The bittersweet sentiment attached to posthumous Oscar nominations is an unavoidable and even reasonable reaction when they occur. Our more cynical age has also sadly brought immediate suspicion to those times when one passes away before seeing the Academy embrace their work. Did they really think so-and-so was Oscar worthy, or was this just a sentimental nod? In January of this year we received the terrible news that Eiko Ishioka – one of the most idiosyncratic and striking costume designers of her time – died from pancreatic cancer and three months later we were reminded of what cinema lost when Mirror Mirror debuted in theaters. Sentiment be damned, she deserves an Academy Award nomination one last time.
There is not one costume in the entire picture that doesn’t burst with creativity and flawless execution in Tarsem Singh’s admittedly dumb but charming little revision of the Snow White fairy tale. While bold colors and unusual garment styles have always been trademarks of her threads, the imaginative overload she employs here is possibly her peak, or at least the equal of her Oscar-winning work in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s a remarkable blend of Gothic extravagance with children’s storybook appeal that Tarsem is clearly going for while coordinating well with Tom Foden’s dreamlike and luxuriously overworked production design to contribute to the feel of a vivid watercolor painting.
Though Ishioka was rarely one to show much attention to historical, artistic or even logical bounds, her costumes here provide fun little details for the discerning viewer looking for tributes to historical fashions. Her use of gold and blue as a visual indicator of the changing fortunes of the hero and villain is one of the few genuinely clever elements of Mirror Mirror, and there are all sorts of slick little details and varieties she adds to each elaborate outfit that are a blast to look for and spot. From the sleek back guard uniforms to the sheer variety of wildlife-themed costumes at the ball, a Best Costume Design nomination for Eiko Ishioka would be well-deserved under any circumstances.
Tags: Circuit Considerations, Comedy, Eiko Ishioka, Fantasy, Mirror Mirror, movies allegedly for children, production design-o-rama, Tarsem Singh, Tom Foden