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Podcast - 1996 Cannes Competition Revisit

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Entries in Colorology (56)

Monday
May232016

The Furniture: Black Narcissus's Maddening Matte Paintings

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

In movies, if perhaps not in life, people can be driven mad by mountains. In films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, they can be driven mad by paintings of mountains.

Black Narcissus is the story of a group of Anglican nuns who trek up to an abandoned cliffside palace in the Himalayas to establish a new convent. Deborah Kerr, cinema’s most consistent nun, is Sister Clodagh, the young mother superior. Her mission is doomed from the beginning, of course, though not necessarily because the locals reject their presence. Rather, it is the landscape that overwhelms their emotions and breaks their faith and their vows.

Powell and Pressburger did not shoot on location in India, however. The set was built at Pinewood Studios. [More...

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Monday
May092016

The Furniture: Joy's Emerald City of Home Shopping

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber on Joy, now available on DVD and Bluray

It seems impossible that production designer Judy Becker has only received a single Oscar nomination, if not supremely unfair as well. At the very least, she should have snagged a second nomination for Carol. Her resume includes such diverse triumphs as We Need to Talk About Kevin, Brokeback Mountain, Shame and I’m Not There, as well as a neat early credit as a set dresser on Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. And so it seems totally appropriate that Becker is the first production designer to merit a repeat appearance in 'The Furniture'.

Becker’s most fruitful collaboration has been with David O. Russell. She's worked on every one of his features since The Fighter and she earned her lone Oscar nomination for American Hustle. Her sets for Joy, particularly the charismatic QVC studio at the film’s core, are among the best design work of last year. They also make quite a one-two punch with Carol, Becker showing a remarkable affinity for the stylistic underpinnings of American shopping. [More...]

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Monday
Apr252016

The Furniture: The Lady with the Van Paints a Crime Scene Into a Home

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Lady in the Van begins with a bloody hit-and-run accident. The title van-driving lady, played by Maggie Smith, collides with a young man and leaves him for dead. On the lam, bound by necessity to a vehicle that may also be a murder weapon, she finds her way to a quiet neighborhood full of artists and bourgeois intellectuals.

Then it turns into a delightful comedy about the social anxieties of Alan Bennett.

It’s a bit abrupt, to be honest. And it may take a fair while to warm up to the neurotic, Adaptation.-style doppelgangers that represent the split personalities of the playwright protagonist. The vans themselves, though, quite effectively capture a much more gradual transition, one that charts Mary/Margaret’s arc with care. What begins as an all-in-one murder weapon and crime scene becomes a home. [More...]

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Monday
Mar212016

The Furniture: Brooklyn and Carol's Dramatically Different Department Stores

It's our new Production Design series, "The Furniture." Daniel Walber kicked things off last week with the bedroom in The Exorcist. Now a different era and public spaces - Editor

Thanks to Brooklyn and Carol, 2015 was a banner year for the 1950s department store. Both Eilis and Therese spend a fair amount of time as New York City shopgirls, selling to housewives and dealing with stern floor managers. Yet, despite the ostensibly common setting, Brooklyn's Bartocci's and Carol's Frankenberg's could not be more different.

The staff areas are a good place to start. Bartocci’s has a simple enough space for its employees, with open coat lockers to keep their belongings. It’s not beautiful, but the wood lends it a cozy quality. Production designer François Séguin (The Red Violin) and art directors Irene O’Brien (This Must Be the Place) and Robert Parle (Riddick) have a subtle, but assured touch. [More...]

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Saturday
Mar052016

Is "Gods of Egypt" a Bad Movie People Will Eventually Love?

The cast sees the reviews! The Horror. The Horror.The ill begotten would be blockbuster Gods of Egypt, directed by Alex Proyas (I Robot, The Crow), is currently enjoying a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; you could call that score bad luck but for the fact that the movie fully earns it.

Still... There's something enjoyable about tallying up the ways it goes wrong. It continually charges toward its own spectacular idiocy with gusto. Despite heaps of exposition it never makes a lick of sense, explaining rules only to break them. It mounts each action sequence with zero artistry in disguising its shameful lust to earn extra $ as a video game (you half expect congratulatory text and bonus points on screen a la Scott Pilgrim vs The World). It builds its own crazy as high as its in-movie Tower of Babel. It wants to play with surreal Egyptian imagery but is so 2016 that it mistakes human gods with animal heads for organic derivatives of Michael Bay's Transformers

Each actor, freed from mundane concerns of "direction" or even other actors (green screens abound so half the time it's clear they're not together), does his/her own thing. The result is a hilarious hodgepodge of styles, accents, and wildly varying degrees of success at self-amusement: Egyptians with Australian accents? why not, Gerard Butler!; You once saw Pirates of the Caribbean and want to do something affected but can't quite commit to your mincing gay idea? Then do it half ass, Chadwick Boseman; You only want to entertain yourself? Thank you thank you Geoffrey Rush & Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. You are both having so much fun which is the only way to do a bad movie.

Maybe it's the time of year, the garbage dump month between serious adult films vying for metaphoric gold (it's just gold plating) and studio four-quadrant product vying for audience gold (the green stuff) but I found its monotonous/cheap aesthetic weirdly endearing; the sets and costumes are gold, the lighting is golden, some of the superpowers are fiery gold, and these Gods even bleed gold! This is not a recommendation so much as a "if you're in the mood for it" which I, surprisingly, was. It's a blockbuster dumb as Brenton Thwaites is twink pretty, but it just can't help itself.

Grade: C-/D+
Oscar Chances: Teehee. not even if 2016 ended today with only 40ish movies to choose from. 

Thursday
Feb252016

Thoughts I Had... First Pics of Oscar Set

Thoughts I had looking at the first pics of the Oscar set for Sunday night in the order they came to me after the jump...

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Friday
Feb122016

Interview: Sandy Powell on Color, Character, Carol, Cinderella, and Cate

Sandy Powell on the set of CinderellaSome people rush to movies if their favorite movie star's face is prominent on the poster. Others swear allegiance to directors. Obsessive cinephiles go for all sorts of reasons. One of ours at The Film Experience is Sandy Powell. If she's the costume designer, we're there, no questions asked. We sat through The Tempest (2010) just for her and trust me that that's devotion.

Meeting her in person earlier this season to talk Carol and Cinderella, which brought her her 11th and 12th Oscar nominations and could well bring her a 4th Oscar, was a personal joy. I had talked to her once before by phone but in person we were able to look at costume stills together and had a great conversation. This cinematic MVP was a fun, lively, and personable interviewee. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. 

NATHANIEL R:  I intervewed you once a long time ago and I was really taken aback by something you said. You implied that you were surprised and amused by analytical readings of your work.

SANDY POWELL: I was talking about that today with Judy Becker and she said thing "I've learned so much about my work today!". People read things into it that you weren't consciously thinking about. But they're not bad things! You start thinking "maybe subliminally..." You start taking credit for it! 

A lot of the time you work so fast that you make snap decisions and you don't know what it's based on. I do work instinctively and intuitively. I don't sit and analyze. I don't think about the significance and "What shall I consciously put on her or him or her to convey that?"  I do what feels right. And quite often just by doing that you've got it right, you actually have given something so symbolism.

NATHANIEL R: Do you start thinking of full outfits while you're reading a script?

her answer and much more after the jump...

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