Awards Week: Costume Design Nominations (Part Two)

Its’s back (and just in time)! Part Two of my look at the costume designs nominated for BAFTA, CDG Awards and the Oscars. (Read Part One here.)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor and Bob Buck) [Seen]

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Continuing the great work from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Maskrey, Taylor and Buck continue to add character and tone to the vast characters in the Tolkein universe. This film has more focus on the elves at Mirkwood and the inhabitants of Laketown. The elves needed to have a clear difference from those at Rivendell. These elves are led by Thranduil and are a much more sinister force than Elrond’s forces. Elves still have an ethereal quality but with Thranduil this is taken to extremes with the flowing fabric and hair threatening to take control. Laketown is another interesting aspect because we have a town full of humans but again different from the towns in Lord of the Rings. Maskrey described Laketown as a melting point allowing for a different aesthetic to Lord of the Rings.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Trish Summerville) [Seen]

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The costume design in this film is incredible. There is such a clear definition between life in the Capitol and life in the districts but, not only that, the sense of threat has definitely been elevated. The peacekeepers costumes design has been slightly altered from Judianna Makovsky’s designs for The Hunger Games, meaning that they are more insect like (Summerville’s description) and less human. The body armour they wear is so much more threatening and shows the risk that has increased for the people living in the districts – particularly after the uprisings that we saw develop in The Hunger Games. Then there are the costumes of Katniss and Peeta compared to those of the rest of the citizens of District 12. As winners they’re rich. But they are also aware that they’re living in one of the poorest districts and they take no real pride in their wealth. Wealth that came from the deaths of 22 teenagers. There is a lot of reliance on soft fabrics and knitted fabrics and this makes the comparison of the sharp lines and edges of their costumes when in the Capitol more noticeable. That this film didn’t get nominated for an Oscar for costume design astounds me, although it doesn’t surprise me. This year will show us Kurt & Bart’s take on Panem for Mockingjay Part One. I, for one, can’t wait. (Even if I will miss Summerville.)

The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)

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“Ralph wanted to be like Dickens’ world and embrace the period and not shy away from some of the more eccentric and decorated elements in terms of the costumes and an extreme shape for women, especially,” explains O’ Connor. “Normally, people set their movies later in the 1870s when things became more elegant and sophisticated, but we focus on the 1850s, aside from the 1880s, as a framing device.”
…”What was important for Nelly was to go for subtle colors and gray, mousy working dresses that make her more vulnerable. And slowly as she became more influential with Dickens and their relationship grew, her clothes were more ornate. She has pretty dresses at the races, a pink dress at her birthday party. As an older woman, [haunted by her memories] she wears darker, heavier colors and more restrictive clothing. It was about taking the character from one space to another. And there are contrasts with her two sisters and her mother, who is darker and more dramatic-looking.”
…”The pleasure is seeing the difference between the 1850s and the 1880s and the theatrical moments putting on the play together. It’s nice when they feel the costumes working for them because we had to make all of these costumes with all the layers and have them fit tightly. And it was about the restrictions they were under.”

[From interview with Bill Desowitz for Thompson on Hollywood: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/oscar-nominated-oconnor-talks-costume-designing-the-invisible-woman%5D

Nebraska (Wendy Chuck)

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“I needed to turn Dern, who is a tall, statuesque Hollywood icon, into Woody, a weathered Midwestern man in his 80s who is not only losing his mind, but also has lived a long hard life and is regretful of his body and how he looks. I really wanted his clothes to reflect the ‘wear’,” Chuck says.
…She paid close attention to the little details and nuances of the character, making sure that all of his pants were frayed at the back of the heel, as though they were just too long and continually dragged under the soles of his boots. She also had the pockets sanded in the spots where Woody would’ve kept his wallet, to reflect years of age and wear-and-tear.
At JC Penney she found a selection of various brightly colored flannels, which would aid in creating greater visual depth when shown on-screen in black and white. Although the shirts were vastly different in color and pattern, when presented on-screen in black and white, they appeared uniform.

[From interview with the Costume Designers Guild website: http://costumedesignersguild.com/articles-videos/pick-of-the-week/nebraska/ ]

Oz: The Great and Powerful (Gary Jones and Michael Kutsche) [Seen]

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I have to be honest, my memory of the costumes in Oz is a little hazy having seen it about 12 months ago. I do remember that the visuals of the film were what I enjoyed the most but not all of the costumes felt right for me. Oscar’s costume is great and shows the importance of breaking down to express character – particularly in such a bright, stylised world. Evanora’s costumes are beautifully constructed and help to flash back to the aesthetic of The Wizard of Oz without being overt. The costumes for Theodora and Glinda are where my issues truly lie. I remember being particularly  disappointed by Theodora’s final costumes. They felt unnecessarily “modern” and fashion oriented. They took me completely out of the story in a way that her riding outfit (with seemingly leather leggings) didn’t. The use of the leggings with the Victorian inspired velvet riding habit evened out the look. Glinda again had some similar issues. Many of her costumes were beautiful and carefully designed to make her a stronger character than in The Wizard of Oz which is great but still makes the costumes fit unhappily within the world.

Philomena (Consolata Boyle) [Seen]

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Creating contemporary costumes about real people isn’t easy but Boyle has great experience, having been nominated for an Oscar for her design for The Queen. The key aspects in Philomena are the use of texture and pattern. Philomena is always surrounded by soft fabrics with no tight structure. Then you compare this with the fabrics worn by Martin Sixsmith. Straight away the difference between the two characters is established and the emotional connectivity to Philomena is increased – she is dressed like a grandmother. Then Boyle had to costume the flashbacks to Philomena’s past with a lot of focus of nuns’ habits and the uniforms for the girls. The simplification of the costumes allows for the feeling of realism and believability. Nothing is there to distract from the story and you can tell that Boyle’s job is done to perfection when the design isn’t noticed.

Saving Mr. Banks (Daniel Orlandi) [Seen]

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Orlandi did a brilliant job of clearly defining the characters within the story. Outside of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney there are the Sherman brothers and DaGradi then going back into Travers’ past we have her family. Orlandi had to deal with two very separate worlds – the 1960s (Los Angeles and, briefly, London) and 1900s (in Australia). Designing costumes for characters based on real people means carefully balancing the lines between extreme “realism” and serving the story in the script. The lightness of the 60s scenes (despite the more muted colours and tweeds worn by Travers) and contrasted with the neutral colours and fabrics used for Australia. When Orlandi designed costumes for the “real” Mary Poppins he looked at illustrations from Travers’ book, Julie Andrews and research from clothing worn in 1906.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Sarah Edwards)

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Edwards particularly liked the costume that Walter wears to work because of what it represents, its functionality, and how it helps to explain what is taking place within that space. As Edwards explains, “[It’s] Walter slipping away into middle age and obsoleteness, the slow death, as he and his co-workers are phased out by a new digital era. The idea for this costume was that somehow Walter was frozen in a kind of recent past.”
…The color palette in the office was purposefully de-saturated and so were the costumes, providing a drab starting point for Walter. This helped to provide dramatic visual contrast to Walter’s later jump “into a kaleidoscopic adventure, full of color and passion and living. This helped define the important transition from ‘old Walter’ to ‘new Walter,’ from the rigidness of the uniform for which he starts out to becoming a hip, more laid back ,handsome and rugged Walter,” Edwards says.
…[Without] this costume…there is no story, it’s the beginning, the jumping off point.”

[From interview for the Costume Designers Guild website: http://costumedesignersguild.com/articles-videos/pick-of-the-week/secret-life-walter/ ]

Don’t forget to check who wins the Oscar tonight. Good luck to all!

S x

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