By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 2, 2013 at 3:06PM
The Coen Brothers' glorious "Inside Llewyn Davis" hits theaters at long last this week, and while its award prospects in general are somewhat on the tightrope, some of its better chances lie in the design categories: the beautifully realized world of early 1960s New York has a good chance of nominations in the Production Design and Costume Design categories. As such, we're going to spotlight these areas this week, along with their less-loved little brother, Make-Up and Hairstyling.
The latter category, with only three nomination slots, is probably the easiest one to deal with first, not least because it tends to differ from the rest of the awards narrative. Years in which Best Picture nominees triumph, as with "Les Miserables" last year, tend to be rarer than the ones where the line up is made up of outliers like "Hitchcock," "The Way Back," "The Wolfman," "Il Divo," "Hellboy II," and, uh, "Norbit." This year, the top contender for the "how did they nominate that?" slot is, of all things, "Bad Grandpa," which has some surprisingly convincing old-age work on Johnny Knoxville.
As ever, the possibilities (which will be narrowed down to a seven-strong bake-off in a few weeks) are made up of a mix of old-age stuff (winner of three of the last five years), genre fare and, occasionally, some period films. The rivals to "Bad Grandpa" in the wrinkly prosthetics side of things include Best Picture hopefuls "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and (more subtly, and probably too much so to make the cut) "12 Years A Slave," while "The Lone Ranger," "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," "The Invisible Woman" and "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" are also possibilities, if more remote ones.
Genre-wise, "Star Trek" won the category in 2009, but the work was less prominent this time in sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness" (give Benedict Cumberbatch pointy ears or a knobbly forehead and you'd probably be a nominee), so it's a longer shot, although it could still make the bake-off. A nomination for "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" is a near-certainty given that three of the four previous Middle Earth adventures made it in (but not middle LOTR entry "The Two Towers," though that was in a year when only two films were nominated, so who knows).
Otherwise, there's zombie duo "World War Z" and "Warm Bodies" (though the former was so CGI-heavy and the latter such a long time ago that it's likely to be a zombie-free zone this year). With all its dark elves, "Thor: The Dark World" could be viable, as could "Pacific Rim," which combined its CGI with some icky practical work, but "Oz The Great & Powerful" may have the best chance in the sci-fi fantasy world—we weren't particularly impressed with Mila Kunis' green-faced witch look, but of course questionable work has been rewarded plenty of times in the past (i.e. the nomination for "Hitchcock" last year).
Period films tend to be more about the hairstyles than the make-up (if any film can get a nomination for the hairdressing alone, it's "American Hustle," which is definitely a dark horse to figure in here too, for Bradley Cooper's perm alone), but "Rush" has the advantage of capturing the horrific burn injuries suffered by Daniel Bruhl's Niki Lauda. It's one of the more impressive single make-up jobs of the year, and though the film's lost heat elsewhere, it should figure in here. Full predictions for the category on the next page.