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The Gotham Nominations

Get Out (4 nods each), Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, Florida Project (3 nods each)

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Entries in Production Design (122)

Monday
Oct162017

The Furniture: A Plaster Haze in The Beguiled

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

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is no sprawling epic of the Civil War. The Farnsworth Seminary for Girls, where Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) presides, is no Tara. There are no ballgowns or battlefields. There is only a big lonely house, the seat of a plantation that has decayed into an isolated finishing school for an especially isolated handful of girls.

Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is thrust into this setting, his leg wounded and his uniform bloodied. The resulting tension simmers for days, weeks even, before exploding in nocturnal chaos and violence. All the while the house stands silent, forcing these emotions up and down the stairs and into small, dimly-lit corners. There is a forever haze about this place, though never quite hot enough to break into a sweat.

This tightly-knotted mood owes a great deal to production designer Anne Ross, a frequent collaborator of Coppola’s, as well as art director Jennifer Dehghan and set decorator Amy Beth Silver...

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Monday
Oct092017

The Furniture: The Gas Lighting of Gaslighting in Gaslight

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

This week I’d like to talk about gas lighting. That’s in addition to gaslighting, which is obviously related. Basically, I’d like to talk about the way that Gaslight (1944) uses gas lighting to distill the concept of gaslighting. It was so effective that “gaslighting” stuck, and has remained a popularly understood concept nearly 75 years after the film debuted.

Of course, these days the term has been almost completely divorced from memory of the original play or its various adaptations. The 1944 version is mostly remembered for winning Ingrid Bergman her first Oscar, and deservedly so. Her performance is astonishing, newly powerful with each successive viewing.

However, the film did win a second Oscar. Not for director George Cukor, who wasn’t even nominated. Nor for cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg, who lost to Joseph LaShelle’s work on Laura...

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Monday
Oct022017

The Furniture: Slack Bay's Giddy Grotesqueries

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

“Look! Mussel-gatherers!” Isabelle Van Peteghem (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) shrieks. “How picturesque!”

Her deranged tone of voice, along with the confused faces of the mussel-gatherers, let you know that you’re watching a Bruno Dumont film. Slack Bay is a comedy of manners and hats, kidnapping and cannibalism. Set on the coast of Northern France in 1910, it’s a period piece with no shortage of surprises.

Initially, the film seems to be making a fairly straightforward point about tourism and class. André (Fabrice Luchini) and Isabelle Van Peteghem are nightmarishly enthusiastic. Aude (Juliette Binoche), André’s sister, is even worse. They all find everything terribly amusing, including the budding friendship between Aude’s daughter, Billie (Raph), and a local kid named Ma Loute (Brandon Lavieville). The interior of their home mimics the interiors of their heads, packed with dusty, fancy nonsense.

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Monday
Sep252017

The Furniture: Death by Excess in What a Way to Go!

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

Any excuse to talk about What a Way to Go! is a good excuse. But the centennial of Ted Haworth is an especially excellent excuse. He was nominated for six Oscars, starting with Marty in 1955. He won for 1957’s Sayonara. Highlights from the rest of his career include Some Like It Hot, The Beguiled, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

But none of those movies could hold a candle to the astonishing level of creativity on display in What a Way to Go! The epic 1964 comedy of love and loss stars Shirley MacLaine as Louisa May Foster, a many-time widow and heiress.  Each husband, with one particularly tragic exception, begins the marriage as a near-pauper who wants nothing but love. But their passion inevitably leads them on a wild pursuit of wealth, which tends to end in a coffin. It should be noted, of course, that Louisa herself has little interest in cash.

There are far too many brilliant design elements to fit into a single column...

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Monday
Sep182017

The Furniture: Beatriz at Dinner in a Tacky Muted Mansion

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

Beatriz at Dinner is a film of climaxes, moments of outrage that burst through the veneer of respectability cultivated by the rich and amoral. Beatriz (Salma Hayek), overwhelmed with disgust at a picture of Doug (John Lithgow) and the body of a recently-murdered rhinoceros, throws his phone at him and storms out. Laughing at her principles, he looks at his hosts and asks, “Does she get out much?”

This, of course, is a central irony of Miguel Arteta and Mike White’s tightly-wound send-up of American wealth. Doug is the CEO of Rife Worldwide, an internationally-reviled real estate firm. He’s a Trumpian nightmare of toxic masculinity and unbridled capitalism, breaking laws and displacing communities as a best business practice. And so when he asks this question, we are reminded that his life is spent constructing hideous monuments to tackiness that replicate a precise vision of high-end living no matter the context...

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Monday
Sep112017

The Furniture: Desigining Slapstick with Herbet Lom and Inspector Clouseau

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

Before we get started, let’s all share a brief moment of resentment that Judy Becker didn’t win a production design Emmy last night for Feud. Boo.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled episode of The Furniture. Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru, the character actor otherwise known as Herbert Lom. He fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939 for Britain, where he would have a long career in both film and television. He appeared in three Best Production Design nominees: El Cid, Spartacus, and Gambit. I will be writing about none of them.

Instead, here’s some love for the design of the films for which he is remembered most widely. Lom played Police Commissioner Charles Dreyfus, the long-suffering boss of Inspector Clouseau, in seven Pink Panther films. The first of these, A Shot in the Dark, is probably the best of the lot. It also has some charmingly ridiculous prop comedy and an array of colorfully absurd sets.

Here, for example, is the first example of a gag that runs throughout the series...

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