Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Ekio Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood
This year’s Costume nominees come in two different phylums: 1800s Period Realism and Fantasy. That three of the films are set in the same century, each in one way or the other taking on similar themes, seems a convenient surprise. However, each brings something fresh and different to the table, exposing the breath of clothing worn on multiple continents across different classes and races. Similarly, Snow White’s re-imagined worlds re-enforce how the enduring story can spawn multitudes of interpretations.
Two of the nominees, Lincoln and Les Misérables, render the tailored period details of 1800s wardrobes, from the grit of battle to the uniforms of the military to the custom measurements of suits and dresses. Lincoln’s wardrobes are appropriate but somewhat underwhelming. Like the bulk of the picture, the clothing looks well-researched and fitting, however, nothing struck me as unique or challenging. While the costumes here might be the most likely to upset frontrunner Anna Karenina, this isn’t the strongest work in this category. Les Misérables possesses the kind of craft that these major epics are built for. Seamlessly moving between the impoverished to the privileged, Les Misérables has a diversity that’s unseen in any of the other nominees. While nothing feels lavish, it’s striking nonetheless.
Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman are both updates on the classic fairy tale. Snow White and the Huntsman takes on a dark, mysterious, and pedestrian blockbuster approach to its update. By prioritizing shadowy detail and Grand Guignol set pieces, Snow White and the Huntsman put a conspicuously gothic spin on an already cryptic story. The costumes in Mirror Mirror moves Snow White to the opposite end of the spectrum, by playing on its theatrical elements and promoting all of its superficial charms. There’s something more earnest and unique about Tarsem and late costume designer Eiko Ishioka’s approach to wardrobe in Mirror Mirror, without being too overly cute about it. Ishioka’s career has been sadly overlooked by many viewers. A win here would be at least a small bit of retribution.
Anna Karenina stands out as the most garish and grandly-designed of the five nominees. By wearing its costumes on its sleeve, the film has the most likely chance of rising above this pack and winning the Oscar. Using stage play as a thematic metaphor for a world transitioning from the blind glory of classist systems to the brink of revolution, Karenina is a visual feast in every way. Suitably, the costumes reflect shifts between class lines while always maintaining the larger than life look of theater. Karenina’s wardrobes have been carefully crafted and suitably promoted by director Joe Wright. This is the favorite to win.
WILL WIN: Anna Karenina
COULD WIN: Les Misérables
SHOULD WIN: Mirror Mirror