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The DCEU, As We Once Knew It, Appears To Be Done

This morning, the DC Extended Universe lost its Superman, as Henry Cavill exited in a manner that more than likely has DC Comics execs listening to Genesis’s “Land of Confusion” on repeat. After an apparent negotiation for a cameo in Shazam! fell apart (over scheduling, according to reports), the fortunes of what’s been commonly known as the DCEU are rocky and uncertain. Though as I see it, there’s one certainty that should be readily apparent to all who are observing the scenario: the DCEU, as we have grown to know it, is officially toast.

If Henry Cavill’s departure was the only calamity that was in play, then I could see a chance of recovery for the shared universe in play at Warner Bros. But this news is coming on top of an all but officially announced departure for Ben Affleck in the role of Batman in any upcoming DC movies. Losing one high profile lead can be triaged, but losing both actors playing tentpole superheroes in the DCEU should be enough to force DC Comics’ hand in folding that cinematic universe up for good. Though, for those holding out even more foolish hopes that the DCEU isn’t dead, but merely resting, the proof that the contrary is gospel can be seen in the varied box office performances.

Looking at the DCEU’s tentative run, we’ve seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman walk away as strong performers, with Justice League taking a hard tumble. So what does that say about the approach that needs to be taken in the DC Comics cinematic canon? Solo films, and smaller event team-ups, are the way of the future; rather than reshooting and retooling a franchise-uniting film to focus on a different lead late in the game. DC Comics should focus on those individual stories, and keep those franchise separated and running smoothly. Call it the DCEU. But don’t force it to be the shared cinematic universe that it clearly is not.

This shouldn’t be hard, or totally alien to DC, as they’ve been working on a Joker film separate from the Suicide Squad incarnation (this one built around Joaquin Phoenix), as well as a Matt Reeves Batman project that’s become further removed from the wreckage of the DCEU as each day passes. With Aquaman and Shazam! looking to right the ship in terms of DC Comics’ tone and structure, they need to be allowed the room to thrive outside of the shadow that Justice League has cast on the entire DC franchise collective. So it’s in the studio’s best interest to mitigate the connections to the events of that failed team-up film, and push these stories in their own unique directions.

Ultimately, the error of DC Comics’ failed cinematic universe can be summed up in one, damning claim: they tried to be Marvel Studios, and failed. DC shouldn’t try to be another Marvel, simply because not only did the studio rush what could have been a fantastic competitor in the name of the box office dollar, but they’ve always done their best doing the complete opposite. Marvel Studios doesn’t have a strong animated canon like DC Comics does, and in a similar vein, DC has always excelled at providing a variety of incarnations for the heroes underneath their umbrella. So while the stories aren’t always connected, there’s enough difference for fans of all stripes to wet their beaks. The DC Comics animated strategy needs to be implemented within the feature films galaxy, so as to restore the brand as the proper competitor to Marvel’s box office stranglehold.

Henry Cavill’s departure basically nails the coffin shut on the ambitious failure that pushed him and Ben Affleck out the doors, and it’s time to leave it in the past. At this point, DC Comics should be implementing Flashpoint as their ultimate reset button / dazzling finale to the DCEU, closing off this chapter in history for good and allowing all remaining projects to succeed on their own merits, without the albatross of history on their necks. Make no mistake: DC Comics properties need to give Marvel Studios competition. However, instead of running the race together, it’s time to let the Justice League fight their own battles. Maybe in the future, there can be a Crisis on Infinite Earths event that brings it all together temporarily, but for now, separate is better.

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Selena Gomez’s ‘Ugly’ Barrette Is the Perfect Response to Trolls

Sometimes, a hair accessory is worth a thousand words… at least it can be if your name is Selena Gomez.

While in New York for Fashion Week, the singer stepped out wearing an eye-catching, bedazzled barrette in her hair, that clearly read “UGLY.” The tongue-in-cheek accessory was pinned onto her braided pony.

Check out the look, below.

Selena Gomez ugly on head in NYC

PHOTO: Pap Nation / SplashNews.com

The rest of her look was equally statement-making: a plus leather jacket, red-and-white gingham pants, and black pumps. But it was the barrette that really stole the show.

