Hollywood's great-hair day

Special to the Times

It may be the only Hollywood awards show this year in which "The Cat in the Hat" is nominated for three awards, while "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is up for just one. And certainly the only one in which "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Daredevil" are competing against "The Human Stain."

The show in question is the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, held Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Although the gala is black tie, the feeling is by no means formal. "The event is quite larky," said Lois Burwell, makeup nominee on "The Last Samurai." "You can walk past people you worked with on a film and not recognize them because they don't have their parka on and their waterproof clothing and that tired drained look that we all have when we're working."

While makeup is relegated to one award at the Oscars (and hair styling gets none) the guild's awards celebrate the artists' work in a wide variety of categories in film and television, with one award for work in live theater. Nominees liken it to the Screen Actors Guild awards for actors, a more thorough recognition of work awarded by one's peers in the business. And nominations for work on such films as "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde" prove that great artistry doesn't always take place in great movies; there is no snobbery in these awards.

Period, character and contemporary makeup and hair styling awards are given for film and television work, and there is one combined award for live theater. Donald Mowat, a contemporary makeup nominee for "The Human Stain," pointed out that although "it can be an incredibly rewarding career, it can also be quite thankless at times." But on this night, he and his colleagues are the ones in the spotlight. "Like the valet in 'Upstairs Downstairs,' you spend a life supporting someone, making them look appropriate, and then for one night it's all about you," he said.

For this night, anyway, the stars turn out in supporting roles. Tom Hanks will hand out a lifetime achievement award to makeup artist Daniel Streipeke, who worked with Hanks on "Catch Me If You Can," "Castaway" and "Road to Perdition," among others. Streipeke also worked on such films as the original "Planet of the Apes," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Deer Hunter." Lucy Liu will present a lifetime achievement award to hair stylist Colleen Callaghan, who worked on such films as "Broadcast News," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Down With Love" and "Charlie's Angles: Full Throttle," which co-starred Liu.

In addition to Hanks, Liu and Nicolas Cage -- winner of this year's Barrymore Award, given annually to an actor whose body of work has had an effect on hair and makeup artistry -- a slew of celebrity presenters will be on hand, and entire television casts have been known to turn out for their artists. "This is the one group that can get on the phone and get stars to come," Mowat said.

That's only part of what makes the event so much fun. Burwell loves both the Academy Awards and the guild's awards, but one show is clearly more relaxed than the other. "At the Oscars, you can only have a laugh when it's over," said Burwell, an Oscar winner for "Braveheart." "I felt sick every time the picture came up." At the guild event, she said, "it isn't about being anxious; it's about enjoying each others' work."

The Oscars have been giving out one award for makeup since 1984's winner "Amadeus." As a courtesy, the makeup nominees share the award with the hair styling department. The nominees agree that a separate award for hair styling is overdue. "I don't care how brilliant it is," said Donna Lou Henderson, makeup nominee and past Guild winner for the HBO series "Six Feet Under." "Makeup cannot stand on its own without a phenomenal hairdresser, then that hairdresser needs to be acknowledged." Martin Samuel, hair styling nominee for "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," added, "Special effects makeup should have its own category as well, because it's so powerful."

The nominees found much to appreciate in this year's crop of movies. Everyone who didn't work on "Pirates" praised it to the skies for its innovation and audacity. "Master and Commander," "Seabiscuit" and "Cat in the Hat" were also lauded.

Although the nominees are quick to admire their colleagues' efforts, none cares to judge any less-than-stellar work from the past year. They know it's not always the artists' fault when bad hair happens to good movies. There's nothing an artist can do when a star or director insists on a particular look. Besides, they're all more comfortable focusing on the positive: black-tie dinner in a ballroom, a night of celebrating their uncelebrated comrades, a good gift bag. Henderson conjures up memories of that other awards show when she speaks of the joy of winning an award from her peers. "I feel like Sally Field: They like me, they really like me."

