Genre movies rarely get a look-in at the Oscars. Thought too frivolous for the prestigious award ceremony, big budget scifi flicks are usually snubbed. If they do manage to get nominated, films like The Force Awakens and Rogue One are usually shoved to the technical categories like sound editing and visual effects.
Such is the case of Star Trek: Beyond and Suicide Squad, two summer blockbusters that didn't quite win critics over. In 2017's #Oscars, these movies are head-to-head for the Hair & Makeup Award — but only one of them deserves to win.
Aliens vs Supervillains
Here's what the debate boils down to: One of these two movies created a beautiful kaleidoscope of alien races, filling an entire space station full of diverse species; one of the movies dip-dyed hair and doodled on face tattoos. While Star Trek: Beyond really went the extra mile in making alien life seem realistic and tangible, Suicide Squad looks like the designers invaded a Hot Topic and just went nuts. If Suicide Squad deserves to win the Oscar, then so does every teenager who gets a gang of friends together to clumsily dye their hair.
Granted, I'm no expert in either hair or makeup, but aesthetically Star Trek: Beyond just looks far more sophisticated than Suicide Squad. The Beyond designers had a far bigger challenge in creating new alien species from scratch: Before the movie was released, co-writer Simon Pegg revealed that a whopping 50 new alien species had been invented for Beyond, one for each of #StarTrek's 50 years of existence.
This is a fantastic homage to a franchise that has won multiple Emmy and even Academy Awards for hair and makeup over the decades, and the Beyond team's efforts paid off. The myriad of aliens populating both Starbase Yorktown and the USS Enterprise really sold the idea that the Federation is a diverse and accepting collection of many different species, not just humans. A result of the movie's budget, this was also an important part of the plot, as the villainous Krall sought to bring down the Federation for how it embraced alien races.
While we're on the subject of Krall, Idris Elba's slow transformation from blue-skinned alien to almost-human-again is enough to win its own award. Makeup artist Joel Harlow explained to Inverse how — because Krall parasitically stole from other species — he incorporated many different alien designs into Krall's appearance. The distinctive Klingon ridges are particularly apparent.
Of course, Sofia Boutella's Jaylah also looks stunning — both stylish and interesting, Jaylah's design is so cool that posters featuring just her face advertised the movie. This must have been satisfying for Boutella, who sat in makeup for three and a half hours each day before filming so that her forehead prosthetics and skin markings could be applied.
It's no surprise then, that Star Trek: Beyond is a favorite to win the 2017 Hair & Makeup Oscar, as it already won the Critics' Choice Award for this very category.
The Underdog Nomination
But, just like Buffy and Cordelia were certain they'd win Homecoming Queen in that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an underdog might just sneak past Beyond and Suicide Squad and steal their sparkly silver tiara/prestigious Academy Award. That dark horse is the Swedish film A Man Called Ove, for which actor Rolf Lassgård was transformed into Ove, a character who was supposed to look much older than his actor. Instead of relying on Lassgård's acting chops, the filmmakers used handmade bald caps, rubber noses, and a ton of makeup to create the right look.
Previously allocated (the equivalent of) $5,000 for this task, director Hannes Holm later lobbied for the makeup budget to be increased to $20,000. The effect was minimalist but stunningly realistic, and it might just earn A Man Called Ove the Oscar.
Ironically, Suicide Squad is the real underdog in this category, and for good reason. While Killer Croc admitedly looked very impressive, he's just one character amidst a cast of normal humans. The only other two characters that stand out are Harley Quinn — whose iconic #comicbook look was "updated" to make her look like a scene kid — and Jared Leto's Joker... and the less said about him the better.
But even above A Man Called Ove's impressively lifelike makeup, Star Trek: Beyond really does deserve to win.
The sheer amount of Beyond's new, individually created aliens are a feat of the hair and makeup department, and their efforts paid off: Beyond was an immersive experience, transporting audiences to the final frontier and making this fantastic scifi universe feel real. The focus on Jaylah, Krall, and other aliens like Ensign Syl made it clear just how much effort was put in to their creation — and the makeup even became part of the plot when Kirk hid the superweapon inside Syl's exoskeleton. (Sounds gross, but it looked cool.)
Making prosthetics look natural is a challenge, but Beyond passed with flying colors. Their use of hair and makeup isn't just interesting to look at, it's also a testament to the practical effects that are a staple of the genre. It's really nice to see good old prosthetics being used in scifi, rather than CGI that quickly looks outdated. For all these reasons and many more, Star Trek: Beyond is a clear winner in this category — so here's hoping the Academy agrees.
Which movie do you think should win the Oscar for Hair & Makeup?
[Poll image credit: Paramount. Header image by Matt Taylor for Mondo]