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HomeAwardsAcademy 2007 StandAlone - Makeup

Academy 2007 StandAlone – Makeup


No other discipline enables the actor to fully absorb their character more than makeup and hair. Excellence in makeup effects and attention to its continuity throughout a movie are essential in pulling off the suspension of disbelief that viewers expect when watching an award-worthy performance.But as a voter, how do you educate your eye and brain to discern an Oscar-worthy makeup?”First, see if the film could be made without the use of the makeup and hair work,” says Howard Berger, last year’s makeup award-winner for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and the co-founder of KNB EFX Group. “This is supposed to be the main criterion for this category and one I always consider.”In the makeup category, only three films are nominated, which means that noteworthy films displaying makeup prowess may be entirely overlooked. Furthermore, those that are nominated tend to pit quite different skills sets against one another.The subtleties between a brilliantly executed age makeup such as that of 2005 nominee Jo Allen for The Sea Inside, who took Javier Bardem from a young man through a grueling 30-year bedridden odyssey, can go head to head with a massively labor -intensive fantasy appliance and creature-effects movie such as Star Wars or The Chronicles of Narnia. And a problem perceived by many makeup artists is that the votes often go to the film that was an overall Academy favorite, thus disregarding the subtleties so ingrained in their profession.Asked how voters who are not in the makeup and hair field should approach the voting process with correct guidance, and what they should they watch for, Berger replies, “Best Makeup is one of the few categories that has a bake-off, where the considered nominees meet at the Academy Theater and speak about their accomplishments on the film and then screen footage that best represents the film’s work. This is an amazing process and one that more people should attend. It helps the voters understand the outstanding achievement in makeup especially if they may not have a chance to see the film it is featured in.””The 125 Makeup and Hair Stylist Guild members of the academy review the year’s noteworthy releases,” explains Leonard Engelman, a former executive rules committee chairman for MAHS Local 706. “In this process, the executive rules committee sends out its recommendations to the group members, and a meeting of the joint membership of MAHS selects seven films for consideration, to be pared down in the bake-off to the final three Oscar-nominated films.”Those three are then voted on by the entire Academy to determine the eventual winner.There are many distractions, tricks and hindrances that can sway an Academy voter, and Berger has this advice: “Don’t be fooled by the box office of a film.” In the past great makeups have lost to bad makeups in films that have grossed big numbers,” he says. “Also be aware that the makeups are not digitally augmented, which is tough, as digital effects are so prominent in films today. If you can tell that a makeup has been altered by CGI in that sequence, this should not be eligible to be considered.””Aging or creating character and historical makeups on famous stars is usually a good way to garner attention,” says MAHS Academy voting member Kevin Haney, a 1990 Oscar-winner for Driving Miss Daisy. He cites an appreciation for fantasy and science fiction genres; however he notes a prejudice against horror and gore. “Blood and goop cover a multitude of sins. But these days dividing computer and makeup effects can be a daunting task. Valdemort in Harry Potter is a good example of a computer makeup hybrid that couldn’t have been done five years ago—you couldn’t get around the bone structure of the actor before, and now that is not a limitation. However, it can disqualify an otherwise outstanding achievement,” he notes.Often, the makeup that looks the most effortless and the most natural—such as in Cinderella Man where David Anderson altered actor Russell Crowe into boxer James Braddock with artful appliance placement and shading, or in Walk the Line where makeup artist Jane Galli and hairstylist Kathrine Gordon’s brilliantly understated transformation of actress Reese Witherspoon into June Carter Cash—can be the most labor intensive. Biopics, especially, require a great deal of research on their subjects, so that the makeup accurately recreates not just the era but the specific color palette and facial characteristics, and enhances the overall look with hair for each character depicted. It can be make or break for the actor’s ability to accurately portray that person. “Middle age seems to be the most thankless makeup,” says Haney. “Sometimes it’s as difficult as an old-age makeup, yet it never receives the attention it deserves.””Sometimes beautiful work can be overlooked,” says Engelman. “Believability is crucial and there has to be a validity to the makeup, but equally valid are fantasy pieces, such as Moulin Rouge, where the fantasy aspect can affect the makeup renderings and the artist has more license to create a makeup.”Often seemingly simple looking makeups require a masterful hand, particularly if a period of time is involved or when taking a known actor and transforming them into a very different character. “Transition of age is much more difficult than most people realize,” said Engelman. “All your close-ups have to be flawless, executed to perfection throughout the movie. The more subtle the work, the more difficult it is.””If a makeup does not stop the film and say ‘hey look at me, I am a cool makeup’ then we have done our job,” says Berger. “But if you are taken out of the film-watching experience, then we have failed.”Addressing some of the technical issues, Haney explains: “Well applied, clean makeup is always a plus; lip lines should be sharp, rouge, eye shadow and contouring blended. Hair lace should be invisible. And styling and design is important. It is also vital the makeup or effect fits in with the whole look of the picture, a difficult task in today’s world of specialization and compartmentalization.” he says.But need a voter be clued up on the latest appliance technique, materials and technology?”The Passion of the Christ and Cinderella Man used a new technique for making thin appliances made of medical adhesive that’s impervious to heat and moisture, such as sweat and fake blood,” says Haney. “And silicone appliances are used more and more, replacing foamed latex. However, the material an artist uses doesn’t affect the achievement, it is the end result that’s the most important.”The best makeup is usually invisible,” he adds. “Sometimes this creates the problem of how to judge it fairly, or even bring it to the attention of committees and voters.”Haney cites Cinderella Man as a good example of expert makeup, so well applied that most people didn’t know how much makeup was there on Russell Crowe and the other fighters. “It even fooled some makeup and hair people on the committee. Everyone was shocked at the amount of work involved.”While the makeup award does encompass hair, it is nevertheless skewed heavily towards makeup. So, says Engleman, “If a film has fantastic hairstyles but the makeup falls down, that must be weighed in upon in the vote too.”

Written by April MacIntyre

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