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - September 11, 2018

PHOTO: Gotham

Though Gomez hasn’t addressed her choice of accessory, people on social media speculate that it’s a sartorial response to negative comments made of the singer. Most recently, Dolce & Gabbana’s Stefano Gabbana called Gomez some hurtful words on Instagram, reportedly responding to the ensuing backlash by mocking her even more.

Gomez chose to never respond to the designer publicly. But, if she’s using the backdrop of Fashion Week to send a subtle message to her detractors, it’s coming across loud and clear—and chic.

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To Define Your Taste in Interior Design, Look in Your Closet

NAILING DOWN your interior-design style can prove challenging. You might be vaguely drawn to the grace of a Regency chaise, the cleanness of 1940s metal hairpin legs, the worldliness of pattern-on-pattern—all at the same time.

When homeowners can’t specify their aesthetic preferences, strategic interior designers survey the client’s wardrobe for breadcrumb clues. “Quite often I’ll say, ‘Listen, what color do you look good in?’” said Los Angeles designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “‘What makes you feel great when you wear it?’”

Clothes can reveal nearly as much as diaries. Richmond, Va., designer Suellen Gregory took cues from her client’s predilection for the borderline-psychedelic prints of Etro and Lilly Pulitzer clothing before she installed China Seas wallpaper in Paradise Background, a chinoiserie-like pattern in egg-yolk yellow. When faced with decorating a house on Shelter Island, N.Y., where interiors range from quaint Victorian to white-and-glass modern, New York designer Susan Petrie opted to go the traditional beachy route with blue, white and beige cottons for a client habitually swathed in nautical stripes.

Decorators sometimes invoke the clothes clients are wearing when lobbying for a look. Mr. Bullard, in an effort to convince a reluctant client to go beyond “meh” white-linen curtains, turned to the Dolce & Gabbana top she had on, specifically its border of interlocking navy-blue circles. “Look at that beautiful edge on your vest,” he said. “Wouldn’t it change the look?” They ultimately copied the pattern, blew it up and embroidered it on the drapes. Mr. Bullard is not above throwing a shirt over a chair to help a vision-challenged client anticipate an upholstery change.

New York designer Amanda Salles takes care not to interpret sartorial clues too literally. “If a client’s wearing sweatpants every time I see her, it doesn’t translate to ‘Oh, she wants a flannel sofa,’” Ms. Salles said. It indicates that she feels most productive and happy when she and her family are comfortable. “So I’m not going to get them a sofa with a tufted seat and back, no matter how much she loves it on a page. I would say ‘You have three kids. Those tufts will be filled up with Cheerios in a week!’”

Bradley Bayou, former creative director of American fashion brand Halston and now an interior designer in Los Angeles, recently worked with a male client whose natty wardrobe leaned toward tailored, earth-toned pieces by Tom Ford and John Varvatos. And yet his penthouse in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood appeared marooned in the ’80s and ’90s, with lots of Italian furniture à la “Scarface.” “It was kind of shocking to me, that you’d dress like that but surround yourself with things that don’t relate to what you look like,” said Mr. Bayou, who spent a year pulling together materials such as charcoal grass cloth, mohair drapes and silk rugs. He selected soft fabrics that upholstered well enough “to make even the most particular tailor happy.” Indeed, when the client entered the transformed flat for the first time, he said, “This is how I should live.”

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Looks Like House Of Cards Is Going To Keep Fans Waiting With Underwood’s Death

Netflix’s House of Cards will forever be a historic show. It broke ground as a streaming drama, with an all-star cast lead by the likes of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. It’s a method that countless shows and streaming services have followed, although House of Cards also has a dark cloud around its legacy. Spacey was fired from his role as star/producer following a bevy of sexual misconduct allegations, some of which reportedly occurred on the show’s set. The series will conclude with its sixth and final season, and a new teaser revealed the show would be killing Francis Underwood off. But how?

Unfortunately, its seems we’re not going to be getting that answer anytime soon. In addition to waiting until the season premieres in its entirety on November 2nd, House of Cards evidently won’t be give Netflix subscribers the answers right away. Instead, the truth will slowly come out– at least according to a new report by TV Line.

This newest rumor is certainly intriguing, and sounds like a brilliant way for House of Cards to exist in the shadow of Kevin Spacey’s departure– especially as it also ended Francis Underwood’s story prematurely. By making his death a continually developing storyline, it keeps his presence in the show’s final season. Furthermore, it allows House of Cards to get ahead of the narrative, and shape the unexpected departure into a purposeful story choice.

