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Entries in The Furniture (78)

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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Monday
Sep042017

The Furniture: Brazil's Pungent Pot of Duct Soup

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

Hi there! I want to talk to you about ducts.

I mean that quite seriously, though I’m also quoting the opening lines of Terry Gilliam’s wacky and wonderful Brazil. It’s a film with a lot of unique production design, for which art director Norman Garwood and set decorator Maggie Gray received an Oscar nomination. They lost to Out of Africa, but I find it helpful to pretend that didn’t happen.

It’s nearly impossible to choose a single element to feature. I’ve half a mind to simply post all of the bleakly hilarious propaganda posters that clutter the walls of the film’s dystopian metropolis. Another option would be the design of the dream sequences, which become increasingly majestic as Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) loses touch with reality.

But I still want to talk to you about ducts...

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Monday
Aug282017

The Furniture: Reframing the Legend of King Arthur

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

King Arthur, the character, is listed by IMDb as appearing in 149 films and TV shows. That’s more than Dracula. I’m not going to go through all of them, obviously. But circumstance has given me a good excuse to compare two examples: Knights of the Round Table (1953) and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). The latter just came out on Blu-ray. The former will serve as a bit of a tribute to Mel Ferrer, whose centennial was this past Friday.

The most obvious difference is between Ferrer’s version of Arthur, noble and even a bit meek, and the ever-hulking Charlie Hunnam. But this isn’t a physique column. Instead, I want to take a brief look at how Hollywood’s presentation of the loosely defined Arthurian Age has changed...

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Monday
Aug212017

The Furniture: Who Should Win the Emmys for Production Design

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

Last year, I made a pitch to the Academy of Television Arts and Science on the subject of production design. Hopefully you also remember that amazing table tennis parlor from Penny Dreadful. But what you might not remember is that not a single one of the nominees I recommended actually won. Not even Lemonade, about which I am still annoyed.

But here I am, one year later, trying again. Here’s who should win each of the five production design Emmys. (At least Game of Thrones isn’t eligible this year, or they’d be winning for the fourth year in a row.)

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)
The Young Pope is almost dizzyingly lush. It’s here as a “contemporary” program, but much of it feels just as fantastical as the other nominees. It revives the gilded extravagance of the old Catholic Church, back when the Pope presented himself as more of an emperor than a priest. One is reminded of the clerical fashion show from Fellini’s Roma, but with a much darker undercurrent.

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Monday
Aug142017

The Furniture: Breaking House in Colossal

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

Colossal is a movie built upon one very, very big metaphor. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) are highly destructive people, each at a different stage of addiction and personal crisis. They also have kaiju-sized avatars that tromp across Seoul every time they drunkenly stumble through a playground at 8:05am, the result of a bizarre electro-magical accident. It’s quite the premise.

But it works because director Nacho Vigalondo doesn’t rely exclusively on CGI monsters to get his point across. After all, they are only exaggerated versions of Gloria and Oscar, stomping through their lives. It matters not whether their feet land on a playground or through the first floor of an office building.

  

Or, as the case may be, their homes...

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