Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Costume Design - Is 'Gatsby' all dressed up for the win?
"The Invisible Woman" (Michael O'Connor)
When you're truly stumped in this category, the contender with the most corsets and hoop skirts is often the safest bet – and if Ralph Fiennes' delicate portrait of Charles' Dickens' secret romantic life had been a little more widely seen, I'd consider Michael O'Connor's exquisitely faded Victorian wear a major threat. Then again, lower-profile films can triumph here over heavyweight opposition, as O'Connor himself learned with the extravagantly ruffled “The Duchess” in 2008. Call it the dark horse, then – albeit one of a dusty rose hue. Strangely, the Guild overlooked O'Connor this year, though between this and his nominated work on “Jane Eyre” two years ago, he's now the go-to guy for lived-in English period pieces.
"12 Years a Slave" (Patricia Norris)
If you're looking for the most olde-worlde of these five period nominees, that'd be (by a couple of years, at least) “12 Years a Slave,” though it goes without saying that Steve McQueen's slavery drama is the most modest sartorial showcase of the lot. But 82-year-old veteran Patricia Norris's wardrobe is an exemplary study in texture and authenticity: where so many period pieces make the mistake of looking overly box-fresh, here you can practically feel the sweat and dirt ingrained into every one of the characters oft-repeated garments, though with careful differences in fabric and finish that distinguish even the grubbiest haves from the have-nots. With credits such as “Days of Heaven” and “The Elephant Man” to her name, Norris is a six-time nominee in this category, her last loss having come way back in 1989 for “Sunset”; it;d be sweet to see her finally get up on the podium, but I sense this work is too (necessarily) drab to get her there.
Will win: "The Great Gatsby"
Could win: "American Hustle"
Should win: "American Hustle"
Should have been here: "Stoker"
Deep as this field is, a lot of my favorite costume work in 2013 was in the contemporary sphere -- I was never overly optimistic that this branch would notice Kurt and Bart's haute-couture-meets-American-Gothic designs for "Stoker," but for me, it was far and way the year's standout achievement in this category. I also loved the subtle, silhouette-adjusted futurism of Casey Storm's work in "Her," and Suzy Benzinger's crucial recycling of key items in "Blue Jasmine," but they were never going to turn voters' heads.
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And how do you think this race will pan out? Who should be here instead? Share your thoughts in the comments.