomes an absurd stock figure;

... little details like emphasizing Tomei's crow's feet and incipient wrinkles rather than concealing them, so that, as beautiful as she is (maybe even more beautiful, via these telltale signs of being real), we understand why she's in that bar and is willing to go home with that guy (she's not getting any younger....);

... etc., etc.! Smart choices everywhere, in a movie that's not asking for any credit for them.

10:53 PM, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Shtajner said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:24 AM, February 11, 2012  
Blogger Shtajner said...

Well, thank you for this very detailed explanation. It makes me want to see the film again (but probably not soon, because I haven't seen many 2011 films I should have).

(I say Shtayner, but it's written Shtajner because in Serbia we write the way we speek.)

5:26 AM, February 11, 2012  
Blogger Kate Biscoe said...

Thank you! I LOVED working on Contagion. Soderbergh's direction was that the virus should never look worse than the flu because "suspicion" is the actual virus. The look of the illness had to be subtle and star actors needed to die right away because a plague does not discriminate! - Kate Busxoe

8:39 PM, February 08, 2017  

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