Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far .
Today, Tony Cogan of Coogs Reviews is here to look at the nominees for Best Production Design.
Best Production Design
The Best Production Design Oscar is always a great way to showcase a lot of the background details that a lot of people don’t really notice when they’re watching a film, but they notice when they aren’t there. When it’s done right, the production design of a film can tell us so much about the world of the film through the smallest background details.
Out of all of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even alongside the Thor trilogy, this is the pinnacle of world building. Through Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart embracing the Afrofuturist aesthetic we get such a strong understanding of the world of Wakanda just through the small details. Through the inclusion of details like highly advanced buildings with thatched roofs, we see the traditional elements of African architecture mixed with the advanced. This extends into the mines and Shuri’s lab, which further help to create an incredibly realised world for Wakanda. All these small details create a world that just feels real and lived in, establishing a strong history of Wakanda through the production design alone. For me, this is the film I would give the award to.
The films of Yorgos Lanthimos always have this distinct feel to them and a lot of that comes through the very clinical production design of those other films. With The Favourite, the recreation of the Court of Queen Anne doesn’t have the clinical nature of the other Lanthimos films, but it does allow for the madness of his films to shine through. By Fiona Crombie and Alice Fenton highlighting the opulent wealth of the monarchy it both helps to create a visual impression of the character development for Abigail Masham and the film makes great use of Hatfield House and reworking the layout of the house to create the world of the film.
Whilst some of the other nominees have a more fantastical feel to them, the production design of First Man just gives this feeling of reality. For the scenes inside NASA and for the rockets, we get a sense of the cramped nature of the space missions and how detailed and methodical everything had to be in order for every element of space travel to work. We see a lot of the real world issues that would come about through space travel just through how confined everything is and we see the clinical environment that is needed for the work of space travel to be completed.
Mary Poppins Returns
The first Mary Poppins was a great example of production design for world building. Through the way the Banks’ house is constructed to the fantastical worlds Mary Poppins takes the Banks children too, we got an understanding of how that world worked. Thankfully, Mary Poppins returns keeps this feeling. It’s able to use technology that wasn’t available in the 1960s to do more creative stuff, such as when the characters go and see Topsy in an upside down shop and we also see how the world has changed between the two Mary Poppins films, with this one giving off the feel of the 1930s and helping to show what London was like during the Great Depression, in a way that makes it understandable for a younger audience.
This is another piece of production design that just feels so real. We get an understanding of what life would have been like in Mexico City at the time through all the background details and pieces of design. This is especially the case with the house Cleo works in. I think the best way to describe it is to talk about my favourite piece of production design, that being the garage. The garage area being too narrow for the car the family has at the start of the film says so much about family disconnect and entitlement and seeing it at the start of the film just establishes so much of the tone of the film.
So those are my thoughts on each film, if I had to rank them it would be:
- Black Panther
- The Favourite
- Mary Poppins Returns
- First Man