House of Cards will also break new ground by focusing on Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood, allowing her to be the main narrator in the show’s fourth wall breaking moments. This was slowly set up throughout Season 5, with Claire occasionally engaging with the audience. And the season ended with her looking directly into the camera, and proclaiming it was her turn. The seeds have been planted for Wright to emerge as an even larger presence in the show, and now she’ll carry House of Cards and the country itself on President Claire Underwood’s shoulders.

The future of House of Cards was put into jeopardy when allegations against Kevin Spacey began to flood in. After actor Anthony Rapp alleged the actor assaulted him at the age of 14, more men began to share their experiences– including crew members from House of Cards. Still very early into filming Season 6, production was shut down indefinitely. Robin Wright reportedly went to bat for the cast and crew, and helped convince Netflix and the producers to finish the show’s story. And that’s exactly what they did.

All will be revealed when Netflix releases House of Cards‘ final season in its entirety on November 2nd. In the meantime, check out our fall premiere list to plan your next binge watch. Plus our Amazon premiere list and superhero premiere list to ensure you don’t miss a single episode of your favorite show.

First Look At The Good Place Season 3 Shows Michael Saving The Day

The Good Place is back on NBC at the end of September, and viewers will get to see how each human does with their second chance on Earth. A first look at the premiere has popped up online and, among other things, it shows Michael saving each formerly deceased member of the group from their respective fates. Put simply, it’s forking amazing:

After a brief recap of the Season 2 finale, The Good Place unveils yet another place in the afterlife that’s occupied by a new character called “the Doorman.” This guy (played by guest star Mike O’ Malley) apparently waits at the door to Earth and is in possession of a key composed of the very first atoms in the universe. We’re sure that’s going to come into play at a later date, but for now, Michael is unconcerned with the revelation and simply thrilled that he gets to ride a bus for the first time as he goes to save Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani.

Michael is then seen hopping across the world and saving everyone from their embarrassing and slightly hilarious deaths, thus confirming Michael Schur’s statement that there’s no trickery this time around, and everyone is getting a second chance on Earth. Some had assumed that was the case already, but with Jason and Tahani not making a real-world appearance in the Season 2 finale and the number of weird twists this show manages to cook up, it never feels like anything is guaranteed. Michael successfully returns to the afterlife and, after witnessing all the wonders that mankind has created, is thrilled he discovered a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell of all things.

The Good Place scene must take place sometime before Chidi and Eleanor meet up again, as we all know Michael travels back to Earth after Eleanor’s accident to prod her in Chidi’s direction. We’re pretty sure Michael will be doing a lot of interfering like that in the future, especially if Jason continues to make dumb decisions like locking himself in an air-tight safe with a snorkel. The big question is if Michael’s meddling will go unnoticed by the Judge, who only granted the second chance on the grounds that the group was never given a full lifetime to change their sinful ways. The experiment is effectively tainted by the interference, so if she does find out, it’s possible she’ll squash the entire thing. We’re hoping she doesn’t, although it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for more episodes to feature the gang hanging out in The Bad Place!

The Good Place Season 3 premieres with a one-hour premiere on NBC Thursday, September 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Keep track of all the big shows returning over the next few months with our fall premiere guide.

Bekah Martinez From *The Bachelor* Just Revealed She’s Pregnant

Bekah Martinez, a fan-favorite contestant who competed on Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s season of The Bachelor, is pregnant with her first child. Martinez announced the news on her YouTube channel with a video, and confirmed the father of her child is her boyfriend, Grayston Leonard, who she’s been dating for about seven months. Martinez is 20 weeks along, and has a due date of January 2019.

“It’s the one thing that I’ve known with certainty for so long. I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of marriage and relationships, but I’ve always felt sure that I want to be a mom,” she told PureWow in an interview, noting how she wanted to keep the pregnancy removed from the public eye as long as possible. “I wanted time to process it between Gray and I and our family without all of the exterior noise chiming in.”

