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Two Awards Contenders Bring Us Future Shock

'Her' and 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' take viewers on a tour of things to come

In a pair of recent awards-contending pics the future looks a lot different that in did in the world of the Jetsons.

Shot in L.A. and Pudong, China, “Her” is set in Los Angeles of the relatively near future and has a vague resemblance to the town Angelenos know today. On the other hand, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is set in a dystopian future that looks nothing like the present, though it could be a place toward which we’re all moving, say many prognosticators, where the rich and poor live starkly different lives.

Her” production designer K.K. Barrett didn’t want a cold look and decorated the high rises in leather and warm wood furnishings.
“We bandied about the word bespoke,” Barrett says. The clothing wasn’t sportswear, denim or suits. “It was a comfortable netherland between dressed up and not dressed up. And the same with interiors; they were comforting.”

Helmer Spike Jonze didn’t have a lot of exact description for this place, Barrett says. “He wanted a world where everything was comfortable, where you didn’t want for transportation or clothes or home spaces that weren’t a joy to live in; the weather was nice.”

The screenplay didn’t fill in the details. But during a weekend retreat for a script read, Jonze explained his vision and the production and design team took it from there. It’s important not to distract from the story with the production design, Barrett says. “It should support the story and other layers in a subtle way so you don’t have to talk about it. We didn’t say this is the way you’re going to live. This is the way our character lives, and he has a problem connecting with others.”

The future depicted in “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (pictured) is very different. Variety critic Justin Chang said, “For pure visual impact, even the action sequences don’t hit you as viscerally as the costumes, painstakingly described by (author Suzanne) Collins but fully brought to elaborate life by designer Trish Summerville. (When Elizabeth Banks emerges wearing a gown of monarch butterflies, you may wish, if only for one moment, that the film were in 3D.)”

In an interview with New York magazine, Summerville said she dressed the characters in denim in their homes, but as they got closer to the capital the clothes got more outrageous. Elizabeth Banks’ butterfly dress was an Alexander McQueen archive runway piece.

“I went through several years of various seasons of McQueen and put in requests for some of them,” Summerville has said. “That piece came in, and it’s even more magnificent in person than it reads onscreen. It’s feathers painted like monarch butterflies, and there are thousands. When we received it, we made a headpiece to match it, and then Ve Neill, the makeup artist, glued little butterflies on (Banks’) arms and face.”

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