Production Design Secrets Behind Fantastic Five

Superhero movies aren’t the only opportunities for fantastical world-building. In fact, five awards contenders (Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Interstellar, Into the Woods, and Noah) utilize very special environments as backdrops in the epic struggle to save the world, for redemption, or to recapture a more civilized way of life. All five movies are mythic, rites-of-passage experiences: experimental, metaphoric and very relevant in these trying times.

Birdman is very much a meta-movie about creativity, stardom, social media, and cultural decline, and Michael Keaton is an inspired choice playing a variation of Batman: washed-up but ambitiously attempting to resurrect his career by mounting a play based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. However, he’s losing his mind, which is evident in the very first scene when he’s levitating. Yet director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu never lets us know for sure if what we’re watching is real, imaginary, or a little of both. It’s like 8 1/2 or All That Jazz, and the illusion of the immersive continuous take is a brilliant conceit (shot by Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who one-ups his Oscar-winning Gravity).

There’s also an onstage/backstage duality behind Wes Anderson’s witty caper, The Grand Budapest HotelAnd in keeping with the marvelous theatricality, production designer Adam Stockhausen (12 Years a Slave), played with his own labyrinth of beauty and wonder. He appropriately used lots of miniatures to convey a hand-made quality (including the hotel, the hillside, the funicular, the town, the Alpine observatory, and the bobsled run and ski chase).

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Movies, Oscar, Production Design, Tech, Trailers

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