Art Direction

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Adam Stockhausen’s brilliant Production Design for Wes Anderson’s film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel comes wrapped like a Fabergé egg inside a jewelry box inside a puzzle box inside an elaborate gift box. Wes Anderson folds the widescreen format down to a symmetrical pocket square, keeping the flashbacks neatly packed in classic Academy ratio.

To complete the effect, Production Designer Adam Stockhausen remodeled an abandoned German department store, transforming the store’s 4-floor atrium into the lobby of the Grand Budapest Hotel — redecorating the space with at least 3 different makeovers to reflect the various eras of the hotel’s changing fortunes across 7 decades. Adam Stockhausen is a versatile as the hotel itself, receiving an Oscar nomination last year for his work on 12 Years a Slave. (4-time Oscar winner Catherine Martin took last year’s prize for designing The Great Gatsby). Stockhausen’s previous work includes two other Wes Anderson films, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. He also created a surreal microcosm of New York City inside a vast Manhattan warehouse for Synecdoche, New York.

As seen in the featurette above, the decor of the hotel practically has its own character arc, and Adam Stockhausen’s production design leaves an indelible impression. With a worldwide gross of $168 million, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s biggest earner to date. Shots like these are key to its charm and an essential part of the film’s success.

“Creating a Hotel”

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Best Art Direction for a Fantasy Film:
David Gropman for Life of Pi

Best Art Direction for a Period Film:
Sarah Greenwood, Anna Karenina

Best Art Direction for a Contemporary Film:
Dennis Gassner, Skyfall

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Art Directors Guild is holding their awards ceremony tonight. My best guesses:

Period Film

Fantasy Film
Prediction: LIFE OF PI

Contemporary Film
Prediction: SKYFALL

Review all the Art Directors Guild nominees for movies and TV, or find the ADG feature film nominees after the cut.

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Period Film

  • THE ARTIST Production Designer: Laurence Bennett
  • HUGO, Production Designer: Dante Ferretti
  • THE HELP, Production Designer: Mark Ricker
  • ANONYMOUS, Production Designer: Sebastian Krawinkel
  • TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, Production Designer: Maria Djurkovic

Contemporary Film

  • THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Production Designer: Donald Graham Burt
  • THE DESCENDANTS, Production Designer: Jane Anne Stewart
  • EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, Production Designer: K.K. Barrett
  • DRIVE, Production Designer: Beth Mickle
  • BRIDESMAIDS, Production Designer: Jefferson Sage

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It’s hard for me to imagine any film beating Hugo for Art Direction.  With the glass studio, the magical sets, the inside of the clock tower, the train station – top to bottom, a masterpiece of design. It should do battle with The Artist, Harry Potter, War Horse, J. Edgar, etc. But Hugo’s is off the hook. It should be said, along with everything else about the film, from the brilliant script by 2011’s brightest start, John Logan, to the surprisingly calm and assured direction by Scorsese, and the acting – moving, raw performance by Asa Butterfield, and the heartbreaking turn by Ben Kingsley.   The New York Times talks to Ferretti about his partnership with Scorsese and the concepts behind many of the film’s most breathtaking sets:

“Every time I work with Martin, he shows me a lot of movies,” Mr. Ferretti said by phone from Los Angeles. “Sometimes he’ll show me an entire movie just to see two shots.”

“We wanted it full of machinery, where everything moved,” Mr. Ferretti said. “Within Hugo’s walls everything became a little more magical.”

The spaces leading up to Hugo’s apartment, zigzagging hallways that include pipes bursting with steam, were also a challenge. “With these scenes I got to be more creative than the rest,” Mr. Ferretti said. “We made a labyrinth, a secret way for Hugo to reach the clocks.” The height and the depth of the spaces, along with the variety of props, looked particularly dynamic for 3-D, allowing materials to appear scattered throughout the foreground.

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  • Contemporary feature film: Therese DePrez, BLACK SWAN
  • Fantasy feature film: Guy Hendrix Dyas, INCEPTION
  • Period feature film: Eve Stewart, THE KING’S SPEECH
  • One-hour single camera TV series: Dan Bishop of MAD MEN
  • Half-hour single camera TV series: Richard Berg of MODERN FAMILY
  • Awards, music or game show: David Rockwell, 82nd ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
  • TV movie or miniseries: Robb Wilson King, SECRETS IN THE WALL
  • Multi-cam, variety or unscripted series: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
  • Commercial or music video: Jesse B. Benson, DOS EQUIS commercial

The LA Times’ Rachel Abramowitz talks to the screenwriters about how to bring the fantasy elements of The Lovely Bones to the screen. Hands down, this would be the hardest line to walk adapting the novel to the screen. However, it’s worth noting that if there is one director who can do it it’s Peter Jackson.

After young Susie Salmon is murdered by the local pedophile in “The Lovely Bones,” she ends up in a place easily mistaken for heaven, but what she discovers is that this magical terrain is actually an in-between state, “a place she’s caught in until she can resolve the issues of her death,” says co-writer Phillipa Boyens. “This in-between world is a 14-year-old’s idea of what an ideal world can be.”

Hm. “Local pedophile,” sounds like “local grocer” or “local milkman.”

In Susie’s heaven-like afterlife, a giant camellia lurks in a crystalline mountain lake, nestled beneath snow-capped mountains. “Susie doesn’t understand what it means. The audience doesn’t either, but these things will and do make sense. It’s the language of dreams. That’s what we were trying for,” Boyens says.

The startling images — shot by Jackson’sfellow Oscar-winning “Lord of the Rings” cinematographer Andrew Lesnie and crafted by production designer Naomi Shohan — are a melding of computer imagery and the startlingly beautiful vistas of the South Island of New Zealand.

“She’s running on a beach, which is a real beach in New Zealand,” Boyens says. “That lake is at the top of a mountain in the South Island. They helicoptered up there.”

“It’s the idea of being trapped in a perfect world,” adds Walsh, pointing to the snow globe metaphor that opens Sebold’s book, in which Susie pities the lone penguin locked in his plastic paradise. “Susie’s in her own version of the snow globe.”

[UPDATE: well, that youtube sure got nuked by Disney in record time. For now, you can find another copy here, you’re out of luck. We’ll have a better embeddable vid up again as soon. See comment #35 for details.]

There is never any denying that the designers Tim Burton works with do dazzling work. At some point, Burton’s films will be studied side by side and the uniting theme of them won’t necessarily be the characters or the writing, but the look of them. With one or two exceptions, they are always a feast for the eyes, which puts them immediately in the lead for all of the tech honors, specifically costume design and art direction.

Posted originally on Slashfilm:


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