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Entries in Art Direction (57)

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? 

 

Wednesday
Jul302014

Why I'm Not Seeing "Lucy"

"Lucy" will be discussed soon on the podcast but at least one member of Scarjo-loving TFE refuses to see it. Here's Matthew Eng to tell you why. - Editor


I don't care if Lucy is every bit the gloriously silly and shamelessly outré action fireworks show that gung-ho summer audiences have made into a "surprise hit." I care even less that Luc Besson has managed to curb his own gonzo cheese-fest tendencies to a running time of less than 90 minutes, compared to the ceaselessly spinning tops and chiseled self-mythologizing of every Christopher Nolan movie post-Insomnia. And, though it's been tempting, I finally don't care that Besson and Co. have seemingly put the newly-rejuvenated Scarlett Johansson (so good in Under the Skin; so great in Don Jon) on a pedestal of full-out Film Goddess proportions, in a genre where movies in which women are front and center and not merely killjoy bystanders or fatal love objects is an all too well-known rarity.

That last fact has been my greatest lure towards shilling out for Lucy (aka Scarlett), but I refuse to believe that we should have to tolerate, much less applaud, any old action movie, no matter how dire the prospects, because some Hollywood bigwig has had the amazing insight to put a more-than-deserving actress at the forefront. I, too, was giddy about Angelina Jolie snatching Salt right out of Tom Cruise's hands, until I actually sat down and watched the thing, only to realize what a sorry, secondhand vehicle Jolie was actually driving. If you really want to watch a fully-realized femme figure take names and kick ass with the full support (and smarts) of the filmmakers behind her, then by all means rent/stream/buy the Alien series or the Kill Bills or the Terminators, or, for something less familiar, take a gander at Kathryn Bigelow's exquisite Strange Days, in which a bravura Angela Bassett is every bit the strong and stalwart action heroine she needs to be, while also, you know, playing a recognizable human being.

But what finally set aside any and all chances of me seeing Lucy was this image, ℅ of Rena Meownegishi, who found it and translated. [more ...]

 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun292014

Our Link Summer

Must Reads
The Atlantic 'How Brando Broke the Movies' -excellent piece from Tom Shone on perceptions of movie stardom, acting and chameleon tricks
L'etoile on summer's anniversary nostalgia and childhood idles
Pajiba shares fun excerpts from Neil Patrick Harris' upcoming autobiography. Sounds like a must-read. The Scott Caan story is delicious 

More Links & News
The Guardian "The Glorious Folly of Dance on Film" Singin' in the Rain, Pina and more
The Dissolve Bond 24 gets a rewrite. But why? Daniel Craig returns of course with Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris in tow
Geeks Out Boo. Disney is taking pains to make sure we know that 'Wandering Oaken' from Frozen (the guy with the store and sauna) isn't gay like the internet said
Kenneth in the (212) Shia Labeuf and the Jordan Almond defense
Towleroad Gay Iconography: Bette Midler
Vérité recommends Rob the Mob (2014) with Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda. This is one of those rare 'under the radar' recommendations that actually is. I hadn't been aware of this Bonnie & Clyde like tale but I'm up for more Arianda for sure.

Off Cinema
Salon has a list of the 19 greatests 'double entendre' songs from "Brand New Key" to "Milkshake" and so on. I object to the exclusion of Cyndi Lauper's "She-Bop"
Gizmodo how long until we get this weird 'Smart Morphable Surface' technology in sci-fi movie designs? 

Oscar Notes / Production Design
In case you missed it as the weekend began, AMPAS made some minor adjustments to the rules (as they are prone to do) which In Contention analyzes. Mostly it's technicalities like how nominations are credited for Song & Best Picture but the super interesting one is that movies nominated for Production Design which feature heavily digital environments will now have an added nominee, the digital designer. I personally suspected /was hoping that the change which was bound to happen would be closer to the Black and White vs. Color designations that Oscar went through from the mid30s through the mid60s in cinematography and I was hoping it would happen in both cinematography and production design since visual fx achievements keep winning in one or both of those categories (think Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Gravity, Hugo, etcetera). But I guess that was wishful thinking.

Tuesday
Jun102014

Best Shot: OITNB Season 2

No sophomore slump for this sensation. Orange is the New Black's second season arrived on June 6th for the masses to binge watch on Netflix. We ended Season 1 with a cliffhanger battle between Piper and meth-head hilbilly Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning,) which landed Piper in the SHU (solitary confinement) and as Season 2 begins she's being hauled off in the dead of night, completely unaware of what's happened, whether Pennsatucky is dead or alive, and where she's headed. The unfamiliar guards act as if she isn't even there.

