Was anybody looking at the suits and frocks on the actors in Atonement and thinking those were some cool clothes? Or, like me, were they concentrating more on what was behind the fabric, after seeing a slightly revealing scene where actress Keira Knightly emerged from the water of a fountain? I thank you, Oscar-nominated designer Jacqueline Durran, but your costumes are very much transparent.
On Feb. 24, 2008, a date I've dubbed Golden Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the winners of its coveted Oscar award in 24 categories. It's then that we'll learn if Durran's World War II-era, British attire will beat Alexandra Byrne's Stuart-era, British attire in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, or, if Colleen Atwood's Victorian Era, British attire will cause an upset.
Is it just me, or am I sensing a pattern when it comes to Oscar-nominated costumes? Personally, I hope Atwood takes home the gold. Her designs in Sweeney Todd were mostly black and white or gray, what some might consider dull, but I think that made them all the better for spilling blood, of which her director did a lot. It's good that she complemented him that way.
How you complement actors, besides dressing them up in good clothes, is putting, surprisingly, not pretty but in fact ugly makeup on them. No kidding! Both Charlize Theron and Halle Berry, two gorgeous actresses, in recent years have won the Oscar for playing characters that definitely look like they fell off the ugly tree.
The tradition seems to continue this year as the nominees for makeup include Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji who made Eddie Murphy look ugly, not once, not twice, but thrice, in the comedy Norbit. Ve Neill and Martin Samuel got recognized for doing makeup for a whole ocean-full of ugly characters in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
My choice would have to be Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald, who without question severely made ugly the beautiful Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose. I'm not saying her character in that movie, the real-life French singer, Edith Piaf, is hideous, but the aging process in that film did require a whole lot of the ugly makeup.
Consequently, of all the five Oscar-nominated women for best actress, Marion Cotillard is also my pick. Julie Christie was heart-breaking as an Alzheimer's patient in Away From Her, Cate Blanchett was fiercely regal in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Laura Linney along with Ellen Page were both wickedly funny in their respective films. However, Cotillard completely transformed herself and absolutely inhabited her role with literally every breath she sang.
And, while pretty women score Academy Award points by making themselves seem physically unattractive, seemingly unattractive or depressing films score Academy points by doing the reverse. Most often, however, they get nominated in the category of cinematography or camera work.
This year, downers like There Will Be Blood and Atonement were nominated despite their sad stories. Why? Because they were able to make every frame of their films look like paintings, or eye-popping photographs that you'd expect to hang in a modern museum.
There were five films recognized for cinematography but only four men named. Roger Deakins was cited twice. Deakins photographed No Country for Old Men, capturing the harsh, modern Texas landscape in epic detail, but it's his work for The Assassination of Jesse James that I think should earn him the gold. The lyrical beauty, which at times makes the film feel like a hazy dream, or a glorious nightmare, a perfect mix of visual warm and cold, is unsettling yet heightens your inability to take your eyes off it.
Deakins has the power to make you want to stare at his pictures for the near three-hour run of his movie and still be thankful for its slow pace. In terms of editing, however, one usually doesn't win hearts that way, and while five films are up for Best Editing, Christopher Rouse is the only one worth mentioning. His efforts for The Bourne Ultimatum give action films a whole new name.
But, what you see on the screen is really only half the battle when it comes to Oscar. What you hear is vitally important as well, and for many, it starts with the dialogue in the script. At the Oscars, there are two writing categories, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Best Adapted Screenplay is for scripts based on a book, a play, a newspaper article, or some other previously published literary work. There were a lot of great scripts based on books this year, but I love original screenplays and the one with which I fell in love, above all others, was Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton.
Speaking of which, of all the five movies nominated for the top Oscar prize, that of Best Picture, Michael Clayton is the only film that matched my earlier predictions. I disagreed with the other four, that of Atonement, Juno, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood.
While I think those four other films are entertaining and have a lot of good elements, each had things about them that ultimately troubled or disappointed me. No Country for Old Men, for example, ended in a way that wasn't satisfying, and, despite the fact that its star Daniel Day-Lewis will probably win the Oscar for Best Actor, There Will Be Blood had a script with too many plot and narrative holes. Juno was too much of a trifle, and Atonement was too heavy-handed.
Michael Clayton was the only film on the Oscar's list that I thought was flawless from beginning to end. I saw absolutely no weak area, or at least not any area that I felt would discount it from the ultimate prize, not in the final analysis. It's a story and an experience that falls into place more powerfully than any other movie I've seen.