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Before the stars face the cameras

Here's a look at a few of the nominees:

Lois Burwell

Nominated for: Best period makeup in a feature film for "The Last Samurai."

Credits: "Almost Famous," "Braveheart," "Princess Bride," "Magnolia," "Saving Private Ryan."

About the work: For research, she used the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum in London to locate photographs of Japan in the late 1800s, of "samurai in full regalia and also sitting around having a cup of tea." The work needed to be as realistic as possible without getting theatrical, which was a tricky line to walk. "You don't want them to look like they've stepped out of the 'Mikado,' " she said.

Pet peeve: "Pink ears make me mad, or when someone's got a dirty face but then the ears are clean."

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Donald Mowat

Nominated for: Best contemporary makeup in a feature film (with Robert McCann and Gillian Chandler) for "The Human Stain."

Credits: "8 Mile," "Heist," and "The Italian Job." Personal film makeup artist for Mark Wahlberg.

About the work: In "Human Stain" Anthony Hopkins plays a black man who passes for white. Since the subject was controversial, the work had to be handled in a manner that was "discreet, delicate and subtle."

Pet peeve: Bad veneers and caps on teeth. "It takes away from a complete look of someone, if they've got these horse teeth." Mowat can hardly find anybody on television with an authentic smile anymore. "That's why I like French films, because no one's been to the dentist."

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Martin Samuel

Nominated for: Two nominations, both for "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" -- best period hair styling (with Lucia Mace and Nina Paskewitz) and best character hair styling (with Mace).

Credits: "Blow," "Evita," "Coal Miner's Daughter." Personal film hair stylist for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.

About the work: When he began working on Captain Jack's look for "Pirates," Samuel knew that Depp wanted something along the lines of Keith Richards. "So I had this wig and started to play around with it, and added dreadlocks, and beads, and the bandana, and beads on the bandana." Samuel showed Depp, not knowing if he was completely off the mark. He needn't have worried. "Johnny just said, 'Wow, this is it.' "

Pet peeve: "I can't bear it when people look contemporary in period pictures. It gets on my nerves."

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Why not these categories?

Here are some hair and makeup awards that won't be given out Saturday but ones we'd like to see.

"Best makeup and hair styling on a woman that lets her look her real age while at the same time making her look fantastic"

Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give." Holly Hunter deserves honorable mention for her similarly natural beauty in "Thirteen." Yes, the day has come when there needs to be an award for an absence of plastic surgery.

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"Prettiest makeup and hair that looks completely inappropriate to a contemporary film"

Angelina Jolie in "Beyond Borders." Those lips! Those eyes! That hair! In Chechnya! And Cambodia! And Ethiopia! Her character is doing noble relief work in brutal hot spots, yet she's done up as if she's prepping for a Vogue photo shoot. On the plus side, this could make a good recruiting film for aid workers, with the motto: Doing good, looking better.

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"Prettiest makeup that looks completely inappropriate to a period film"

Nicole Kidman in "Cold Mountain." One look at her ravishing face and Jude Law's arduous journey makes perfect sense. But another glance brings up a few unwanted questions, such as: Were those stylish eyebrows by way of Anastasia of Beverly Hills? She has no food, so how is she washing her hair?

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"Possibly most accurate and yet most distracting facial hair, period"

Just about everyone in "Gods and Generals." It was hard to concentrate for the sight of the ungodly beards in this movie.

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"Best at making a beautiful woman look terrible so that she can be considered a Serious Actress"

Charlize Theron's people on "Monster" win in a walk. Not to be confused with best actress Oscar, though the confusion is understandable (see Nicole Kidman for "The Hours" and Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry").

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"Lifetime achievement in eyeliner award"

Johnny Depp. In addition to a pirate, he has played such other well-lined characters as a Gypsy ("Chocolat"), a transvestite ("Before Night Falls") and a semi-bionic boy ("Edward Scissorhands"), to the joy of moviegoers everywhere. It should be noted that Scissorhands found fulfillment as a hair (and hedge) stylist.

-- Lisa Rosen

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