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Entries in Production Design (95)

Monday
Apr242017

The Furniture: Tom Sawyer's Stovepipe and Steamboat Nostalgia

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

[PART ONE OF OUR CELESTE HOLM CENTENNIAL SERIES]

On paper, 1973’s Tom Sawyer might be the oddest project of Celeste Holm’s entire career. It was her first big screen appearance in six years. She’d been splitting her time between TV and theater, making guest appearances on shows like The Fugitive and leading the national tour of Mame. And while it’s not unexpected that her return would come via an independent production, the company in question may surprise you.

Tom Sawyer was made by Reader’s Digest, during the company’s six year foray into the industry. This was their first feature, the accompanying risk of which might explain the bizarre product placement. Child star Johnny Whitaker is actually credited as appearing “through the courtesy of Elder Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of Tom Sawyer wearing apparel for boys.” Still selling uniforms today, their signature line of boys’ outfits appears not to have changed in a century.

For our purposes, however, the notable thing is the location. Tom Sawyer and its sequel are the only films based on Mark Twain’s beloved characters to be shot in Missouri after the silent era...

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Monday
Apr172017

The Furniture: Toni Erdmann and the Dangers of Corporate Upholstery

"The Furniture" by Daniel Walber

[You can click on the images to see them in much more magnified detail.]

Toni Erdmann is a film about chairs. It is also a film about couches, though less so. Its grander themes, the culture of global capitalism and the relationship between parents and adult children, are excellent stuffing for oddly shaped poolside chaises and hideous hotel sofas. The milieu is convincingly skin-deep, punctuated by passionless objects that look blankly up at the uproarious behavior of the characters.

This satirical furniture represents some of the best production design of 2016, though Toni Erdmann may not be the first film to come to mind.

It plays a supporting role, commenting in muted colors. Yet Maren Ade’s comedy of personal and professional tension has a thoughtful design sensibility, perfectly attuned to the non-places that have been projected across the globe by transnational corporations...

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Wednesday
Apr122017

Cinematography, Production Design, Editing ~ April Foolish Oscar Predix

We're almost to our favorite craft category (costume design) and the marquee categories (acting/picture) are yet to come but here's another does of "what could be" in a few visual categories as our April Foolish Oscar Predictions continue...

Mudbound was shot by Rachel Morrison, who was previously DP on Fruitvale Station and Dope. Next up: Marvel's Black Panther

CINEMATOGRAPHY [click for the chart]
The big question TFE must always ask is "when is a female DP ever going to get nominated?" This year we count three female DPs with major projects: Mandy Walker (Australia, Hidden Figures) shot the romantic drama The Mountain Between Us, Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station) delivered another Sundance hit with Mudbound, and Urszula Pontikos (Lilting) was behind the camera on the story of Gloria Grahame's last days called Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Meanwhile on the male side of the equation, given that Greig Fraser and Bradford Young were FINALLY nominated last season after years of impressive rangey work, can the same thing happen for Hoyt Van Hoytema who has been waiting just as long. He shot Dunkirk this year.

PRODUCTION DESIGN 
Two mini-dramas within this race might be Production Designers at war with themselves. Four time nominee Sarah Greenwood has two high profile films, one fantasy (Beauty and the Beast) and one World War II drama (Darkest Hour). Three time nominee Nathan Crowley's films are less diametrically opposed but there's still plenty of room to showcase his range from the period circus musical The Greatest Showman and yet another collaboration with Chris Nolan on the World War II drama Dunkirk. Neither have ever won. Could this be the year for one of them? 

FILM EDITING
Arguably the category that's most dependent on the Best Picture race (give or take an action movie or thriller now and then) so this is like throwing darts at a wall about which films will have Best Picture heat and which could be the type of films that are honored for editing without that boost. 

Previous first stabs at new Oscar predictions
BEST SCORE, BEST SOUND
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS, BEST MAKEUP & HAIR
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE 

Monday
Apr102017

The Furniture: Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Your House Is Listening

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in much more magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

 “Hush hush, sweet Charlotte,” Patti Page softly croons, “He’ll love you till he dies.” The title song of Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte may not be as catchy as “Chim Chim Chiree,” which took the Oscar, but it has a much creepier sort of staying power. Here’s the final verse:

“And every night after he shall die
Yes every night when he’s gone
The wind will sing you this lullaby
Sweet Charlotte was loved by John.”

The music haunts Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis), along with everything else: her house, her family and her memories.

This Southern Gothic vibe is what separates the film from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Well, that and the fact that Joan Crawford walked off the set. But I will leave the offscreen drama to Ryan Murphy...

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Friday
Apr072017

Feud: Bette and Joan "And the Winner Is" (Part 2) 

Previously... And the Winner Is (Pt 1)

-Wait up for me boys. Tonight I'm bringing you home a baby brother.

by Nathaniel R

Picking up where we left off... and, to quote, Mamacita (the delightfully dry Jackie Hoffman) "pick up the pace, it's Oscar day!"

In the second half of Feud's best episode, after watching Joan & Hedda swaying voters away from Bette Davis and arranging for Joan to both present (Best Director) and accept (Best Actress should Bancroft or Page win), it's time for Oscar night. A whole army of hair and makeup people swam Chez Crawford...

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Monday
Apr032017

The Furniture: Repairs for the House in "20th Century Women"

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in much more magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

"The house is a character in its own right," everyone says. It’s one of our more meaningless cliches, poltergeists notwithstanding. But the sentiment behind it is understandable. A building, though hardly alive, can still offer charisma. A dynamic visual language can be built from its beams.

20th Century Women has one of these abodes. The house in question belongs to Dorothea (Annette Bening), who lives with her son Jamie (Lucas Zumann) and two boarders, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and William (Billy Crudup). As she explains to a fireman she’s invited to a party...

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Monday
Mar272017

The Furniture: A Tarot Reading with "The Love Witch"

 "The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in much more magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

Over the last year, I’ve written about a fair number films in which the costume design and production design are intimate companions. The Taming of the Shrew is the most recent example, a visual cornucopia that underlines Zeffirelli’s tendency to paint people and props with the same brush. Yet that flamboyant director was not actually the credited costume designer or production designer. His style, like that of most filmmakers, was the result of artistic collaboration.

Not so for The Love Witch, a much more literal “singular vision.” Director Anna Biller worked as both production designer and costume designer for her film, as well as art director, set decorator, editor, composer, writer and producer. The film’s strikingly unified aesthetic certainly can be attributed to this herculean labor, but that’s hardly the only impact. The magic of The Love Witch is in its details, the cumulative effect of Biller’s meticulous and varied craft.

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