While Martinez notes that the pregnancy was indeed “unplanned” and occurred three months into their relationship, she hopes her openness on the subject will help destigmatize the negative connotations often associated with unexpected pregnancies. “I wanted to share this experience with other women who have been in a similar situation or might be in the future, so they know they’re not alone,” she explained. For instance, she and Leonard have zero plans to marry at the moment—it hasn’t even been discussed. “I think pregnancy is better than Bachelor in Paradise. Although I’m probably equally as sweaty, exhausted, nauseous, stressed out, and emotional, at least I don’t have to worry about finding a man,” she joked. “I already have that one covered.”

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Flying Together With Your Children Keeps Getting Tougher

Parents have always stressed about flying with small children. Airlines are ratcheting up that stress now by making it harder for parents to sit with them.

This fall, United Airlines will make it a bit tougher, or at least more expensive, to get seats together by joining Delta and American in reserving more seats for corporate customers and requiring fees for many regular-legroom seats.

On airplanes, everything has a consequence. Reserving more seats for some means fewer seats for others. On some flights with heavy numbers of seats reserved, the only seats open to being reserved for free may be middle seats, limiting options for families except to pay extra fees for seats together.

Parents won’t be getting help from the feds, either. Under orders from Congress, the Transportation Department reviewed the family seating issue and determined, based on a low number of complaints, that new rules aren’t necessary, an official says. Congress had ordered a review in 2016 and directed DOT to come up with regulations forcing airlines to provide children with seats next to parents “if appropriate.”

The agency recently determined “issuing a policy was not appropriate at this time,” a DOT official says. To be sure, parental complaints about airline seating issues are widespread, even if not many have filed official complaints with DOT. But the Trump administration has moved to reduce regulation and new regulations on airlines face a high hurdle.

Some parents report unusual seat switches by gate agents this summer that created problems even when they had reserved seats together in advance and in many cases paid the seat fees to be together.

Ashley Piper of Memphis, Tenn., travels frequently with her two children, and always has seats reserved together, including on a vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia. When the family reached Minneapolis for their connecting flight, she checked seat assignments on the Delta app and discovered she and her 5-year-old son had both been separated from her husband and 7-year-old daughter. (Their seats were unchanged.)

She had a seat in the same row as her son’s middle seat, but on the other side of the aisle. Gate agents and flight attendants said they couldn’t help. She asked passengers on either side of the 5-year-old to switch and no one would move.

“He did fine,” Ms. Piper says. “Part of me kind of wanted him to spill his Sprite on them, but he didn’t.”

Becca Brownstein and her husband were taking their three children to Tampa, Fla., in July and had paid fees to get five seats across one row on Delta. When they checked in for their flight from Las Vegas, the seat assignments were the same. But in Salt Lake City, when they went to board a connecting flight to Tampa, Ms. Brownstein’s 5-year-old daughter’s seat was moved several rows away. So was her 8-year-old son’s.

She looked incredulously at the gate agent and said: “She’s 5! How did you move her somewhere else?’’

Flight attendants brokered a swap so her daughter could sit with her. But her son sat seven rows in front of them for the four-hour flight. Similar problems arose on their connective flight home.

“Why is it OK to separate them at any point in the travel experience?” Ms. Brownstein says. She also wonders why gate agents couldn’t ask for volunteers to be reseated so families aren’t broken up—or at least inform parents earlier of the switch and ask if it’s OK.

Delta says it doesn’t know why the family got separated. “Delta’s intent is to ensure that all ticketed passengers on the same record are seated together, especially families,” a spokesman said in a written statement. “When that doesn’t happen prior to boarding, flight attendants, as they are able, will work to resolve the situation.”

Other families say sitting together got tougher this summer after their seats on Delta, United and American flights were shuffled. In some cases they were told they had new seat assignments because the aircraft for the flight had changed. Others received no explanation, just new boarding passes—and a suggestion to try to persuade other passengers to swap.

The root of the problem is how few free seats airlines make available anymore.

American’s Flight 349 from New York LaGuardia to Chicago O’Hare the day before Thanksgiving is an extreme example given the high demand, but shows how airlines work. On a Sept. 10 search, there were plenty of tickets available starting at $211 one-way and only 29 of 144 seats in coach were reserved. Without elite status, the only seats available to reserve in coach at no cost were middle seats. Everything else was reserved for travelers with elite status, extra legroom rows or regular rows designated as preferred.

