Effective story-telling in film relies entirely on two dominant senses, sight and sound. And while a beautiful score and creative sound design pack a punch, I love, love, love the visual esthetics of cinema. My three favorite elements of film are photographic composition, lighting, and, duh, make up! Of course, the story must be told, the writing should be tight, and the cast must emote appropriately, but that is for another blog.
So, here are a few amazing “Make Up Films” where the artistry plays a pivotal part of the story. In each example, I’ve included what made each particular film stand out in my opinion.
The Hunger Games Series: Now I’ve only seen the first two, but I love the fashion of the upper class and the gorgeous make up they did on Jennifer Lawrence when she was on display for the masses. Chunky glitter is not an easy medium and it certainly doesn’t film well. For that reason alone, I want to tip my hat to the make-up artist team. The glorious and rampant use of color is rarely encountered these days in modern movies, especially on the cheeks, lips, and eyes of A-list celebrities such as Elizabeth Banks. It is fun, it’s pretty, and it also further punctuates the socioeconomic injustices that the protagonist faces.
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams): When it comes to alien species and make up, this movie and its sequel are a visual smorgasbord. The practical make up encompasses a variety of media, from airbrushing to prosthetics, and even full body suits. The work is polished, slick, and clean, matching the overall feel of the updated franchise. Seriously, I could stare at Zachary Quinto as Spock for hours. The iridescent gold tint to his skin, the flawless eyebrows, and the delectable nude lips give this little lady nerdgasms!!
Big Trouble in Little China: For 1986, this movie has stunning make-up work. David Lo Pan’s character being the center piece is fantastic as both the decrepit, wheelchair-bound old man or as the pasty and powerful sorcerer reborn. Special effects aside, the general make up is really good. I particularly love early in the movie, when they visit an Chinese brothel. The two elderly madams are sporting the most dead-on 1980’s Asian stereotype make-up I have ever seen and yet it totally works! The cosmetic team here is solid, in every facet.
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade: A Japanese fantasy that revitalizes the Romeo & Juliet framework, I could only describe this film as visually luscious! Truly, an anime at heart, this movie combines breathtaking action, fabulous make-up, gorgeous cinematography, and unique characters to fire up the romantic in you. While there is a lot of CGI support, which is a little spotty at times, there is no denying the cosmetic department pulls through. The anime inspired style calls for each character’s look to coincide with their individual and unique power. This allows the make-up team to actually create a new feel for each character. Usually movies follow a thematic color palette and style for all the characters. The mold is broken with each face in Shinobi, and that’s why I love it! Tensen, The Immortal and Kagero are my personal favorites, but every one of the “Shinobi” looks perfect, just perfect!
Batman Returns: Yeah, everybody had a hard-on for Michelle Pfeiffer in her Catwoman latex, but good lord, Danny DeVito as The Penguin steals the show!!! His look is utterly disgusting, and yet, the fantastic make up and prosthetic work doesn’t limit DeVito’s range of emotion as he works this delightfully grotesque character for the screen. As terrifying as his facial features look, he is still tragically human, pitiful, and vulnerable. The artistic and emotional complexity that his face projects, makes it one of my favorite pieces of work. There rest of the film has solid make up for the time period, but The Penguin is truly a crowning achievement.
Thanks for reading,
Diva Del Mar