Like we said, "Life Of Pi" doesn't have obvious enough hair/make-up elements going on to make it likely to figure into the category. Instead, the field is arguably led by a film with little chance at awards elsewhere -- "Cloud Atlas." The task of transforming its starry cast into multiple characters that span the ranges of gender, race and age is an impressive one, and there's some really superb work going on in the film. Even if the film doesn't get traction elsewhere, the make-up branch have a history of marching to the beat of their own drum -- hence nominations for things like "Barney's Version," "Hellboy II," "Norbit" and "Click," and wins for "Lemony Snicket," "Star Trek" and "The Wolfman."
That said, while some of the make up in the film is excellent, it's somewhat inconsistent, and as "J. Edgar" demonstrated last year, films that can seem like home runs in the category can fall short if the work isn't deemed to be up to scratch. Still, we think the breadth and ambition of the make-up work will get it through to the final three.
Again, "Lord of the Rings" went two for three (though "The Two Towers" missed out on a nomination entirely), and given the number of dwarves cropping up in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," it should be an easy return, for the first of the trilogy at least. In fact, it might even be the front-runner at this stage. Those two are probably locked in, leaving some fierce competition for that third slot.
"Hitchcock" might be the most obvious one to fill it, thanks to those prosthetic jowls that turn Anthony Hopkins into the great director. That said, if everyone else finds it as distracting as we do, it could also fall victim to "J. Edgar" syndrome. The work on "Lincoln" is subtler, but still impressive, and with a broader range of actors getting the treatment, and with the film looking like a major heavyweight across multiple categories, it's got a very good shot. One shouldn't forget another potential behemoth, "Les Miserables," with a cast of muddy-faced youngsters alongside the likes of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, who get to age a few decades across the story.
Beyond that, virtually everything else is merely hoping to get into the make-up, from deserving but unlikely nominees like "Looper" and "Holy Motors" (which should, in a perfect world, be the winner, but won't get the eyes on it), to prettily-hairstyled films like "Anna Karenina" and "A Royal Affair" (hell, if it was being given on haircuts alone, "The Hunger Games" would surely sweep the thing...)
But there's one potential spoiler in there -- "Men In Black 3." Again, it's a film that feels unlikely to figure into awards elsewhere, but the original won out in 1998 (against "Titanic" no less) and the legendary Rick Baker, who's been nominated twelve times, winning seven of them, should never be counted out, especially with some genuinely impressive practical work in the film, particularly on Jemaine Clement's villain. As a sequel, it could still end up on the outside, but if it makes the cut, don't rule it ouy appearing as a surprise. If we had to make our three picks now, they'd be...
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"