Thursday, February 24, 2011

Best Makeup: "Barney's Version"

This is the first in a series of posts about the 83rd Academy Awards; the winners will be announced Feb. 27.

In addition to my Oscar predictions, I thought it might be fun to review each of the nominees in a particular category. I’m too lazy to review all 10 Best Picture nominees (or all five Best Actor nominees, for that matter). That leaves Best Animated Feature and Best Makeup; each category honors three movies. Frankly, I’m too upset that Tangled didn’t get nominated to even look at Best Animated Feature, so Best Makeup it is.

An American Werewolf in London won the first Best Makeup Oscar in 1981. Since then, some extraordinary films have been honored: Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Eddie Murphy’s Norbit. Okay, some are more extraordinary than others. Like costume designers and FX wizards, makeup artists can be like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the G.I. Joe movie, spinning gold from lousy material.

The 2010 nominees for Best Makeup are (drum roll, please): Barney’s Version, The Way Back and The Wolfman. My personal favorite is Barney’s Version. It stars Paul Giamatti as Barney Panofsky, the producer of a ridiculous Canadian soap opera called Constable O’Malley of the North. The movie’s storyline spans 25 years, covering relationships with friends and family, as well as a drunken fight that may or may not have ended in Barney killing a guy.

Like nominees in previous years (Amadeus, A Beautiful Mind, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), this is one of those movies where actors age through cosmetics. We see Barney and friends when they were all young and beautiful and living in Rome, and later when he’s stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. Makeup supervisor Adrien Morot does a fantastic job; Giamatti’s transformation is especially convincing.

I’m rooting for Barney’s Version to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Makeup because it tells the best story, and Morot’s make-up work enriches the storytelling. Without cosmetic enhancement, the final scene between Barney and his dad (played to wry perfection by Dustin Hoffman) wouldn’t have quite the same impact. It’s one of the truest, funniest, most heartbreaking scenes I’ve seen in a movie theater in the past year.

I’ll review the other nominees for Best Makeup in my next two posts.

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