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Oscar Nominations 2011: Exploring the Interiors and Set Design

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With the Academy Awards nominations out of the bag, and silver-screen season officially in full swing, it's time to look at how some of this year's contenders for best movie measure up design- and decor-wise. Take The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's account of a stuttering, feeble King George VI of Britain and his relentless speech pathologist, Lionel Logue. Hooper had originally wanted to shoot the therapy sessions in Logue's actual old home, on London's Harley Street, but the space was too small. So the crew set up shop one block away in a building with vaulted ceilings, large leaded windows that filtered in light, and a half-wall of decaying, peeling, chipped, paint-covered, earth-toned paper. Enchanted, they replicated the look throughout the entire room (above) and limited the furnishings to a Louis XV-style sofa. File under: spectacular.



? This summer, Christopher Nolan's mind-boggling blockbuster Inception had fans and critics alike debating the film's first and last scenes ad nauseum, so we're not even going to attempt to iron anything out here. Despite the disagreement about whether the lantern-filled dining room in the palace of business magnate Saito exists in dreams or in limbo, the space resembles Shinto temples throughout Japan, where production designer Guy Dyas lived for many years.


? Thanks to photographer Jack Delano, the gritty, industrial personality of Lowell, Mass., has been canonized in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Well, David O. Russell's portrayal of the town in the '90s—poverty, crack, and all—in boxing flick The Fighter may not be pretty enough to hang on a wall, but arresting it most certainly is. A modest turquoise clapboard—home to Alice Ward, mother of Mark Wahlberg's Micky and Christian Bale's Dicky, as well as her seven loud-mouthed, chain-smoking, grown daughters—is Russell's platonic ideal of New England working-class housing that's overstuffed with family dependency and dysfunction simultaneously.


? To conceive the sets of his Facebook biopic The Social Network, director David Fincher called upon production designer Donald Graham Burt to craft the visual representation of Mark Zuckerberg's rapid ascent to success. By the film's end, Craigslist furniture and dimly lit dorm rooms give way to curved cubicles in that uber-recognizable blue, an open, industrial-looking floorplan, and yellow accents, all modeled after Facebook's real-life headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.


? Darren Aronofky's stunning-yet-psycho drama Black Swan is saturated with symbolism and heavy-handed use of the colors black, white, and gray. The NYC apartment of Natalie Portman's Nina, however, presents a stark deviation from the sepia-toned bulk, what with pink, fluttery butterfly-printed wallpaper that has presumably remained unchanged since she was a kid. It's here where she tangles herself up in wispy pink sheets and "explores her sexuality," to use critic jargon, in more than one scene. All while the stuffed animals look on.

· The King's Speech: How clever sets create a compelling picture of 1930s London [Guardian]
· Inception Production Designer Guy Dyas: “Only 5 Percent of Our Scenes Used Green Screen” [Vanity Fair]
· The Fighter (Movie Review) [NYT]
· Facebook Offices/O + A Studios [Arch Daily]