They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Handicapping the Technical Races: Part II

By J. Don Birnam

February 5, 2015

Excuse us... do you know where we might be able to purchase some non-purple clothes?

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Not so fast, Birdman: Boyhood’s win of the ACE Eddie award this past weekend shows the little movie that could will not go quietly into the night. So while we wait for the Directors Guild of America to tell us if this is a runaway year for Birdman, let’s look at the other five technical races that could really shake-up your Oscar pool. Note that most of these guilds will give out their prizes around February 15th, and we will update our predictions accordingly.

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

I was only surprised not to see Maleficent show up here on nominations morning, given the showy make-up on Angelina’s face in that film. But the branch, for all its embrace of critically-panned movies (see: the nomination for Norbit) could not help itself this year and “me too” the general Academy’s Best Picture nominees. This year, two made the list: Foxcatcher, featuring Steve Carrell’s nose, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, featuring Tilda Swinton’s saggy face. Rounding out the lot as the third nominee is fan-favorite The Guardians of the Galaxy, which in my opinion is the deserving winner.

But, like with other technical categories, wins by non-Best Picture nominees when a nominated movie is in the mix are extremely rare. You have to go all the way back to 1997, when Men In Black denied Titanic what would have been a record-setting 12th Oscar and took the Make-up award from under it. Although I am hopeful, I don’t really think that Guardians will repeat the feat - the Academy simply has too many other movies it wants to honor.

The smart money is on Grand Budapest Hotel which, arguably, is the weakest of the field. Tilda’s make-up notwithstanding, the prosthetics in Foxcatcher seem more complicated. Grand Budapest is more a hairstyling job, and perhaps since they have added “& Hairstyling” to the official category name a few years ago, they will look to reward that.

Given that Grand Budapest is very well liked (but, frankly, so is Foxcatcher) and likely to take a lot of technical prizes, that is your safest bet. For a walk on the wild side pick Guardians for the win instead.


Best Costume Design

This is another branch that, like the make-up artists, isn’t afraid to reach out for non-prestige films. Unlike the other tech races, however, here is one where the Academy has not been afraid to reward non-Best Picture nominees over movies that are up for the top prize. Thus, The Great Gatsby bested 12 Years a Slave, and Alice in Wonderland topped The King’s Speech, to give some examples. This year, however, may see the Academy go back to the Best Picture nominee for the win.

The nominations are a respectable bunch. The branch has shown that it is ready to embrace more than period-piece “costume porn,” and has, of late, ventured into more modern 1960s and 1970s pieces, rewarding with nominations the clothing work in American Hustle and, this year, in the deserving Inherent Vice. I don’t think the broader Academy is ready to recognize something like Inherent Vice yet, so you can safely scratch that one off.

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