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The 93rd Academy Awards Costume Design Nominations. Quick Recap

A couple of months later than usual due to this pandemic thing that has been messing with everyone's schedules, the nominations for this year's Academy Awards are finally out! And as is traditional in this blog, I'll do a quick recap of the nominees for Best Costume Design.

Before we start, just a brief disclaimer. This is neither a review of the nominees nor an actual essay. These are just my most honest thoughts about the movies they nominated this year for Costume Design, two of which I haven't managed to see yet. I might change my mind about them later when I get around to seeing them. It happens sometimes, and that's ok.

EMMA. Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Autumn de Wilde's directorial debut adaptation of Jane Austen's novel is the best period film I've seen in a while. It's joyful, charming, romantic, sexy and mean, all rolled in one. It also happens to be the best adaptation of Emma ever, period.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the costume design is just marvelous, both incredibly historically accurate and absolutely editorial. Byrne leans into the extravaganza of the period and uses color, shape, and texture to define the character and their place in the social ladder.

I completely fell in love with this movie and these designs and, not to be partisan, but I'll throw a fit if it doesn't win the Oscar for Best Costume Design. Though, to be honest, I don't think it will win. Alexandra Byrne is a 5 times nominated costume designer and has already won once ( for 2007's Elizabeth: The Golden age). In a year with so many first-time nominees in the category, I don't think they'll choose to give it to her a second time.

MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM. Costume Design by Ann Roth.

I have not seen this film as of yet, but I really want to see it. I truly do. I simply despise not being able to see films in theaters and that tends to translate into me postponing seeing movies directly released on Netflix or other platforms for as long as possible. I'm such an idiot, I know.

So, unfortunately, I don't really have a solid opinion on the designs to share with you. From what I've seen, it looks damn good. The movie takes place in 1927, and it seems to take full advantage of the period fashion. All in all, I'm not surprised to see it has been nominated.

On the other hand, the costume designer, Ann Roth, has already 4 nominations and a win for 1996's The English Patient, so, just like Emma, I don't think it's going to win.

But I'm really happy it's nominated, and I'm excited to watch it. 

MANK. Costume Design by Trish Summerville.

David Fincher's noir homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood is both classic and yet extremely modern. A tale apparently about the creative process that slowly but surely reveals itself to be a poignant commentary on the power storytelling has to shape public consciousness and affect real political change, much too often for the worse. It's a really good movie.

On the other hand, its costume design is a very functional one. It serves to set the period and it does its job pretty damn good, but it doesn't call attention to itself. It mostly consists of an endless parade of suits with the odd gorgeous 1930s gown thrown on Marion Davis' character. So it's not really my favorite costume design out there. It's really not my cup of tea. 

Don't get me wrong, it's a well-deserved nomination, but it's making me dread having to review it.

As for its odds in the competition, well, it's Trish Summerville's first nomination, and Mank is the most nominated movie of the year, so I'd say it has a good chance to win.

MULAN. Costume Design by Bina Daigeler.

Why does this keep happening to me? I have written a lot about how much I hate these remakes and their aesthetic and design choices. So why do they keep popping up? Can't they just go away?

On a more serious note, it's truly an awful movie where every single change and departure from the original story fails to work and only manages to destroy any emotional connection and reliability the story and the character had. Funny that, in trying to make the movie explicitly and textually more feminist than the original, they made it less so.

It also doesn't help that it feels incredibly white in the worst way possible. Because, just as with Aladdin, they did have an all Asian cast, but a completely white creative team, and so the story is populated by essentially western tropes of the fantasy genre (witches, dark magic, duels to the death...) that do not resonate or reflect Chinese culture at all.

This "cultural inauthenticity" is also all over the costume design. It's what happens when you decide that the best option to design the costumes for a Chinese legend is a German designer who has lived for 40 years in Spain.

The main problem for me is that it reads as very western. It relies on stereotypes and preconceived notions that keep the designs from being unique and well-fitted for the story. They also happen to be very ugly, particularly the designs for the beginning of the film, when she's still in her village.

This is a very experienced designer, don't get me wrong. She has worked with Pedro Almodovar and Jim Jarmush. And she recently did the designs for the amazing Mrs. America, so she's more than capable of creating compelling designs. She's just not the right person for this project.

So yes, I feel this nomination is completely unfair and undeserved. Unfortunately, it's also a first-time nomination for Bina Daigeler and it's a big Disney production, so it has a chance to actually win. And oh boy, does that piss me off.

PINOCCHIO. Costume Design by Massino Cantini Parrini.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I did not even know this movie existed before the nominations came out. So no, I have not seen it. I have seen the trailer though, and It looks terrifying in the worst kind of way. I would have preferred to remain blissfully ignorant of its existence, thank you very much.

But, as for the costume design, it looks interesting enough. That's my assessment based on the trailer. Still, one never knows, and now I have to see it to actually form an opinion. Damm you Academy.

In this case, the costume designer is also a first-time nominee, but contending against a Disney production and the most nominated film of the night, it has no chances to actually take the award home.


I think it's quite a good year for this category. I only feel like there's one completely undeserved nomination, so it's a step up.

I would personally give it to Emma, but I think it will go either to Mank or to Mulan. If they want to shake things up, maybe it'll go to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. What is sure, is that there is no way in hell the award will go to Pinocchio.

P.D: If it does go to Pinocchio, it will be very funny and I will prove to the world how lousy I am at predicting these things.


I am very much aware that I have not finished the retrospective for the 2018 nominees, and I did not even begin the retrospective for the 2019 nominees. So I will put it out there and warn you that I am not sure if I'll do a retrospective for this year's nominees. 

Basically, I have conflicting feelings about this series of articles. On the one side, it's cool to review each year's nominees. On the other hand, it forces me to review movies that I wouldn't normally review and forces me into the position of writing about designs where I literally have nothing to say. It has happened repeatedly and it is just painful. It stresses me out because I just don't feel comfortable publishing an article that basically amounts to "I have nothing say" and so I push myself to write and I end up frustrated and angry at myself and that makes me not want to write... and this blog should be fun. For you and for me. 

So I'm not sure what I'll do this year. 

Thanks for understanding and supporting me always.


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