On the Visual Design of Birnin Zana, Wakanda’s Capitol

Design & Designers, Geek out!, Movies & TV

All the “best of 2018” movie lists I’ve seen remind of how much I loved Black Panther. So, I’m stealing an early start to the Martin Luther King Day weekend and reading about the design of Wakanda’s capitol city.

It’s called Birnin Zana and nicknamed the Golden City, although neither name appears in the movie. The Birnin Zana we see on the screen is the creation of the movie’s production designer, Hannah Beachler.

In a CityLab interview with Nicole Flatow, Beachler recounts her starting point:

“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

CityLab Marvel Studios Wakandan Street View

Marvel Studios; via CityLab.

The first impression of Birnin Zana is of course the skyscrapers, but if you look closely, there is water and ample greenery, too. The skyscrapers don’t seem to block the light too badly either.

Wired Marvel Studios City from Above

Marvel Studios; via Wired.

And if you really look, you can see greenery both in and on the buildings.

fxguide Marvel Studios Royal Landing Pad

Marvel Studios; via fxguide.

Vanity Fair Marvel Studios City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Vanity Fair.

Ahh! Nice.

Many of the building shapes hark back to traditional African aesthetics; also the surface detailing is rich and striking. In an interview with Collider, Beachler talks about the influences for her work:

“I started poking around and looking at really modern architects who have designed in Africa, all over Africa, east and west Africa. And someone who I really fell in love with was Zaha Hadid, who has passed away, but she is one of the foremost architects. So I started looking at her. Her architecture is very voluptuous and very flowing, very organic. So I thought this would be good. And the more I started digging into Senegal and Nigeria and finding things, while not necessarily futuristic-looking, very modern in their sensibilities as far as the way they’re putting together their elements and the colors that they use. I was struck by that. So I took a lot of that in. And a lot of it does come from Nigeria. I think in Kenya, Uganda, Johannesburg was another one, where no matter where you go, you really do see that they’re always keeping in mind the tradition.”

Los Angeles Times Marvel Studios City Concept Low-Built Area

Film Frame / Marvel Studios; via Los Angeles Times.

Collider Marvel Studios Wakanda City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Collider.

Beachler also created a 500-page “Wakanda Bible” for the actors to study, including the history of Golden City and names for all the buildings. The records hall held special meaning for her:

“Because [Wakanda residents] know everything about their past”—a privilege that real-world African Americans don’t have—“and [that] will never go away again in this city.

“I felt that way because I never knew my history. I didn’t know my ancestry, I didn’t know how far back it went …That was truly the most important thing to me. I don’t have that, but I could give it here in this fantastical world.”

I wish we got to see it, but I don’t think we do. (If you’ve spotted the records hall, let me know!)

Anyway; gorgeous through and through, isn’t it?

Now, I’m a city girl and have been almost my entire life. However, my concept of a city is different: all urban areas back home are typically so roomily built I’ve heard that if we were to follow some particular EU directive the whole country of Finland wouldn’t have a single city. (No idea whether that’s true, though.) Add my introversion to the difference in our respective urban population densities, and I suspect I would need a lot of alonetime were it possible for me to visit the Golden City.

Other than that, I LOVE everything we see: Color! Fantastic public transit (maglev trains, streetcars), but with people and their needs (and not cars) clearly at the focus. Traditional crafts and art that live very comfortably next to high-tech. Street vendors of almost every stripe – especially the food vendors make my mouth water every time I see them.

I do wish we could have a real-world Wakanda, for many reasons, the fabulous design being just one.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

A New Hope for a Sanditon Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Over two years ago, I spotted news that a screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished last work, Sanditon, was in development by Fluidity Films. To all appearances, their project never got any further than that.

Now there is a another project commissioned by ITV and executive produced by Rebecca Eaton at Masterpiece with Belinda Campbell at Red Planet Pictures. The script is written by Andrew Davies (who also wrote the 1995 Pride & Prejudice, 2007 Northanger Abbey and 2008 Sense & Sensibility, among others), and the eight-episode series will be distributed by BBC Studios.

Re-reading Jane Austens Lady Susan

According to PBS, filming is expected to start in spring of 2019. No casting details have been announced. I also couldn’t find Sanditon on Davies’s IMDB page yet; I guess it’s too early still.

But, nevertheless, hooray! Double yay!! We’ve long been overdue another Austen adaptation.

Relevant reads:

Plus the multiple(!) articles in the Spring 2018 issue of Persuasions (Volume 38, No. 2), accessible online at the JASNA website.

What a great excuse to re-read Austen. 🙂

P.S. Belatedly I realized that my headline sounds like a Star Wars – Jane Austen crossover. If only! I’d watch that! 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Awesome Mashup: Pantherpuff Girls

Design & Designers, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

PrimePremne designed an incredible mashup of Powerpuff Girls and women from Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther movie. See for yourself:

Ript Apparel PrimePremne Pantherpuff Girls

PrimePremne via Ript Apparel.

Available from Ript Apparel. Found via Graphic Policy on Twitter.

