Saturday, February 14, 2015

And the Oscar Goes To...

Happy Oscar Week! Sunday, February 22nd marks the 87th annual Academy Awards and as always, two of my favorite categories are Best Art Direction and Best Costume. The genres traditionally run the gamut with period films, sci-fi and musicals leading the pack. If any of the earlier awards are an indication, Grand Budapest Hotel should take home Oscar gold in both categories.

And the nominees are...Best Art Direction:

Grand Budapest Hotel

Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer
Anna Pinnock, Set Decorator

You can read more about the BAFTA and Art Director Guild award winning sets in my Architectural Digest piece here.

Mr. Turner

Suzie Davies, Production Designer
Charlotte Watts, Set Decorator

The Imitation Game

Maria Djurkovic, Production Designer

Mr. R

Dennis Gassner, Production Designer
Anna Pinnock, Set Decorator


Nathan Crowley, Production Designer
Set Decorators: Gary Fettis, Paul Healey

And the Nominees Are....Best Costume Design

Into the Woods

Milena Canonero, Costume Designer

Grand Budapest Hotel

Colleen Atwood

Inherent Vice

Mark Bridges, Costume Designer


Anna B. Shepherd and Jane Clive, Costume Designers

Mr. Turner

Jacqueline Durran, Costume Designer

Photo Credits: Disney Pictures, Bear Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Melinda Sue Gordon, Warner Brothers

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Things to Look Forward to in January

We all need a little something to look forward to while we hole up in the winter months -- for me that usually translates into television and movies. The following are a few of my must-sees during the month of January and here's hoping you got that extra DVD recorder or subscription to Netflix this past Christmas. You are going to need it.

Downton Abbey
Season Five
Sunday, January 4th
8/9 Central

The eagerly anticipated Season Five of the international PBS sensation premieres this Sunday. I am hoping they up their game this season as I missed the banter between  Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine. And things just haven't been the same since they killed off Matthew. I am guessing this might just be the last season, so get your Angliophile fix while you can.

Season Four 
Thursday, January 29th
8/9 Central

After resisting temptation the past several years, I finally became a Gladiator fanatic. Season Four ended with a cliffhanger - who has taken Olivia Pope? Is it the father or the Vice President and his gang? And will she and her Prada bag and glass of wine end up in the hole? Look for her two lovers (that would be Jake and the President) to join forces and find her. On a show where you are constantly wondering "did they really that?" and "no they didn't!" ....Thursday nights are never the same in Shondaland. I can hardly wait.

House of Cards
Season Three
Tuesday, January 27th

Here is hoping for a major blizzard the week Season Three of the popular political drama hits your Netflix account. No spoilers have leaked yet, but with President Frank Underwood and his wicked wife Claire at the helm of the country, all bets are off.

Golden Globe Awards
Sunday, January 11th

The Golden Globes are by far the best of the Hollywood awards season and also the first. Combining television and film, the awards pretty much set the tone of what to expect at the Oscars and Emmys.
Cocktails served during dinner also contribute to the hilarity of the speeches. While I love hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, nothing beats the candid delivery of the former overserved host Ricky Gervais.

The Americans
Season Three
Wednesday, January 28th

If you haven't watched The Americans (its on the FX Channel so look it up) do yourself a favor and tune in. It's the dark story of a pair of married undercover Russian spies (Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys) living in Washington during the end of the Cold War in the eighties. 

Friday, January 23rd

While the quirky film is definitely not for every film palate, the story of an eccentric art dealer (Johnny Depp) and  his sophisticated wife and international terrorist (Gwyneth Paltrow) searching for a stolen painting thought to have a Nazi code might be amusing. I have seen the advance shots of the sets and costumes which will be worth the price of the admission alone.

And there is always the new season of American Idol, The Apprentice, Girls, Nashville, Revenge, How to Commit Murder, Glee, The Following, Madam Secretary, Good Wife, etc.  And American Sniper, Selma and whatever else I missed during the Christmas sweeps at the theater. Happy viewing.

Photo Credits: Carnival Films/Masterpiece/PBS, ABC, Netflix, NBC, FX, Lionsgate

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Sets of Scandal

Most people fall in one of three camps - - 1) they have heard of the Scandal but don't watch, 2) they are living under a rock, or 3) they call themselves "Gladiators." After binge-watching three seasons in June, I find myself behind door number three.

Scandal is ABC's highly addictive, scandalous (for lack of a better word) Thursday night drama, filled with oh-no-they-didn't-just-do-that moments about the head of a Washington, DC crisis management firm ("Fixer" Olivia Pope/actress Kerry Washington) and her on-again-off-again relationship with the President along with many other plot twists too numerous to mention. It's filled with compelling story lines, heat of the moment passion, epic family turmoil, top-notch acting, great power dressing and of course, wonderful sets.

I was fortunate enough to spend a morning at the sets of Scandal this past September (where LA's Gower Studios doubles as our nation's capital) that included the impeccably designed Oval Office and Olivia's firm and apartment. Production designer Corey Kaplan and set decorator Barbara Cassel design some 25-35 sets per episode (900 sets in 47 episodes!) where believability is paramount considering FLOTUS herself is a fan.