Please tell me where we're going."

It's a sensible enough question, and a perfect one for a new season which no longer has the source material to work from (Chicago was the end of Piper's jail term in the book and here it lasts just the first episode of the season). Untethered to adaptation, and with the rich often fictionalized world of the prison already established where will Jenji Kohan take us? [More...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
May192014

Oscar Predictions & Curiousities : Visuals & Score

I haven't forgotten about the Oscar charts. This first installment is the most time-consuming is all, as it sets the templates up for an entire years worth of handwringing and hiearchy juggling. With this latest update we only have the "big eight" categories left to do (minus actor & supporting actress which we've already surveyed). But here are a few thoughts on new charts that are up...

WarDaddy's (Brad Pitt) team in "Fury". The film is scored by Oscar-winner Steven Price

SCORE
I perhaps overstate the music branch's love for their favorite sons each year. It's not that that love isn't evident each year (stop to consider how many composers, for example, have 8 or more nominations and how rare that is in many other fields) it's that Hollywood's favorite composers are quite prolific so, John Williams & Alexandre Desplat aside (who never miss for a nomination)  aside, there's no guarantee that any of them will win traction since all of their rivals are also in the mix each year.

A few things to be curious about in 2014:

• Steven Price (Gravity) just won the Oscar on his first nomination so can he become a favorite? If so he's scoring Fury, the WW II tank drama with Brad Pitt in the lead this year. 
• Which Desplat score will they go for since they always have (at least) a few choices: Grand Budapest Hotel, Unbroken, or Godzilla? Or all three. Heh.
• It's been awhile since James Newton Howard (Maleficent) or Danny Elfman (Big Eyes) were in the mix. This year?
• Will Thomas Newman (Get On Up, The Judge) ever win the statue? He's the most nominated working composer who has never won with 12 failed attempts

CINEMATOGRAPHY
I would've given them their whole post but I can't even talk about this today. *sniffle* Gordon B Willis (RIP) 

Maleficent wonders which fairy tale Oscar wants to hear

COSTUME
The internet did a good job of spreading the fun factoid I once shared that Colleen Atwood (Into the Woods) and Sandy Powell (Carol) don't win the costuming Oscar unless the other one is nominated. So we'll have to look elsewhere for fun trivia this year. A few things I'm curious about this year:

• Milena Canonero is back! The three time Oscar winner  did wonderful work on Grand Budapest Hotel. Oscar tends to shun creative stylized work like that (what a shame that they passed up her instantly iconic work on The Royal Tenenbaums) when they can opt for period realism instead so that's kind of a longshot but wouldn't it be sweet?
• Will Oscar help Anna B Sheppard stretch? If they like her Maleficent costumes maybe she'll get offered movies outside the World War II genre, the box that Hollywood likes to keep her in (She also costumed Fury this year.
• Which of the rising crop of costume design stars is going to make it to an Oscar nomination first: Jane Petrie (Suffragette - I have it for 2015 but maybe it'll  be released this year), Kurt & Bart (Hunger Games: Mockingjay), or Steven Noble (Two Faces of January, Theory of Everything) ?

FILM EDITING 
It's too early to talk about this category really since, more than any other category, it depends entirely on what people like for Best Picture. 

Will AMPAS finally embrace the creative achievements in Wes Anderson's filmography

PRODUCTION DESIGN
My prediction for Grand Budapest Hotel is, I'll admit instantly, wishful thinking. (But it's early, so I'm allowed a few of those). It's perplexing that the art direction branch, like the costumers, often shun cool stylization such as the kind you often see in Wes Anderson features. But I'm hoping that the production designers can't help but recognize Adam Stockhausen's extraordinary range, hopping from pre Civil War realism (12 Years a Slave won him his first nomination) to Wes Anderson's fanciful dioramas with not only ease but confidence and panache. 

A few other things to be curious about:

• Is Oscar done with the Middle Earth films (last year they had their first miss in this category) or will they want to send the Hobbit trilogy away with a 6th nomination for Dan Hennah?
• Can Maria Durjovic (The Imitation Game) finally snag a nomination? She's done great work before and been egregiously snubbed (think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and somehow the Oscar heat from Billy Elliott and The Hours didn't rub off on her either time
• Is Dennis Gassner a contender for his second win? He won the category for the very handsome Warren Beatty picture Bugsy (1991) but he's designed several completely gorgeous, classy and showy movies since then like, oh,  The Truman Show (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), and Big Fish (2003). Will Into the Woods be received well enough to make him a frontrunner?

