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.
EMMA. Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne.
MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM. Costume Design by Ann Roth.
MANK. Costume Design by Trish Summerville.
MULAN. Costume Design by Bina Daigeler.
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.