Oscar’s Best Makeup Category: Is ‘J. Edgar’ a Lock Despite How Bad It Is?


Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Photo: Paramount Pictures

When it comes to Oscars, the makeup category is one I don’t particularly feel I have a strong foothold. It’s a strange category and I don’t necessarily understand it. For example, two years ago when The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won over Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The large majority of the work done on Brad Pitt’s character was digital and the makeup job done on Cate Blanchett was less than impressive as you can see in the melted old lady face above. Then there was Hellboy, a man was turned into a fish and another had sawed off horns on his head and not a single piece of that makeup seemed out of place. LOSER! I was obviously missing something.

This year, some are already declaring the makeup from J. Edgar the winner. Makeup I referred to in my review as giving Leonardo DiCaprio an “awkward, bee-stung wax mold appearance.” To my knowledge no one has come out and praised the work done here outside of a brief blurb by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg calling it “outstanding makeup work,” which I would love to get some clarification on though Scott did not have a chance to reply prior to the publishing this piece.

J. Edgar for Best Makeup
Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer in J. Edgar
Photo: Warner Bros.

Looking around, the majority opinion on the makeup appears to be something along the lines of “I didn’t think it was that bad,” or “Leo’s was pretty good.” There does seem to be a general consensus when it comes to how bad Armie Hammer looks as an aged Clyde Tolson, a fact the picture above doesn’t do justice, but unfortunately it’s the only picture the studio has officially released.

I did, however, notice a tweet from TheWrap.com’s Steve Pond that went like this: “Me to Armie Hammer: Did you sit in J. Edgar makeup chair for 6 hours a day thinking, [David] Fincher would have done this w/ CGI? Him: ‘Absolutely!'” Me too…

J. Edgar for Best Makeup
Naomi Watts in J. Edgar
Photo: Warner Bros.

In my opinion, Leo’s make-up was at times okay and at all others, jarring. Hammer’s was awful and if anything, Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy was the only one close to convincing. The fact no one is standing up and declaring it something worthy of being called “The Best” makes me wonder how anyone could consider it the front-runner… Then I look at the field.

I’d quickly hand over the Oscar to the likes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides before J. Edgar. Then I look back and not a single Harry Potter film has ever been nominated and two of the previous Pirates flicks were nominated only to end up losing to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and La Vie en Rose. This tells me the chances for these two films are minimal.

So what’s left?

Oscar Best Makeup Contenders
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn, Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men: First Class, Peter Sarsgaard in Green Lantern, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady and Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Photo: The Weinstein Co. / Fox / Warner Bros.

The CG supersuit and prosthetic piece on Peter Sarsgaard in Green Lantern? The work done on Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady or the work done on Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn? There is War Horse, but you have to go all the way back to Braveheart to find the last time a film with epic, non-fantasy land battles won for Best Makeup, even Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan lost to Elizabeth in 1998.

I’m sure some will point to X-Men: First Class but then I remember Jennifer Lawrence in her makeup as Mystique and shrug my shoulders.

This, of course, is just my opinion. I only found it alarming when I saw J. Edgar suggested as a winner and yet I hadn’t read an official review where it was praised. CNN, however, referred to it as “dreadful.” So there’s a hat in its cap.

Do you have any suggestions?