“If you’re traveling with a 4-year-old, it’s not a convenience [to have seats together]. It’s a necessity,” says Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, an industry group that works with cruise lines, hotels, airlines, travel agents and others to promote family-friendly accommodations. “If you’re forced to pay a premium because you’re traveling with a child, it’s discrimination.”

American says its automatic booking system tries to seat families together before boarding. Each flight has roughly 12 seats that gate agents control and can use to put families together.

Family travel advocates say some airlines handle the issue effectively. Southwest, for example, lets families with small children board after the first 60 passengers. Southwest has open seating, so families can always find seats together.

Ironically, ultradiscount airlines that started the pay-for-seat-assignments trend can often put families together more easily because they don’t have legions of elite-level frequent fliers and corporate customers with priority for aisle and window seats.

Overall, the problem is getting worse and more complicated, especially with United’s pending move this fall to restrict free seats, says Summer Hull, founder of the travel blog Mommy Points. When Delta, American and now United put the low-cost model on top of their preferential system, families are left out.

She thinks more families are resigned to paying extra fees to sit together, and for those that don’t or get switched, that sometimes means begging on board.

“Most of the time it will work out, at least to get some parent next to some younger child. But it’s going to require drama. It’s going to require effort on the part of other passengers willing to trade sometimes,” she says. “It’s not a great solution that they have right now.”

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Write to Scott McCartney at middleseat@wsj.com

Weird Rumors Swirl Around Missing Chinese Superstar Fan Bingbing

While not well known here, Fan Bingbing is a huge star in China. However, as prominent as the actress is, nobody has apparently seen her in some time. The actress reportedly hasn’t been seen in public since July 1 and her social media accounts have been dark since July 23, leading to speculation that something has happened to the actress. Rumors run the gamut from a belief she is being detained by Chinese authorities to her having escaped to the U.S. in order to avoid the same.

Earlier this year Fan Bingbing was the highest paid actress in China and was a popular choice for the promotion of luxury brands in the nation. However, recently Fan’s name has been linked to a widespread tax evasion scandal in China that has included numerous names in the country’s entertainment industry. Apparently, performers were being given two contracts for some films. A small one was used for tax purposes but the second revealed that actors were being paid much more.

It seems that some believe that Fan may have been detained by Chinese authorities due to these alleged tax evasion issues. However, a Hong Kong tabloid reported at the end of August that the actress was seen at an immigration office in Los Angeles, though it seems that report has no corroboration.

Whatever the situation, it’s clear that China has become a less than hospitable place for the actress. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that a recent report ranking the social responsibility of China’s 100 top stars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences ranked Fan Bingbing dead last, with a score of zero out of 100. Even if nothing unfortunate has happened to the actress, it would not be surprising if she’s simply keeping an intentionally low profile.

Western audiences probably know Fan Bingbing best from her small role as Blink in X-Men: Days of Future Past, though she is currently scheduled to be part of the star-studded ensemble cast of spy thriller 355 that will co-star Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, and Lupita Nyong’o, which could very likely raise her profile stateside in a big way.

This wouldn’t be the first time that are a person in the public eye just took a break from being in public without anything nefarious being at play, but given the circumstances, it seems that there is something to this story, even if exactly what it is, is not clear. The actresses representatives aren’t talking either.

Hopefully, whatever is going on, Fan Bingbing is ok. At some point, given the actress’ popularity, something will have to be said revealing what has happened, as it’s unlikely people will just forget about somebody with a fanbase like hers.

Dieter Rams is the Godfather of Design

ON A MIDSUMMER day at the Wright auction house in Chicago, iconic hair dryers, alarm clocks and toasters conceived by German industrial designer Dieter Rams for housewares firm Braun in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are up for sale, along with Rams-designed audio and video equipment. Pictures posted online drummed up early interest for this first major auction of his vintage designs (featuring 120 pieces from a private collection).

By 1 p.m. the bids are coming in fast. Bob Greenberg, the founder and chairman of digital agency R/GA, whose recent product-design show at New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum—Bob Greenberg Selects—put Rams’s work at its center, bids remotely on a list of items. He pays $562 for a plastic kitchen scale and almost $8,000 for old stereo components, including an amplifier, turntable and tuner. “Beautifully designed products of the past are a very good investment,” he says later, considering his haul.

