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Entries in Art Direction (62)

Thursday
Jan292015

Sundance: "The Witch" is a Riveting One-Of-A-Kind Horror Experience

Michael C. here with one of the big discoveries of Sundance 2015.

There is something happening in the horror genre right now.  Maybe its a response to the dreadful depths to which mainstream horror titles sank in the past decade but like antibodies fighting off an infection the indie scene has churned out one great movie after another in recent years: The Babadook, The Guest, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Under the Skin (which is totally horror, if not only horror). Like an unstoppable slasher the genre will just not stay down. Already at this Sundance we have had the astonishing It Follows and now comes Robert Eggers' The Witch another peak for the horror genre. 

The Witch is a true blast of originality that immerses the viewer in 1630's New England as a family of puritans banished to live isolated on the edge of wilderness is beset by the occult terrors residing in the nearby woods. The result is more than simply jump-outta-your-seat scary (though it is often that) it is genuinely unnerving in a way few films can manage. The effect is like a cold hand slowly closing over your heart.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan052015

Art Director's Guild Nominations Stay Focused on the Best Picture Conversation

The Art Director's Guild have named the most well designed and carefully decorated movies of the year. How well do you think they did in terms of Best? This is as good a time as any to tell you that we've begun our annual Film Bitch Awards, now in their (gulp) 15th year so you can see my preferred ballot there.

The guild which represents 2300 industry people like Production Designers, Art Directors, Set Designers, Model Makers and Artists of various kinds (Scenic, Title, Matte, etcetera) voted for the following 15 films, most of which are firmly entrenched in the Best Picture discussion indicated that they didn't watch too many screeners before voting. 

Did Inherent Vice's elaborate last supper joke win it this nomination? Or was it the whorehouse?

Period Film
INHERENT VICE - David Crank
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL -Adam Stockhausen
THE IMITATION GAME -Maria Djurkovic 
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING -John Paul Kelly
UNBROKEN - Jon Hutman 

But what about?: Mr Turner which is more challenging and fascinating and epic in its production scope than most of these nominees; The Homesman which is more memorably designed than some of these; I probably like Unbroken more than a lot of critics but I'm not sure it's more worthy of a WW II recreation notice here than, say, Fury? In short, they've been listening to the Best Picture conversation.

More Nominations & Commentary after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec092014

Interview: James Chinlund's Evolutionary "Apes" Vision. (Plus a Look Back at "The Fountain")

Production Design James ChinlundThough today's film culture is as as overun with franchises as the decaying cities of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are with unchecked vegetation, franchise movies do have a few beautiful unique pleasures all their own. Chief among those, we'd argue, is the sheer scale of imaginative spectacle they can provide when the right people are hired behind the scenes. 

James Chinlund, the award winning production designer behind the fantastic world-building in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of those people.  Though his filmography was once mostly the domain of scrappy ambitious auteur indies, he's recently experienced a sort of super-size me effect. He credits Marvel's gamble in hiring him to design their biggest blockbuster The Avengers with reinvigorating his film career. This led directly to Dawn of the Apes, one of 2014's most acclaimed giant-sized hits. Though Chinlund undoubtedly has his share of film offers these days, he prefers the mix of small and large scale projects that his still-diverse career provides and opted out of superhero sequels from the time commitment. 

Apes, Avengers, and The Fountain are after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec072014

Team FYC: Enemy for Production Design

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Jason on Enemy.

Toronto is a city always standing in for other places; I grew up about two hours from it and I've visited many times (I love that I saw David Cronenberg's Crash, filmed in that city, on a downtown screen there since it wasn't playing anywhere closer to me) and I've always described the town as "New York City, but clean." It is a bit sterile, a lot cold (I refer you to Cronenberg again - where else could he possibly call home?), a bit personality-free. So what better place to set Denis Villenueve's Enemy, a dark nightmare of doubles, then?

Jose Saramago's novel The Double, on which the film is based, is of course set in Portugal but more importantly it spends big chunks carrying its characters off to the countryside; Enemy however never makes it out of downtown Toronto -- there is no "out of Toronto." The city seen from far above floats between the Great Lake on one side and tundra or mist or maybe just the edge of the known world on the other; meanwhile the streets are webbed with trolley-wires and the buildings all seem like computer renderings half-finished. We see people walking the streets but they have all the presence of the ghosts haunting The Matrix, and the expressways seem to endlessly circle around in a Truman Show like loop.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov302014

Interview: Jennifer Kent on Her "Babadook" Breakthrough and What She Learned From "Dogville"

It's been a banner year for female directors. Two female directors have continually been in the Best Director Oscar discussion, they continue to make inroads in indie cinema (see the Spirit Award first feature and first screenplay citations!) and in many countries outside of the US. And that's not all. The year's most impressive debut stint behind the camera arguably belongs to Jennifer Kent (pictured left) whose controlled, creepy, beautifully designed and acted Australian horror film The Babadook has been winning raves. After a stint on Direct TV it's just hit US theaters, albeit only three of them. May it expand swiftly to unsettle every city.

