Seven finalists remain in the Oscar race for Best Makeup, the category that’s poised to prove just how strong a frontrunner The Artist actually is, not to mention stoke the fire of the film’s backlash. The tinting of Jean Dujardin’s toothy mug to accommodate black-and-white cinematography is about to rob recognition from the folks who toiled away, one last time, on magically morphing Ralph Fiennes into the pasty bane of Harry Potter’s existence. It’s also going to beat out Ben Kingsley’s carnivalesque transformation into Georges Méliès in Hugo; Vanessa Redgrave’s caked-on, Elizabethan kabuki in Anonymous; and the fake ears, nose tip, and finger-weave hair that turned Glenn Close into a
mouse man in Albert Nobbs. All of this says nothing of the worthy candidates The Artist already beat to the shortlist, like J. Edgar, whose old-age artistry was wrongfully knocked in reviews, and Green Lantern, which saw Peter Sarsgaard grossly mutate into the ultimate toxic egghead.
The inspired hopefuls The Artist will square off against are The Iron Lady, a film with the great benefit of an actress who can truly allow makeup to further texturize her performance, and Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, an inventive French film whose makeup’s dark whimsy recalls that of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth—or, to cite another del Toro makeup nominee, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In general, the Academy’s makeup branch tends to operate rather autonomously, honoring the handiwork in movies like Il Divo, Barney’s Version, and The Way Back, all of which were shut out in every other category. This year, though, Gainsbourg will likely be the only such film to advance. The other two will be a surefire Best Actress vehicle and a Best Picture powerhouse with very sticky coattails.