I’ve never really had a category for general visual effects, firstly because I often don’t see the biggest of the summer CGI-fest like Transformers, but also because it tends to be kind of obvious what film has the biggest budget and thus the best special effects. Makeup on the other hand seems like a more interesting form of visual effects category that can come in a variety of forms.
- 13 Assassins: Gore baby, gore. The gore effect in this movie are positively ill. We see dudes getting split up by swords and getting their blood spilled all over the fuckin’ place. Director Takashi Miike has always been a talented distributor of fake plasma, and while nothing here has quite the disgusting quality of some of his horror movies, it makes up for it in quantity. This is like the ceiling on the Sistine Chapel of blood spilling.
- Captain America: Captain America himself is a rather human superhero who doesn’t really need makeup very much… but his villain isn’t. Johann Schmidt (AKA Red Skull) is a dude who’s had his skin removed by science and has a blood red face. Sometimes he wears a realistic mask over this freaky face (which is itself an impressive makeup effect), but by the film’s end we’re really seeing a dude with red all over his face and it looks pretty damn real.
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: This isn’t the kind of “special effects makeup” that I usually honor in this category, but when you consider that it’s the makeup department’s job to make the Lisbeth Salander look consistently interesting over the course of the film you beign to see that they deserve some praise. For one, they need to give her the titular tattoo, which is large and interesting. Also they give her this weird black makeup mask over her eyes during a pivitol revenge scene and that’s appropriately awesome too.
- Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall his Past Lives: Not every movie with cool makeup effects are visual effects spectaculars, in fact good makeup can be used to add realism to quiet and experimental arthouse films like Uncle Boonmee. One of the many things that happens to the titular uncle is that his son returns to him as a sort of ape monster (don’t ask me why), and while this monster isn’t brought to life with overly expensive effects he does have an iconic look because of his bright red eyes against dark fur that you can’t quite make out.
- X-Men: First Class: Looking more toward the traditional “effects makeup,” this film is filled with characters who are in full makeup throughout the film including Mystique, Beast, and Azazel, among others. You almost take the makeup work for granted here, which is kind of an accomplishment. The performances come through the makeup quite effectively and you almost just think of these creatures simply as characters, an achievement that Prof. Xavier would be proud of.