When I spoke with Ms. Kent over the phone we were experiencing and ungainly time-lag and accidentally talking over one another. A time-lag also happened when I watched her movie the first time; its unique slow build had me more frightened after the movie finished than while I was watching it. It sticks. The tag line is true

You can't get rid of the Babadook.

I mention that I'm pre-ordering the Babadook book as I'm telling this story about how the movie continues to haunt me. "Then you'd better not," she says laughing as we begin our conversation about debut filmmaking, snobber towards horror films, what she learned from Lars von Trier, and the miracles of Essie Davis' lead performance.

 

NATHANIEL: Have you had a lot of weird reactions to the film?

JENNIFER KENT: Yeah, I have. I’ve had the gamut of reactions from people seeking a roller coaster ride with jolts and scares. They've been like  'Ripped off. This isn’t a horror film!' to people like yourself. What’s most surprising to me is -- more than a  couple of people have said ‘I really didn’t like but I saw it again.' Why would you see it again?  And then changing their minds about it. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Aug302014

Game of Links

Catching up on news & noteworthy we didn't cover the past couple of days...

Brangelina
Vanity Fair the details of the Brangelina marriage that we know. I'm really so happy for them as a longtime fan but...
Time knocks them for not keeping their promise to the gays. I knew this backlash would happen. But they did hold out a long time and they've done so much good for the world including for marriage equality that I think we should let it slide
Gawker asks the intriguing question: "Why is Angelina Jolia a movie star?"

Some of her movies have been well-received acting vehicles. Some of her movies have been gargantuan commercial products. There is no place where those circles overlap on the Venn diagram. 

It's worth pondering her atypical celebrity.

Absolute Must Read!
/bent has a fascinating long essay about HBO, Game of Thrones, and the distinct feeling that TV series are beginning to go for sex and violence just to have them rather than serve the story. It's a super interesting detailed piece that covers more than just Game of Thrones but past series as well and troubling gender politics and rape fantasies. 

More Linkage For Infotainment
Variety has intriguing film/stage news: Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men fame will be playing the legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder on stage in a play about the making of Double Indemnity. Good luck finding someone who can pull off Barbara Stanwyck!
The Film Stage a new trailer for Stephen Daldry's Trash. You guys no matter what I do, I cannot remember to watch this. I didn't see the first one either. I still know nothing about this movie
Deadline the first Oscar FYC screener to go out is actually Snowpiercer. That's a fun surprise. They're pushing Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress. I can't find a large enough photo of the screener online to tell who else they're pushing though. 

/Film The Maze Runner is being shown in "Panoramic Projection" which is a new thing that's apparently descended from CinemaScope.  
In Contention Kate Winslet and a bunch of acclaimed actors are starring in John Hillcoat's (Lawless) next feature in 2015 called Triple Nine
Out profiles Belgian superstar Matthias Schoenaerts
Empire Charlie Hunnam to play King Arthur for Guy Ritchie
The Wire explains the messy chain of events of that Bryan Singer sexual abuse lawsuit, which has now been dismissed 
Variety The Art Directors Guild has expanded their annual awards categories. Lots of interesting things will be honored now like storyboard artists and such 
Gizmodo wonders how NYC would respond to an actual Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack. 
/Film Actor Bill Hader shares a list of his 200 favorites  (I was super happy to see Trouble in Paradise, Nashville, and L'Atalante... let's just say he has really good taste)
Vulture talks to Jessica Chastain about yet another season of multiple movies and her love of movies, even the bad silly ones.

But tonight I'm going to the movies and I really go to the movies any chance I can... I love 'em all."

Small Screen
Decider looks back at a very special episode of "The Facts of Life". Weren't they all? 
Variety on why the Emmy rules are so hard to fix
Variety talks to Allison Janney about her career and double Emmy night
TV Line great news: Enver Gjokaj, so brilliant on Dollhouse and not as well employed as he should be is joining the Marvel Universe via that Agent Peggy Carter show 
Pajiba David Fincher's Gap commercials  

DISCUSSION TOPIC
Do you ever find yourself reading a blog post or essay or watching a conversation and one casual remark will totally throws you out of the piece until it's all you can think of? That's what happened to me with that Hilary Swank comment the other day. It happened twice more last night. I was watching an interview with the star of Obvious Child, Jenny Slate, where she was all "I miss romantic comedies where women are complex". Me too! But then her example of non-complex is shade thrown Kristen Wiig & Bridesmaids way? HUH? That's one of the only great romantic comedies of the past decade with complex female characterizations. Then I'm over at Film School Rejects reading a take on the Honorary Oscars and they're complaining about no "career tribute" style Oscar nomination for Maureen O'Hara in that John Candy movie Only the Lonely (1991). And then Christopher Campbell writes:

Did they really need to honor Juliette Lewis instead?

What-the-what-now? Juliette was the best one in her category that year! Plus, sucking Robert DeNiro's thumb is really going above and beyond for art on account of gross.

Has this happened to you recently where you just can't with one sentence?