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5 Best (Pre-CGI) Movie Design Moments

First things first: Happy Friday, everyone! So, the 2013 Oscar nominations are out and the picks have moviegoers all atwitter. While a lot of people will be focusing on the biggies (Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor), many folks with an eye for design will wonder who will take the award for Costume Design and Production Design – the visual elements less tied to computer effects. These are the tangible effects that we could actually touch if we were on the set. This year’s heavy hitters in these categories include “Les Misérables,” “Anna Karenina” and “Lincoln,” all of which were nominated in both Costume and Production Design. These films carry on a long legacy of artful production in film that began well before the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and this list is a look back at the movies that wowed audiences of their time without the use of high-powered digitization. (Note: All of these films won Oscars for both Costume Design <em>and</em> Production Design except for the first entry, which came before the award for Costume Design was introduced in 1949.) <ol style="list-style-type: none;"> <li><strong>1.       </strong><strong><em>Gone with the Wind</em> (1939)</strong></li> </ol> If you haven’t seen it you’ve heard of it, basically because it remains one of the most beautiful film experiences in cinematic history. Forget Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh – look at those costumes! Granted, the production designers didn’t have to reach too far back in history to create an authentic look, but the richness of the film is nonetheless exquisite considering the time. <ol style="list-style-type: none;"> <li><strong>2.      </strong><strong><em>Ben-Hur</em> (1959)</strong></li> </ol> This historical epic starring Charlton Heston swept the 32nd Academy Awards with 11 Oscars, a feat that wasn’t replicated until <em>Titanic</em> sailed into theaters in 1997. The film cost MGM Studios $15 million to make due to a massive amount of production design that included custom-made set pieces and costumes that required meticulous historical research to render accurately for the film and a cast that included <em>50,000 extras</em>. <ol style="list-style-type: none;"> <li><strong>3.      </strong><strong><em>Cleopatra</em> (1963)</strong></li> </ol> Not to be outclassed, this sweeping drama starring Elizabeth Taylor still ranks as the 16th most expensive film ever made when adjusted for inflation. The cost to make it in 2012 was estimated at $323 million. Production costs (that included a then record-setting $1 million contract for Liz Taylor that ballooned to $7 million after delays) that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox resulted in one of the lushest visual experiences of the time – and one that still wows today. <ol style="list-style-type: none;"> <li><strong>4.      </strong><strong><em>Camelot</em> (1967)</strong></li> </ol> Historical dramas are bound to be winners in production design and this film adaptation of a famous musical starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave was no exception. The story of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot was crafted with all the pageantry befitting the period it attempted to reproduce and was executed with flair. Modern designs of King Arthur’s legendary court still borrow from the 1967 classic. <ol style="list-style-type: none;"> <li><strong>5.      </strong><strong><em>Star Wars</em> (1977)</strong></li> </ol> Although technically containing “visual effects,” the most famous space opera of all time hardly relied on CGI as it’s known today. Perhaps surprisingly, production of <em>Star Wars</em> was a disaster and most of the cast and crew, including star Harrison Ford, thought the whole project would be considered a forgettable joke because of the silly costumes and weird set pieces. Thirty-five years later, George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney for $4 billion, which somehow makes all those silly costumes seem less funny. <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> welcomes you to submit your vote for your favorite movie in this year’s Academy Awards and hopes everyone has a great weekend!
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