The epicenter of problem solving at OPA aka the Olivia Pope Agency. Producer Shonda Rhimes wanted a very large conference table for the office whose style ranges from the 20's to the present. District Millworks, a Los Angeles based reclaimed wood furniture maker, designed the table that remains one of the show's most distinctive pieces.

The desk in the Oval Office is a copy of the Resolute Desk in the actual White House with panels that open just like  JFK's. Shown here is Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant III.
The designers dressed the Oval in a classic style that suited First Lady Mellie Grant's personality.  "Most Presidents in the past had the room design to match their style and comfort," says Kaplan. "Fitz is a worrier, hence his office is often a bastion of fret and concern. Light, cheerful and neutral would not be a consideration" for the room's color scheme.

It's the little things that matter: Official documents, complete with the White House seal, keep the settings real.
The backdrop of many a dramatic scene in the Oval Office, painter Michael Blaich created a tri-color combination for the walls to create movement similar to that of Venetian plaster. The blue and white porcelain is from Two's Company.

Olivia's apartment was inspired by the grandeur of the 20's historic landmark apartment building El Royale where comfort, serenity and a bottle of wine are the order of the day.
Another angle of the apartment - strangely we never see her play the piano...and rarely see her entertain in the seldom seen dining room below.

The designers chose to focus on simple colors to create an "edgeless safe cocoon where Olivia can be herself," says  Kaplan. 

For more on the sets of Scandal, you can see my piece in Architectural Digest and be sure to read the inside scoop on the show's designs on the wonderful blog The Sets Revealed. Or catch the actual show on ABC on Thursday nights 8/9 central where you too can be a Gladiator.

Photo Credits courtesy of ABC/Colleen Hayes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gotham Revisited

The dark fictional urban city known as Batman's Gotham enjoys another small screen moment in the spotlight in Fox TV's new series of the same name. Premiering on Monday, September 22nd at 8/7 central, the drama tells the age-old saga of the Caped Crusader after his parents were killed as a young boy and introduces detective James Gordon as they fight the evil and corruption of Gotham. The Caped Crusader's fabled foes are all here --  Catwoman (wonder if she is called Cat Girl?), The Penguin, The Joker and The Riddler -- before they became famous.

Designed by production designer Doug Kraner and set decorators Regina Graves (pilot) and Andrew Baseman, some of the standout sets are Wayne Manor and the 30s style Art Deco glam penthouse of Detective Gordon's girlfriend Barbara Keane.

For more on the highly stylized world of Gotham, check out my article in Architectural Digest.

Glam designs for the Penthouse above and below

The penthouse was built on an old rooftop of a building (again via soundstage) with a clock tower which is incorporated into the dining room as seen above 

Vies of the wood paneled  library at Wayne Manor above and below

Credits: Photos Courtesy of Doug Kraner

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cote d'Azur Style

A pair of unlikely star-crossed lovers (in the form of a psychic medium and world renowned illusionist) cross paths in the picturesque backdrop of the French Riviera in the 1920s in Woody Allen's latest film Magic in the Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics). Actors Colin Firth and Emma Stone headline the iconic director's latest romantic comedy where exotic locales, period-perfect interiors and costumes always play a starring role.

Travel savvy viewers might recognize Cap d'Antibes' Villa Eilenroc and Villa Renardière where many of the scenes take place. Production designer Anne Seibel (who teamed with Allen on Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love) and set decorator Jille Azis created the Art Deco inspired world of magic and romance that also included a Berlin theater and cabaret, jazz set and the occasional family estate by the sea.

Allen looked to his longtime collaborator Sonia Grande (Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) for the film's costume designs. The designer conducted an exhaustive research for original frocks from the period that spanned "collectors, auctioneers, fairs, markets and vintage shops in the U.S., Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Canada and France." Influenced by 20s French photographer Henri Lartigue and Edward Steichen, Grande also viewed documentaries of the rich at play in 1920s French Riviera for inspiration.

For more on the set and costume designs, see my pieces in The Hollywood Reporter and Architectural Digest.

Photo Credits: Anne Seibel and Sonia Grande (sketches), Jack English@2014 Gravier Productions, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Scandal Style

It's truly been the summer of binge, namely two seasons of House of Cards and three seasons of Scandal.  Besides the highly addictive story lines, the costumes on these shows are equally as wonderful.

I was thrilled to hear that Scandal's Kerry Washington has teamed up with The Limited to design a line of Olivia Pope influenced clothing that "embodies the elegance and power of the Scandal aesthetic for real life gladiators and everyday fashionistas." Washington and costume designer Lyn Paolo came up with a line that is both feminine, modern with a neutral palette that personifies Olivia's character -- think feminine blouses, wide leg trousers and sophisticated jackets and outerwear.

Starting at an affordable $49, the 42-piece fall collection is available in stores and online September 22nd so you too can channel your inner gladiator.

No word yet if a House of Cards Claire Underwood line is in the works. Sign me up when there is.

Photo Credits: ABC, Limited