Oscar Preview: Makeup

A category-by-category look at the Oscar crafts shoot

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" presents a curious case for Oscar voters. The reverse aging of the title character (Brad Pitt) from elderly infant to youthful old man is as impressive as it is unique, but it's hard to discern where the practical work of makeup artists Greg Cannom, Kazuhiro Tsuji and the special makeup effects team ended and visual effects began.

More straightforward is Frank Langella's transformation in "Frost/Nixon," courtesy of makeup department head Edouard F. Henriques and company, which allowed him to approximate the look of President Richard M. Nixon without descending into caricature. Josh Brolin and Sean Penn also get even more subtle-yet-effective makeovers as the title characters in "W." (Trefor Proud/Stephen Bettles/Matthew W. Mungle and team) and "Milk" (Steven E. Anderson/Stephan Dupuis/Gretchen Davis and team), respectively.

But the best way to impress the Academy is with masses of complex prosthetic work, like in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army." Makeup artist Mike Elizalde and his team at Spectral Motion created 15 brand-new creature makeups for the film, including Mr. Wink, an 8-foot-tall rhino-like behemoth, and the Angel of Death, a creepy seraph with eyes on its wings.

"The Dark Knight" makeup department head Peter Robb-King and team make their mark with just two major makeups: the gruesome Harvey "Two-Face" Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and the Joker (Heath Ledger). The latter is so simple that countless fans around the globe with only rudimentary makeup skills have been able to recreate it, but that speaks to the power and effectiveness of its design.

More true to life, but in some ways more scary, are the makeups in "Tropic Thunder" (Michele Burke/Rick Baker) that transform Robert Downey Jr. into Kirk Lazarus, an Australian who's undergone a "pigmentation-alteration procedure," and Tom Cruise into Les Grossman, a fat, bald, bearded studio chief with enormous hands.

Next: Sound Editing
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