Even more so than production design, the costume branch favor period pieces, and ideally ones with pretty frocks rather than rags or suits. As such, the Vogue-photoshoot-gorgeousness of "Anna Karenina," and designer Jacqueline Durran, having been nominated, but not a winner, for previous Wright collaborations "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement," is in with a damn good shot here.
But the competition is, if anything, a little stiffer. Danish picture "A Royal Affair" is just the kind of thing that, even if it's under the radar, could well clean up in the category -- just look at the victory for the otherwise awards-free "The Young Victoria" a few years ago, so you could see Lars von Trier's regular designer Manon Rasmussen to pick up their first nomination here. But we could seen a nomination from another unlikely source -- nine-month-old, mostly critically derided big screen Snow White pantomime "Mirror Mirror."
The chances of Tarsem's film picking up nominations in any other categories are essentially nil, but here, it has a decent shot. The film was the last work of legendary Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka, who picked up the award for "Bram Stoker's Dracula" in 1993, and who passed away in January. Her collaborations with Tarsem have, until now, been ignored by the branch, but with the right push, some recognition could happen here.
Again, "Les Misérables" certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Pedro Almodóvar's regular designer Paco Delgado seems to have done impressive work with a veritable army of extras, even if it's a little more ragged than is usually to the branches' taste. Unless the film really tanks, it should pick up a nomination, which leaves some fierce competition for that fifth slot. "Django Unchained" is in a better place than it is for production design, but it's worth noting that Westerns haven't been a favorite of the branch in recent years -- "Maverick" was the last to win a nomination in 1995. "The Master," too, is in with a shot, especially with last year's winner Mark Bridges the man responsible, but we suspect they're simply not showy enough.
The victor the year before, "Alice In Wonderland" tailor Colleen Atwood (a three-time winner) is in the mix too, for "Snow White and the Huntsman." Joanna Johnston is certainly a possibility for "Lincoln," even if some might think it drab by the usual standards of the category -- there's an impressive detail to the work. Speaking of drab, many have discounted "Argo" from the category, but it's worth noting that the similarly '70s-suit heavy "Milk" grabbed a nomination in 2009 (admittedly in a fairly thin field), so it might well end up surprising if the branch like the film as a whole as much as everyone else. Indeed, as a love letter to movie making, we think it's got a pretty good chance.
On the outskirts, there's a few other notable costume dramas that could end up in: "Bel Ami," "On the Road," and "Lawless," but we'd argue that "Hitchcock" might have the best chance of all of them. "Moonrise Kingdom" is undoubtedly deserving, but isn't the kind of film the branch usually go for, while again, the ambition of "Cloud Atlas" could be rewarded, but it's not likely. So, if we had to pick five right now:
"Anna Karenina" - Jacqueline Durran
"Les Misérables" - Paco Delgado
"Lincoln" - Joanna Johnston
"Mirror Mirror" - Eiko Ishioka
"A Royal Affair" - Manon Rasmussen