Those Oscar Missed: Best Costume Design


Costume design is essential to every motion picture.  It can make or break a film; if done correctly it can make the viewer believe in the authenticity of the time period the film depicts.  Historical films tend to be popular nominees, and its hard to blame the Academy for nominating them; a lot of great work has been done for historical films.  In the last few years, people (including myself) have had to recognize that newer films that are set in the 1970s and 1980s actually do count as period films (where does the time go?), and any costumes made for those kinds of period films count as period costumes.  Sci-fi and fantasy films also produce great costume designs especially since they’re created for worlds that don’t exist (or potentially don’t exist yet).  The five major snubs I’ve found for Best Costume Design will each fall into one of the sub-categories mentioned above.

One major snub that comes to mind is 1982’s The Dark Crystal.  Conceptual designer Brian Froud was also credited as costume designer since it was also his responsibility to bring to life the various costumes he designed.  There were the costumes he designed for the Mystics, the Gelflings, the Skeksis, Aughra, the Pod people, and the UrSkeks.  The costumes were other-worldly and yet felt familiar as they suited the characters they clothed. It’s a shame Froud wasn’t nominated, since he has yet to receive a single nomination.

The actual nominees at the 55th Academy Awards were:
Gandhi – Bhanu Athaiya & John Mollo (*Winner)
Sophie’s Choice – Albert Wolsky
La Traviata – Piero Tosi
Tron – Elois Jenssen & Rosana Norton
Victor Victoria – Patricia Norris

A surprising major snub would have to be 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.  John Mollo did a great job with the various 19th century Britsh society period costumes that he designed, as well as the outfit that Christopher Lambert wore as Tarzan when he was at home in the jungle.  There were also the explorer outfits that were created, and even the ape costumes worn by the ape performers were well done.  It’s still surprising that Mollo didn’t get nominated here.  He is a two-time nominee, though (2 wins for 1977’s Star Wars and 1982’s Gandhi).

The actual nominees at the 57th Academy Awards were:
Amadeus– Theodor Pistek (*Winner)
2010 – Patricia Norris
The Bostonians – Jenny Beavan & John Bright
A Passage To India– Judy Moorcroft
Places In the Heart – Ann Roth

Another major snub that comes to mind is 1992’s Batman Returns.  Bob Ringwood and Mary E. Vogt did a terrific job with the designs, making slight alterations to the Batman suit (such as creating bat suits out of a thinner, more flexible rubber material), as well as creating new costumes for Catwoman (using the approach that her costume should look like it was put together by hand), the Penguin, the various members of the Penguin’s circus gang, the Ice Princess, and Max Shreck (Shreck’s wardrobe was inspired by banker J.P. Morgan).  Ringwood himself is a two-time nominee (two nods for 1987’s Empire of the Sun and 2004’s Troy).  Vogt has never been nominated for an Oscar.

The actual nominees at the 65th Academy Awards were:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Eiko Ishioka (*Winner)
Enchanted April – Sheena Napier
Howard’s End – Jenny Beavan & John Bright
Malcolm X – Ruth Carter
Toys – Albert Wolsky

A film that I believe was a major snub in every category, including this one, is 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Janty Yates did an excellent job in creating designs for all of the various Crusaders (including the use of chainmail armor for the Crusaders who went into battle), the Templars, the various Muslim soldiers and leaders, as well as the peasants and the Christian monarchy in Jerusalem.  Yates made the costumes as authentic as possible, and it’s a shame she wasn’t nominated for her work here.  She does have one nod, though, which she won for 2000’s Gladiator.

The actual nominees at the 78th Academy Awards were:
Memoirs of a Geisha – Colleen Atwood (*Winner)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Gabriella Pescucci
Mrs. Henderson Presents – Sandy Powell
Pride and Prejudice – Jacqueline Durran
Walk the Line – Arianne Phillips

Another major snub would be 2009’s Watchmen.  Michael Wilkinson did an outstanding job in adapting the costumes from the graphic novel as much as possible and making changes in the designs wherever needed.  Perhaps the biggest change was Ozymandias’ costume, which better reflected the world’s smartest man in the film than in the graphic novel (nipples were even added to his chest plate as a spoof of the Batman and Robin costumes).  All the other costumes were faithfully recreated with some slight improvements.  It’s too bad Wilkinson didn’t get nominated for his work on this film since he has yet to receive a single Oscar nod.

The actual nominees at the 82nd Academy Awards were:
The Young Victoria – Sandy Powell (*Winner)
Bright Star – Janet Patterson
Coco Before Chanel – Catherine Leterrier
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Monique Prudhomme
Nine – Colleen Atwood

Other films that were considered include 1978’s Superman, 1984’s Dune, and 2010’s Tron: Legacy.

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6 Responses to Those Oscar Missed: Best Costume Design

  1. Maybe because I am a big fan of “The Dark Crystal” and I mentally check-in when I hear or read it, but it seems to be appearing on a few of your Oscar snub lists.

    • Zac Petrillo says:

      I realized that too. Jake’s a big Jim Henson fan and I know how those guys get when you talk ill about the master. Personally, I agree that “The Dark Crystal” remains underrated. It’s hard to argue that it deserved more attention in these tech categories.

      • I didn’t actually intend to include “The Dark Crystal” as many times as I have in these lists. Coincidentally, this was actually going to be the last category snub list “The Dark Crystal” was going to appear on.

  2. Pingback: Those Oscar Missed: Best Costume Design | THE CINEMATIC FRONTIER

  3. Pingback: Those Oscar Missed Volume 1: Best Costume Design | THE CINEMATIC FRONTIER

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