The Oscar Project
I think my favorite set in the entire film is when K meets with Jared Leto's Niander Wallace character. The rooms are odd, just like their occupant, and despite being a completely different style of room, they are reminiscent of the Tyrell living quarters from the original film.
I think that is my reasoning for pushing this film slightly above The Shape of Water. There was so much in the way of design elements to pull from previous work and the production crew did just enough to make it feel familiar and welcoming to fans of the original film, while at the same time making everything feel like it belonged and fit in the world of the film.
2. The Shape of Water
While I agree with The Academy that this was a fantastically designed film from a set perspective, I feel like there were so few major sets that I have to deduct a few points in this case. That being said, the spaces that the production team created for this film are intricate beyond description and it would take several viewings to fully appreciate all the things that go on in the backgrounds of many scenes.
I think one of the biggest things going for this film is the strong disparity between the scenes focused on various characters. Elisa and Giles apartments feel like one in the same even though they are separated by a hallway and several doors. Contrary to that cozy atmosphere, the laboratory where Elisa works has a distinctly sterile feel, even if it is a bit dirtier than we would expect from a modern day clean room.
Lastly, I have to mention the aquatic confines of the fish man throughout the film. Realizing that this was set in mid-20th century America, I understand the "primitive" looking tank they use to control the fish man in the laboratory, but I feel like they could have done so much more with that set piece. I almost wish they had gone completely over the top with it or stripped it down to the bare bones and kept it as simple as possible as a juxtaposition to the complex nature of the creature himself.
3. Beauty and the Beast
The scenery and visual sets of this film were absolutely stunning, there is no doubt about that. Where I dock this film some points is in the fact that it went a little too overboard. I looked back at some of the recent live action fairy tale films from Disney (Cinderella, Maleficent) and they generally seemed more "grounded in reality" even when the subject were just as if not more based in magic and fantasy.
The other issue this film faced was an expected comparison to the 1991 animated film that it is based on. While the production crew did an excellent job of bringing many of those animated sets to life (literally when it came to the characters in the castle) it felt like they were trying to live up to what was already a fantastically designed film and just couldn't quite hit the mark. Yes, they were beautiful, but there was always the sense of "how are they going to achieve <<insert famous animated scene here>>?" and ultimately the bar was just too high.
4. Darkest Hour
I think Darkest Hour falls prey to a similar shortcoming as The Shape of Water in this category specifically in that the internal set decoration opportunities are limited by the scope of the film. Then again, similarly to Beauty and the Beast, there are scenes with Churchill and the king where extravagance and pomp would be the obvious choice, and the designers choose to not go far enough in my mind.
Where they do excel is in the underground bunkers shown throughout the film, the places where it is naturally confined, yet there are spaces on the walls for maps, plans and other information that would all be pertinent to the war effort going on in the background. It find it interesting that this film and Dunkirk both focus on the same general period of World War II and were nominated for many of the same categories at this year's Oscars even though the approach the period from completely different angles. Out of the two, this one definitely wins on the interior set decorating level.
After reading a bit about this award, I felt I had to drop Dunkirk to last place for one simple reason. The information I read indicated that this award is intended to recognize the best "interior design" in a film and this film, consists of a lot of external shots. There are few interior shots once the soldiers got on board the rescue ships, but there was nothing spectacular about those sequences, not enough even to consider this for a nomination in my opinion.
Are the sets realistic and well put together? Absolutely. But the mere fact that I can't recall any significant interior set dressing immediately drops this film to the bottom of the list here for me.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?