The action at the auction is captured on camera by the king of design documentaries, filmmaker Gary Hustwit, whose 2007 breakout hit, Helvetica, a deep dive into typeface design, all but launched the genre. Rams, Hustwit’s fourth feature as director and the first full-length film devoted to the design legend, premieres with screenings around the world this month. It was financed partly on Kickstarter, with $300,000 raised from 5,000 backers.

A rough cut reviewed in Hustwit’s Brooklyn office opens with a close-up of fingers striking the keys of a fire engine–red Valentine Olivetti typewriter, circa 1968. A vintage TG 504 Braun reel-to-reel recorder/player hangs on a living room wall. “What is good design?” asks a voice-over in German.

The film cuts to Rams, 86, in tortoiseshell glasses with thinning white hair, at home in Germany, surrounded, as always, by his favorite things, mostly his own classic designs—chairs, tables and shelves conceived decades back for furniture-maker Vitsœ and cult stereo equipment created for Braun. Rams lives in a bubble of his own creation, in the same idealized oasis of timeless design on the edge of the Taunus forest near Frankfurt that he’s occupied with his photographer wife, Ingeborg Kracht-Rams, since 1971 (the house, which he helped design, is already landmarked by his region’s office for the preservation of historical monuments). “I wanted to live with my work, but it was never a museum, it was a living space,” says Rams in German via email. Though he’s declined most interviews lately, he answered a few questions for this article through his longtime personal manager, Britte Siepenkothen, who lives a few houses away.

So many people these days dream of blocking out the noise of the modern world. Rams, who doesn’t use a computer or mobile phone, never plugged in (he communicates mostly through Siepenkothen). “I am of the opinion that all the digitization that is happening right now diminishes our ability to experience things,” he tells Hustwit in an on-camera interview. “There are pictures that disappear, one after the other, without leaving traces in our memory. This goes insanely fast. And maybe that’s why we can or want to consume so much.”

The film finds Rams at home in his retirement years—shooting began before his 85th birthday—sharing his story on camera as never before and puttering around in his slippers, grooving to jazz, quietly tending to his bonsai trees (he has a long-standing affinity for Japanese culture).

“A lot of people see these clean, white, severe objects, and they think one thing about him,” says Hustwit, “but I think he’s much more in touch with nature and the environment than you would expect looking at all the stuff he’s designed.”

The film offers a rare glimpse beyond Rams’s stern public persona. Hustwit got unprecedented access to Rams, exploring the man behind the mythology, a humanist designer with a surprisingly wry sense of humor and plenty of biting opinions on the state of the world. “There are lots of stereotypes out there about this hard-nosed Teutonic gentleman,” says Vitsœ’s managing director, Mark Adams, who at times served as a liaison between Rams and Hustwit on the film. “He’s a tough old bugger for sure. But there is absolutely another side to him, and I think Gary may have gone some way in capturing that.”

Hustwit first met Rams in 2008, interviewing him at home for Objectified, his follow-up to Helvetica that focused on the industrial design world. His bare-bones new documentary, Rams, offers an intimate portrait of this enigmatic figure, told largely in the designer’s own voice. “You couldn’t make a cluttered, messy film about Dieter Rams—it would be ridiculous,” says Hustwit.

As head of the design department at Braun for 34 years starting in 1961, Rams ushered in a golden age of beautiful, functional, accessible products, inspiring a generation of acolytes with his once ubiquitous household goods. His coffee makers, alarm clocks and shavers became the backdrops to modern life through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. “Braun products were truly mass manufactured, so everybody could have a piece of what he’d done,” says designer Marc Newson, who joined Apple as a special projects designer in 2014, assessing Rams’s work. “His design was accessible. There’s a wonderful parallel with what Apple is doing now. He elevated design to a place that I think few consumers could have imagined it going. It was so refined, sophisticated and understated.”

Though Rams also reached a more rarefied audience through his pricier sideline in modular furniture for Vitsœ, it’s his Braun work that made him famous. His output was prodigious, overseeing hundreds of long-lasting products so intuitively designed they sometimes didn’t need to come with printed instructions.

“Braun appliances were almost always built so they could be repaired [if they broke],” says Rams, decrying the rise in disposable goods. “I see it as a major problem today that so many defective products can only be thrown away.”

