‘American Hustle,’ ‘Bad Grandpa’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’ among Oscar makeup and hairstyling finalists

The Academy has announced this year’s bake-off finalists for the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar, and the big omissions appear to be Ron Howard’s “Rush” and Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” But the Jackass boys have cause for celebration!

Last year, the makeup branch extended the name of the category from merely Best Makeup to Best Makeup and Hairstyling in an effort to shine more light on the hairstylists who were already part of the group and had a very big hand in how the category shaped up each and every year. And last year’s winner in the category, “Les Misérables,” is a great example of that synergy between makeup applications and hair and wig work.

That kind of added value for hair designs can be seen in the advancement of “American Hustle” today. The 1970s caper film features an array of interesting styles, including even Christian Bale’s unkempt comb-over (tedious preparation of which opens the film in a hilarious little sequence).

HitFix recently asked actress Amy Adams about building her character with these outward elements. “I tend to like sort of the side-part, luscious curl,” she told our Gregory Ellwood. She couldn’t complain about the time it took to sport all those styles, though, because “Bradley [Cooper] was there early every day getting his hair set in perm rods.” The film is obviously a Best Picture player and it has a fair argument in this category, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see it land in the final lineup.

One film that is nowhere near the Best Picture conversation but could find a fair amount of love in the crafts categories is “The Lone Ranger.” Particularly the intense aging done to Johnny Depp’s Tonto in the film is just catnip for this branch, so of course it made it this far, and may even land a nomination. But other aging efforts, like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” went ignored by the branch today. As did Best Picture frontrunner “12 Years a Slave.”

Meanwhile, again, the notable exclusions of “Rush” (with its burn work on actor Daniel Brühl) and particularly Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” are interesting. One would have thought the “Hobbit” series at the very least would have continued to be recognized by the branch as its variety of prosthetics and creature-building designs remains unique in the fray. But no such luck this time, nor for another fantasy, “Oz the Great and Powerful,” with a department sporting the likes of Howard Berger, Yolanda Toussieng and Peter Montagna (seven nominations and three wins between them).

However, also in the realm of prosthetic work this year – and a movie we told you to watch out for with this branch – is “Bad Grandpa” from the Jackass clan. The film made the cut and may well land an Oscar nomination. The work that went into transforming Johnny Knoxville into the eponymous old-timer “had to withstand some pretty intense scrutiny and allow for a very subtle range of reactions, and it works beautifully,” our own Drew McWeeny wrote in his review of the film. “Knoxville is able to vanish into Irving, and on those occasions when a gag involves something extra, like a giant scrotum or a freakishly-elastic male member, the makeup department rises to that occasion as well.”

Elsewhere, where “The Hunger Games” failed to make it this far with the branch last year, the film’s sequel, “Catching Fire,” impressed the makeup and hairstylists enough this time around. It could be something to watch for, both in this category and in Best Costume Design. And a more subtle example of makeup that made the bake-off list today comes in the form of “Dallas Buyers Club,” with careful work done to enhance the already rail-thin Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in the film.

“The Great Gatsby” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” rounded out the list, though other films I heard were very much in the conversation include “The Grandmaster,” “The Great Beauty” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

On Saturday, Jan. 11, all members of the Academy”s Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch will be invited to view 10-minute excerpts from each of the seven shortlisted films. Following the screenings, members will vote to nominate three films for final Oscar consideration.

Once again, the seven bake-off finalists for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are:

“American Hustle”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“The Great Gatsby”
“Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters”
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
“The Lone Ranger”

All three films we were predicting to be nominated failed to make the list. Just goes to show how singular this branch can truly be.

Nominations in the category will be announced alongside all other Oscar nominees on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

The 86th annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014.