Thursday, February 4, 2010

And the Oscar may go to.....

The Oscar nominees for Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Costume Design were announced in the wee hours this past week....congratulations to all and if you haven't seen these films, here is yet another reason.

Best Art Direction Nominees:

Avatar (Twentieth Century Fox)

Production designer Rick Carter (the genius behind the designs of the groundbreaking films Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds and Forrest Gump) and Robert Stromberg along with set decorator Kim Sinclair designed the sci-fi film's dream state visuals of Pandora (coined by director James Cameron as "phantasmagoric") which are a huge hit with 3-D goggle wearing audiences everywhere. Carter reportedly described the project as "The Wizard of Oz" meets "Apocalypse Now" and the film's innovative designs of Pandora's ecosystem rise to the challenge. Avatar is also up for Best Picture along with other nominations.

Nine (The Weinstein Company): Production designer John Mhyre and set decorator Gordon Sim created movie magic once again (they worked on the sets for 2002's Chicago) with their creation of a two worlds for Guido Contini -- fantasy and reality. They used the Broadway play as a blueprint for the more minimal design of the musical numbers.

Sherlock Holmes (Warner Brothers ): The Academy Award nominated designers for Pride and Prejudice were naturals to design director Michael Ritchie's Edwardian England. Production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer created dank prisons, cobweb filled laboratories and Victorian residences right down to the last detail.

The Young Victoria (Apparition) The Academy loves a good costume drama that is always filled with historically appropriate period interiors and this one does not disappoint. What sets production designer Patrice Vermette and set decorator Maggie Gray's work apart is they successfully blend the royal settings with a contemporary feel. Always great eye candy!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics): Designing a Terry Gilliam film is always a challenge as the sets are filled with fantasy on steroids while bizarre and whimsical at the same time. Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro, production designer and set decorator respectively, rose to the occasion beautifully. The sets are surreal and dare I say, pure imagination and have to be seen to be believed.

Best Costume Design nominees:

Coco Before Chanel (Warner Brothers) A film of this calibur about a fashion icon is a natural but perhaps daunting job for costume designer Catherine Leterrier whose training as a couturier came in handy (she also worked on Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter). While the designs of Chanel's later years are well-documented, creating clothing for a time when the young designer was poor yet stylish was quite a challenge. The striped Breton top and palazzo pants were just a few glimpses of the many classics to come.

Nine (The Weinstein Company): Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood designed a variety of stunning costumes that included everything from sixties retro to Follies Bergere. Atwood also did the wardrobes for Public Enemies , Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. Each actress had her own look and film influence -- Marion Cotillard in a little black dress a la Breakfast at Tiffany's and polka dot dress pays homage to Roman Holiday while Kate Hudson's fringe go-go boot ensemble channels many of the sixties films (and Hullabaloo television show for those of us that remember!).

The Young Victoria (Apparition) Often production and costume design go hand in hand and such is the case of the film about Queen Victoria's early years. Costume designer Sandy Powell designed the costumes for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and certainly no stranger to period design. Perhaps one of the most sumptuous of the research laden designs was Victoria's intricate Coronation Robe which had to be dyed just the right shade of gold.

Bright Star (Apparition): Costume designer Janet Patterson's designs for a character who wants to be a costume designer take center stage in Jane Campion's l9th century love story between poet James Keats and Fanny Brawne.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics): Imaginarium was a dream job for costume designer Monique Prudhomme who created a wide array of outfits from a white nymph dancer's costume to Dr P's asian kimonos. Much of the film's inspiration comes from 16th and 17th century theater designs and is quite electic. Below is the late actor Heath Ledger who sadly passed during the filming.

The Academy Awards will be announced on day, March 7th at 8:00 est. And if you are interested in ordering the poster at the top of the blog, it is 25.00 plus shipping and can be purchased through the Academy's website here.

Good luck to all!

Many thanks to the cool California blog Riviera View and Become shopping blog for the Cinema Style mentions.

Photo Credits: Twentieth Century Fox, The Weinstein Company, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures Classics and Apparition.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Utopian Style of Lost Horizon

One of my favorite fantasy escape films design wise is Frank Capra's Lost Horizon (1937), a tale which is the ultimate "Lost" -- a group of plane survivors crash land in the Himalayas and find themselves in a utopian Shangri-La. A place where there are no guns and no illness - sign me up. And who couldn't use a little Shangri La right about now?

The film's fantastical sets were designed by Stephen Goosson with the centerpiece Lamasery (Tibetan temple) that was constructed on the Columbia Studios ranch. The contemporary structure was ninety feet tall, took 150 men to complete and was considered the largest set (square footage wise) to be built during this era.

The stark white walls, reflecting pool and dog statues have an Oriental feel to them. Ironically the sets were met with scorn by many of the design establishment at the time.

The elaborate sets took up to a year to complete. The landscaped courtyard is framed by the sanctuary's curved white lines and brilliantly lit buildings. The film won Goosson a Best Interior Decoration at the Oscars (when there was such an award) in 1937.

The film stars Ronald Colman as a British diplomat and Jane Wyatt (yes Mrs. Father Knows Best) as the love interest. And for you trivia buffs, the blinding snow scene was actually bleached cornflakes.

Lost Horizon was remade in the seventies as a big-budget musical in 1973. The all star cast included Peter Finch, Charles Boyer as the head Lama, Liv Ullman and Olivia Hussey of Romeo & Juliet fame. (Actually I rather enjoyed the film!) The soundtrack by Burt Bacharach and Hal David is below and no doubt a collector's item.

Photo credits: Columbia Pictures