Though Rams largely stepped away from designing when he left Braun in 1997, a new generation has begun discovering his work, thanks to Apple and other design-driven companies embracing his reductionist, user-friendly approach. The recent surge in design as a business and cultural force has no doubt played a role in his revival as well. “In many ways design has become so much bigger today than when I was a student,” says Swiss designer Yves Béhar, founder of Fuseproject and another longtime fan of Rams’s work. “It’s now the core way we judge a company, a service, a product, an experience, so naturally people look back at the history of this.” The renewed interest in Rams has reached a high in the last decade, with new coffee-table books being published; fan sites emerging online; and museum shows popping up around the world, including Dieter Rams: Principled Design, a retrospective opening this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That show’s curator, Colin Fanning, plans to incorporate designs from contemporaries of Rams from around the world “to underscore,” he says, “just how radical and successful the Rams approach was for its time.”

Rams, for one, finds the new attention perplexing. “It makes me feel rather uncomfortable,” he says. “But I hope that it motivates people to grapple with my fundamental approach, with my motto: ‘Less, but better.’ ”

Rams grew up in Wiesbaden, a spa town among the mountains just west of Frankfurt. In the film he talks about the influence of his paternal grandfather, Heinrich Rams, a master carpenter, and of his earliest design fascination as a young boy with the complex mechanics of Wiesbaden’s hydropowered funicular railway. Hustwit dug deep into Rams’s past, unearthing what archival footage and photos he could—not much exists from his childhood in Germany during and just after World War II. “I was 13 years old when the bombs stopped,” he says in the documentary.

After studying architecture at an art school in Wiesbaden, he was hired in 1955 at Braun—run by brothers Artur and Erwin Braun—after responding to an ad in the paper. He focused on corporate interiors initially, but soon segued into product design, abandoning his interest in urban planning.

His earliest projects at Braun mirrored his personal passions—sleek lighters to fuel his tobacco addiction, hi-fi equipment to play the music he loved (he was a habitué of the jazz scene that arrived in Frankfurt with the GI occupation). “When I began at Braun, it bothered me that the radios lacked the necessary clarity of sound,” he says. “The speakers were covered in cloth. I always called it carpet. It muffled the high notes.”

In 1956, Braun introduced the Phonosuper SK4, a white turntable—nicknamed by the company “Snow White’s Coffin”—with a groundbreaking Plexiglas lid. The piece helped establish Rams as a serious design voice, drawing the attention of collectors, curators and critics, though it didn’t originally sell very well.

After Rams took over the design department in 1961, Braun began to push him publicly as a face of the brand. “People started calling him Mr. Braun,” says Hustwit. “He looked the part—good-looking, young, drove a Porsche, listened to jazz—just the kind of image they wanted to project for this new way to live.” Rams forged a single design language that cut across every Braun product category. “All of us, including Dieter, were in constant contact with one another,” says his former colleague at Braun, Dietrich Lubs. “There was a permanent exchange, professionally as well as in the private sphere. In that way we developed a design language and attitude without a doctrine. We lived our work.”

A few years into his tenure at Braun, Rams got permission from his bosses to develop furniture in his off hours for a new company, Vitsœ, which launched in 1959 to focus solely on his designs. The customizable pieces were designed to disappear in the background and to adapt to tight spaces. “You have to understand that people at that time only had small apartments, social-housing apartments,” he explains in the film.

The furniture formed part of a system—featuring expandable shelves and armchairs that linked to become couches—with aesthetic ties to his design work at Braun. “Dieter was really the first to think about products in a pluralistic rather than singular way,” says British designer Sam Hecht, whose firm, Industrial Facility, has done work for Herman Miller and Muji. “He appreciated and nurtured the concept of systems in design, where one product has a relationship to another.”

Jasper Morrison, a prolific designer informed by Rams’s work, calls Vitsœ’s 606 Universal Shelving System, which was introduced in 1960 and has been in continuous production ever since, the “endgame in design, hard to imagine it will ever be improved on.”

Morrison and his Japanese colleague Naoto Fukasawa, best known for his everyday objects for Muji, coined a new term, Super Normal, in 2006, to explain the design sensibility they share. They organized an influential exhibition together that year that included Rams’s work. “Dieter’s design was just right, pure, inevitable,” says Fukasawa. “Personally, I just try to follow him.”