I’m in transit (hopefully without a hitch) much of today; hope this scheduled awesome cheered up your day.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Roundup of Some Black Panther Costume Design Articles

Design & Designers, Geek out!, Movies & TV

Black Panther opens tomorrow! I am so excite! I’ve been looking forward to it since forever. Ok, not forever even if it feels like it; something to the effect of July last year is more like it.

To me, visuals have been one of the most interesting aspects of this installation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are a few of the costume design articles I found most useful.

Finnish Folk Hop Ensemble Tuuletar Lends Wings to Game of Thrones Ad

Arts & Crafts, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Alku (‘Beginning’), a piece by the Finnish vocal folk hop ensemble Tuuletar, appears in a Game of Thrones commercial. The band’s website says,

“’Alku’, the opening track from Tuuletar’s debut album “tules maas vedes taivaal” has been sold for the use of one of the most popular tv-series in the whole world, HBO’s Game of Thrones. The song will be heard in the season 7 DVD and Blue-Ray [sic] commercial, which will be broadcasted worldwide. The deal was made together with Finnish record label Bafe’s Factory and ThinkSync Music from London.”

The ThinkSync news page on the sale links to a German-language DVD / Blu-Ray trailer for GoT season 7 on YouTube with Alku in the background:

GAME OF THRONES Staffel 7 – Trailer #2 Deutsch HD German (2017) by Warner Bros. DE

Tuuletar mashes up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Their debut album, Tules maas vedes taivaal (‘On Fire and Earth, in Water and Sky‘), won the prestigious Emma Award (the Finnish version of a Grammy) for the best ethno album of the year in 2016.

Tuuletar IMG_0510-1024x683

Tuuletar.

Vocalists Venla Ilona Blom, Sini Koskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski and Piia Säilynoja make up Tuuletar. More videos at YouTube or Tuuletar website.

Congrats, Tuuletar! I first blogged about the band two years ago just before they released their debut record, and am absolutely delighted to see them doing so well. And Alku is so amazing it gives me chills – always a sign of greatness!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Spotted Online: Life-Sized Boba Fett Wall Decal

Movies & TV, Room of Awesome, Stunt Double

I had to share this in honor of the U.S. opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Nicole Balch used a life-sized Boba Fett wall decal to finish off her son’s Star Wars -themed room, and the results are fantastic.

Nicole Balch Making It Lovely Sons SW Room

Nicole Balch at Making It Lovely.

Kudos! Visit Nicole’s blog for the full details.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Persuasion

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

The last but certainly not least in our Jane Austen rewatch, Persuasion is a novel of pressures, choices and second chances, posthumously published in 1817. The heroine, 27-year-old Anne Elliot, has never come to terms with her refusal to marry the great love of her life due to the prudent advice of a friend in loco parentis. The he returns to the neighborhood 8 years later…

Jane Austen Rewatch Persuasion

JASNA provides a map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Persuasion Locations map-pers-1200

Map of locations in Persuasion. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Like Mansfield Park, there aren’t terribly many screen versions of Persuasion. We rewatched the 2007 and 1995 movies, although apparently also a miniseries from 1971 is available.

The newer movie (from 2007, screenplay by Simon Burke, directed by Adrian Shergold) stars new-to-me Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot. Rupert Penry-Jones, whom I know from the British spy series MI-5, plays Captain Wentworth. Unfortunately, I find both performances listless and unenergetic, even though the script – bafflingly – has Anne indefatigably running all over the city of Bath after Captain Wentworth at the end of the movie.

Minor performances, for example by Anthony Head (Giles! from Buffy!) as Sir Walter Elliot, are ok. There are some other oddities in the writing, filming and music which diminish my enjoyment of the story, but it looks like they actually went to Bath, which is great.

The 1995 Persuasion, however, is excellent. The screenplay is by Nick Dear, and Roger Mitchell directed Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth. I really like Root’s understated and considerate version of Anne; Hinds works well enough even if a few scenes tend towards hammy.

Although the picture quality is grainy, the soundtrack is nice, and there are subtitles (not a given on older DVDs). The props, locations and costuming are also great. This is my favorite version so far – in an ideal world, of course, we would be due another adaptation.

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Emma

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Emma (1815) was the fourth and last of Austen’s works to be published during her lifetime. In it we follow the titular character’s growth from a good-intentioned meddler-in-romance to a more mature and self-aware young lady.

Jane Austen Rewatch Emma

Here, again, is a map provided by JASNA for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Emma Locations map-emma-large

Map of locations in Emma. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Our rewatch included three versions: two movies and a miniseries. I’ve since discovered that there’s a version transposed to India (Aisha, 2010), which sounds interesting. Clueless I’ve no interest in, and I’ll skip the 1972 miniseries, too.

Extraordinarily, the year 1996 saw two movie releases based on Emma. Both are solid adaptations with decent plot arcs, very good acting, and wonderful locations and sets.

The first is written and directed by Douglas McGrath and stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Occasionally Paltrow delivers some of her lines in an overly whiny manner, but fortunately those are rare. I haven’t seen Northam in anything else, but his Mr. Knightley was quite good – efficient and proper but not as acerbic as Mark Strong’s Mr. Knightley.

