Thursday, February 12, 2015

Production Design

    Production Design*
  • Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald for The Imitation Game
  • Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis for Interstellar
  • Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock for Into the Woods
  • Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts for Mr. Turner

Adam Stockhausen, having worked on two previous Anderson films, looks to make up for losing out last year with his work on 12 Years a Slave, while Anna Pinnock hopes for her first win in five attempts. I don't know what I can say here that I haven't said about Wes Anderson's films already. They are meticulously crafted twee planetoids all their own. The Grand Budapest Hotel, more than most, relies on the perfection of that planetoid, and Stockhausen and Pinnock deliver marvelously. The do a superb job of straddling the fine line of farce the script requires. It's all very neat and clean. I don't know just yet how that makes me feel about the film, but Stockhausen and Pinnock have done a superb job of realizing perhaps the most Wes Anderson of Wes Anderson films.

Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald have worked a few films together, and that familiarity is helping them elevate their work in The Imitation Game to an Oscar-nominated performance. Where The Grand Budapest Hotel is neat and clean, this is messy and scattered. Or, at least, it wants to be, but instead it's all very nice, very appropriate, and a little too freshly pressed. Of course the films are miles apart, but there is no real moment where this set is of any real interest aside from the world's first computer. There are a number of fantastic things about this film, but the production design, while very nice, is not one of them.

Interstellar, like the other films, has several high-flying parts that the production design feeds into. Nathan Crowley is hoping that by following Christopher Nolan around long enough, he'll eventually strike Oscar gold with one of the big budget, high-concept films, and Gary Fettis is brought in to add some less high-concept grittiness from his work on such films as The Parent Trap 8mm, and Gran Torino. Again, things work really fantastically. The sets in space are gorgeous and the earthly locations are the right amount of boring Grain Belt. That said, most of the interiors just looks a little bland. Maybe I spoiled myself by reading up on the Semiotic Standard For All Commercial Trans-Stellar Utility Lifter And Heavy Element Transport Spacecraft, but, while things were pretty to look at, I rarely found any real depth in them.

Anna Pinnock strikes again with Into the Woods along with her Dennis Gassner who brings his craft by way of Big Fish. I realize the film is called "Into the Woods" and most things take place in the woods, but the woods, it turns out, is a pretty boring looking place. Oh, they tried to differentiate areas, but really, woods mostly look like woods. We're very nearly treated to all the stage fixing one would expect from a stage production turned movie, but without the amazing stage setting one gets to do with that opportunity. I am positive I have seen live operas with better stages than Into the Woods. It's really unfortunate, but Into the Woods just didn't set its scenes or itself apart the way it could have.

Suzie Davies mostly does work on TV shows I've never heard of and made-for-TV movies I've never heard of. Similarly Charlotte Watts is best known for nothing anyone's ever heard of. With Mr. Turner they have made a very loud statement that, despite their lacking resume, they are absolutely not to be ignored. Every scene here is beautifully cluttered and lived in and old. Every room, every object looks like it has lived a lifetime and more before filming began. Like the characters themselves, the scenes are just a little worn down. just a little decrepit, but entirely well-lived

This has to come down to The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mr. Turner. All the other films have a barrenness to them that conveys the message, "We tried; we got a pretty good thematic feel. We didn't really try too hard, though; we didn't populate a world." I really think this is Wes Anderson's year, and The Grand Budapest Hotel takes home the prize. I very begrudgingly concede that it deserves it as well if only for the sheer amount of work put in, but I would be overjoyed if Mr. Turner came out on top on awards day. There's a very different artistry in Mr. Turner. It's one I value more, but it's hard to argue against the thoroughness of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

*(in the format "[production designer], [set decorator] for [film]")

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