 

Which Oscar fates are you most curious about for this season?

 

Tuesday
Apr082014

From Russia With Love's Visual Style

On the 50th anniversary of "From Russia With Love"'s US release our friend and James Bond expert Deborah Lipp (she even wrote a book about him!) is here to talk 007...

Sean Connery in "From Russia With Love" released 50 years ago today in the States

After 23 official films and 2 unofficial ones, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond adventure, remains the greatest of them all. Considered an iconic film in many ways, it may surprise the casual Bond viewer to note that certain "iconic" aspects of the Bond franchise were missing from or created in this film.

Let's focus on From Russia With Love's extraordinary visual signature on this anniversary

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, featured the production design of Ken Adam. Adam is justifiably famous. In Dr. No, he designed such sets as the nuclear launch room, and, needing one last set when the budget ran out, came up with an exquisitely simple interrogation room, as perfect as any of his more elaborate work. Adam worked on a total of seven Bond films, creating such sets as Goldfinger's Fort Knox and the hollowed-out volcano lair in You Only Live Twice. He is considered synonymous with the look of James Bond movies, but he didn't do From Russia With Love. He was busy working on Dr. Strangelove—go ahead and revisit the war room scene in Kubrick's film and ask yourself if it doesn't look an awful lot like a James Bond movie.

No, art direction for From Russia with Love was done by Syd Cain. Cain is kind of impressive. Like Ken Adam, he did multiple Bond films and worked with Stanley Kubrick (in Cain's case, on Lolita). 

The eye-popping chess tournament scene in From Russia with Love, in which the chess game takes place on a raised dais above a checkerboard floor mimicking the chessboard itself, is Cain's work. The movie also featured Blofeld's yacht-based lair, extensive scenes on the Orient Express, and location footage in Istanbul augmented by opulent set design. In fact, opulence is a good word to hang on Cain's work, and FRWL is an opulent movie.

Another iconic visual element in Bond films is the title sequence. Title design by Maurice Binder is considered part of the Bond signature, and Binder was there from the beginning. Dancing girls, silhouettes, sinuous animated movement, and the famed gunbarrel sequence were all Binder's designs. He did the title sequences for every Bond film from the first one in 1962 through License to Kill in 1989. Except two: From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Robert Brownjohn did those. 

FRWL's title sequence features the credits projected on the mostly-nude body of a bellydancer. It's beautiful and so very Bond, so typical of Binder's signature work that you may wonder if Brownjohn wasn't influenced by the first Bond title sequence. He wasn't: Dr. No's titles are a psychedelic explosion of colored dots. Male and female dancing silhouettes come in around the 1.40 mark, and by 2.15 we're into the "Three Blind Mice" sequence—three blind beggars who turn out, as the movie begins, to be assassins. Nope, the sensual body of a woman in Bond titles wasn't made iconic by the iconic Bond title designer. 

From Russia With Love is great for many reasons: Plot, dialog, cast, and locations all play important roles. But the visual style is a key component. How interesting, then, that it stands separate from what we think of as "the" Bond style.

 

Friday
Feb282014

2 Days Til Oscar. Final Oscar Predictions

This article originally appeared in my column at Towleroad and is reprinted here (albeit slightly altered for the TFE crowd) with their permission

Gravity will win how many Oscars? The most at any rate.

Oscar Weekend is upon us! Those damn Olympics forced it into March so it already feels like its running late and pushing back the local news broadcast yet further into the AM hours. And it hasn't even started yet! But soon Ellen Degeneres will be dancing down the aisles and we'll be on our way. [Before we get there make sure to like TFE on facebook so you don't forget about us during the spring/summer. We hit it all year round!]

I've been an Oscar blogger for over ten years (yikes) and usually predicting the winners in the high profile categories is easy; it's about getting out of your own way since it's easy to overthink it and create scenarios which aren't likely to happen. This year is more volatile than usual, though, with Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle all displaying strength after strength during "precursor season" but meeting plenty of resistance, too, on their awards path. Anything might happen in Best Picture, which is not something you can usually say going into the big night. It'll be a groundbreaking night almost any way it turns out with a first in Best Director (first Hispanic winner or first black winner) and a first in Picture (first sci-fi winner or first film that's totally about black people) 

Oscar never presents the categories in the exact same order from year to year, but let's take these in the order the envelopes opened last year just as an outline on which to hang our predictions after the jump... 

Click to read more ...