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READ The Best Makeup Oscar Nominees 2012 List  

Tom Banks
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The Academy Award for Best Makeup is given each year to the film containing the most impressive make-up design, style and technique. Unlike most categories, the number of nominees in the makeup category can be quite fluid; usually 3 films are nominated, but this depends on how many eligible and nomination-worthy works are completed in the year. Some years have had only 2 nominees, while other years, four have been nominated. No more than 2 individual make-up artists are allowed to share a single Makeup Oscar.

The makeup category was created in 1981, following the release of David Lynch's "The Elephant Man" in 1980. Because the make-up transforming actor John Hurt into John Merrick was not considered a "visual effect," the film was not nominated for any Oscars. (Up until then, makeup artists could only receive a "Special Achievement Award" for their work, not a competitive Oscar.) Since the creation of the Makeup category, Rick Baker has received both the most nominations (11) and the most awards (7).

Often, the Best Makeup Oscar - along with other "technical awards" - go to films that are not likely to clean up in the major award categories. For example, in 2010, Baker and his colleague Dave Elsey won for their work on "The Wolfman," a film that was otherwise poorly reviewed. The previous year, J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" was given the trophy. Often, makeup awards and nominations are given to films that manage to significantly alter the age of the main characters, as with Jim Carrey's elderly uncle character in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (the 2004 winner) and "Barney's Version" in 2010, in which Paul Giamatti's character ages decades over the course of the film.

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