(Source: incontention.com) Without any doubt, one of the most difficult Oscar categories to predict is Best Makeup. Like Best Visual Effects, the final three nominees are chosen from a previously announced shortlist of seven.

Very frequently, films that would seem to be sure things fail to even make the bake-off. Even so, it is possible to gauge the general sort of films which are nominated, with considerable prosthetics and aging effects being among the most cited accomplishments in this category.

This branch is one that regularly seems willing nominate dreadful films, or to eschew insularity (which is not to say they don’t have their favorites, such as Greg Cannom and Rick Baker).

I think many of the films I spoke of in September remain firmly in the running, And perhaps leading the way is Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9.” While much of the work in this was CGI, the makeup was key, not only to the main character’s transformation but also to capturing the injuries of the characters in the slums of Johannesburg. The crew has not been nominated before, but I don’t think that will be a problem.

J.J. Abrams’s recent take on “Star Trek” also seems a good candidate. The film was a respected hit and the creation of Eric Bana’s villain Nero alone strikes me as the sort of work which this branch embraces.  Not to mention all the other famous characters that show up. Again, the crew has not been cited by this branch before, but I don’t think that will be too great of an obstacle.

Of films already released, I can’t shake off the idea that Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” could emerge as a surprise nominee. The work is the sort the branch embraces and Howard Berger is a past winner. Just a hunch.

The other film that has been out for months and could still score here is “Watchmen.” To say this is not an “Oscar film” is an understatement to put it mildly. But the makeup was still fantastic, and Greg Cannom is a major favorite.

Despite the fact that we are now 11 months through the year, there are still a handful of films that have yet to open and, in my opinion, could play a role here.

I certainly expect James Cameron’s “Avatar” to be a major player throughout the crafts categories. But I suspect excessive reliance on visual effects will ultimately do the film in here.  Additionally, the makeup artists have yet to be recognized by the branch. Even so, I expect the film to be a visual treat, and if makeup does play a significant role, it could score here as well.

I’m not yet sure what to make of Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” Consensus on the film has not yet emerged but I think aging the characters and capturing the 1970s vibe and interesting nature of the characters could present makeup artists with a rich opportunity. Jackson’s famous WETA crew is responsible, which could be a big leg up.

The December film I am very curious to see is Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” Fashioning an array of circus figures and a 1,000 year old title character certainly presented makeup artists with a daunting yet exciting task. Sarah Monzani has been out of the race for 27 years since winning this award for “Quest for Fire.” Perhaps it is time for a return?

I have a few doubts on some of the other films I mentioned last time.  One of these is John Hillcoat’s “The Road,” which has received respectful reviews, but I don’t see it as a major player in this year’s awards season. And the makeup wasn’t showy enough to score here.

In a similar boat is Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” While the film was undoubtedly innovative, at the end of the day, it was really costumes and visual effects that made the film work.

Also, though “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” probably shouldn’t be completely ruled out, I remain highly skeptical that it will manage to become the first film in the series to get a nomination here.

Furthermore, while “Nine” has yet to open, the word that has been trickling out so far leads me to believe that many crafts nominations are headed its way.  Best Makeup, however, does not seem to be one of them. The work does not appear showy enough.

I’ll end with one film I forgot last time: Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” It’s looking increasingly likely to find a home in many categories. While I would not call Best Makeup the most likely place for it to score, the war wounds and character makeup nonetheless strike me as enough to at least put this in consideration.

This now marks the second time through nine of the 10 crafts fields.  Next week Kris will run through the original songs in a dedicated column and soon after, our interview series will kick-off.

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