A very neat tidbit is to see young Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan McGregor singing – he has a fabulous voice! One thing I cannot stand in the McGrath movie, though, is Paltrow’s changing hairstyles – it seems like the production might have employed two different hair designers, one of whom wasn’t up to the job.

My favorite, incredibly dry line delivery:

Mr. Knightley [to Emma when they’re practicing archery]: “Try not to shoot my dogs.”

The other 1996 Emma is written by Andrew Davies, directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and features Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley. Overall, I’d say the casting is stronger in this version. The otherwise excellent Olivia Williams (elsewhere e.g. in Dollhouse) is a little wooden as Jane Fairfax, but I love the rest of the cast. Bernard Hepton’s Mr. Woodhouse is such a darling!

My favorite speech comes when the self-important Mrs. Elton discusses foppish young men:

Mrs Elton Scourge of Puppies

Mrs. Elton: “Ah! But you must know I can be very severe upon young men. I have a vast dislike of puppies, quite a horror of them. Had he turned out to be a puppy I might have said some very cutting things, you may be sure. I am a scourge of puppies, am I not, Mr. E.?”

My absolute favorite, though, is the Emma miniseries from 2009 (adapted by Sandy Welch, directed by Jim O’Hanlon). The version has several strengths, starting with excellent casting. Romola Garai stars as Emma Woodhouse, and – yay, again a treat for me! – Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. His is by far the most enjoyable Mr. Knightley performance I’ve seen. Mr. Knightley is often played as rather curt and strict, which I find not just offputting but a mistake. The interpretations of Harriet Smith by Louise Dylan and Miss Bates by Tamsin Greig are also the most enjoyable I’ve seen.

All major characters are introduced at the beginning of episode 1, which helps people new to Austen. Moreover, this version does the epilogue clearly and succinctly, without massive infodumping. In addition, I immensely enjoy the music, the set dressing, costuming and propping, and other visuals.

It’s a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable Emma. In fact, if the same team were to make other Austen adaptations, I’d go to great lenghts to see them. Finally, let’s face it: the longer form better fits the depth of Austen’s genius, and that’s that.

Enjoy this sneak peek from PBS:

MASTERPIECE Classic’s Emma begins Jan 24, 2010 | A Sneak Preview | PBS

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Mansfield Park

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Moving on with our grand Jane Austen rewatch. Mansfield Park (1814) was Jane Austen’s third published novel and her first to be conceived and written when she was an adult. The story follows the growth of poor Fanny Price, who is de facto adopted by her wealthy relatives and transported miles away from her family.

Jane Austen Rewatch Mansfield Park

Here is a map provided by JASNA for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Mansfield Park Locations map-mp-1200

Map of locations in Mansfield Park. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

We only had access to two movie versions: one from 1999 and the other from 2007. I’d also like eventually to see the 1983 miniseries, for I see several familiar names among the cast.

Unfortunately, both adaptations have some issues. The 2007 Mansfield Park (screenplay by Maggie Wadey, directed by Iain B. MacDonald) casts Billie Piper (Rose in Doctor Who) as Fanny Price, and she does a good job. However, I don’t like Blake Ritson, so this Edmund Bertram remains uninteresting to me. There are also some pacing issues and an odd scene or two.

If you like Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, you might want to check this one out, though, for she’s very good – a believably lively and charming but wily Mary Crawford. The rich but simpleminded Mr. Rushworth is expertly played by Rory Kinnear (who also performed Tanner in the three latest Bond movies).

What I really like, though, are two supporting characters: first, Fanny’s dear brother William is included (which the 1999 movie doesn’t do); second, Jemma Redgrave’s interpretation of Lady Bertram makes it believable that someone would’ve wanted to marry her (whereas the 1999 Lady B. is almost implausibly lethargic).

The older of these two Mansfield Park movies (written and directed by Patricia Rozema) is based not just the novel but also some events gleaned from Austen’s letters. It’s an interesting choice, and had we a dozen or so adaptations I’d probably appreciate it more, but as Mansfield isn’t often filmed I think it creates more missed opportunities than not. Another miss is Fanny Price’s wardrobe – bleah.

This movie is a treat for me in other respects: one of my favorte actors, Jonny Lee Miller, plays Edmund Bertram. He’s more recently – and deservedly – starred as Sherlock Holmes in the series Elementary. Lead actress Frances O’Connor projects Fanny’s vulnerability beautifully. The rest of the cast are great, too. For example, Lindsay Duncan gives an excellent, excellent double performance as both Fanny’s mother Mrs. Price and aunt Lady Bertram (even though I disagree how the character was written), and Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Rushworth thoroughly demonstrates the actor’s genious and range.

Favorite fleeting moment: Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Rushworth wiggles his pinky in his ear (presumably) to clean it while walking outdoors with his new fiancée, Miss Bertram. You can see it in this official trailer:

Mansfield Park | Official Trailer (HD) – Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller | MIRAMAX

How… quaintly… charming (not!) of the character, and a simply brilliant piece of acting!

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.