In 1967 the Braun brothers sold their company to Gillette. Rams flew to Boston to meet with his new corporate bosses. The company’s chief executive, Vincent Ziegler, he says, seemed to appreciate the role design had played in the German firm’s success. “In only 10 years it had managed to become internationally known because of its products and, above all, because of its design,” says Rams. His purview expanded into the Gillette family—his team worked on Paper Mate pens and eventually on early toothbrush designs for Oral-B. But corporate pressures started taking a toll. Through the 1970s, to spotlight the continued value of good design, Rams began to articulate his design principles, both inside and outside the company. “Three general rules govern every Braun design—a rule of order, a rule of harmony and a rule of economy,” he told a Canadian design seminar in 1975. By the mid-’80s those rules had morphed into his influential “10 principles for good design,” which were codified in a series of lectures and, later, a book, Less but Better. “Initially it wasn’t actually intended for public release,” he says. “The 10 principles were intended to correct for the dominance of business directors and their attempts to control design.”

The principles took on a life of their own—some dubbed them the “10 commandments”—inspiring other designers to release their own lists in response. New York design merchant Murray Moss, who ran an influential design shop in SoHo until 2012 and has known Rams for decades, says the principles have always been misunderstood. “He did that more to stimulate conversation,” he says. “He wasn’t nailing a proclamation to the church door.” By the time Rams was approaching retirement age in the mid-’90s, serious rifts had begun forming between him and Braun. “The direction that Braun was taking then no longer matched my vision and my convictions about design,” he says. In 1995, he tells Hustwit on film, he was “pushed out and given the imposing title Executive Director—Corporate Identity.” Two years later he left the company for good.

Braun struggled in the post-Rams era. Nine years ago, it brought in a young new head of design, Oliver Grabes, an industrial design professor who’d worked for Microsoft , Sony and Nike . One of the first things he did was reach out to Rams. He’s been meeting with him regularly ever since. “After Dieter left, suddenly a lot of experimentation happened,” says Grabes. “There wasn’t one design language anymore, there were many. Every designer interpreted it differently. Nobody could tell what Braun design was anymore.”

Alessandra Dolfini, Braun’s current global vice president, acknowledges the change in direction. “By the time Mr. Rams left, there was an appetite for exploration and experimentation,” she says. “The desire to remain contemporary and try out what was now possible led to many different design directions every time a new product was launched.”

Grabes’s efforts to bring Braun back onto a singular track include focusing on its old values of “functionality, simplicity and ease of use,” he says. The company, under Grabes, also reintroduced a few classic pieces from Rams’s time, including the 1978 ET 44 calculator that the Apple design team looked to for inspiration when creating the iPhone’s calculator. “It was not an appropriation but an adulation,” says Newson, “an acknowledgement that basically we couldn’t do any better.”

Even before Grabes’s arrival at Braun, Rams’s legacy there had an impact beyond the company’s design team, as it transitioned to new corporate owners following Procter & Gamble’s Gillette acquisition in 2005. Bracken Darrell, who spent four years as Braun’s president in that period, says learning about Rams “reordered” his “whole view of the world through design and design thinking.” He later followed Rams’s model when he took over consumer technology firm Logitech , transforming it into a company focused on design first. “Everything I’ve done since then, I’ve done because of Dieter Rams,” Darrell says. “We created our own design principles and started staffing an internal design group like Dieter had done.”

Vitsœ, meanwhile, continues to produce a small line of Rams furniture—and nothing else—from its new headquarters northwest of London, tweaking materials and production but avoiding entirely new designs (the company is thinking of reviving Rams’s sling-back 601 Chair Programme, launched in 1960). “As a world we’ve become obsessed with the new over making things better,” says company head Mark Adams, “constantly needing to talk about new things rather than saying this is one of the best, and they’re still making it better. That’s why we unashamedly stick to that.”

Hustwit’s documentary follows Rams to the Vitsœ workshop’s old location in London; to a show of his modular furniture at the Vitra Design Museum near Basel, Switzerland; to his 85th birthday celebration at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt, which houses a portion of his archive; and to an auditorium in Munich, where he addresses design students. After some lobbying by Adams, Rams agreed to do the film, says Hustwit, to reach a new audience with his ideas on sustainability, overconsumption and enduring design. “We’ve never just wanted to make something beautiful,” Rams tells the standing-room crowd at Munich’s Technical University. “We want to make things better. What we need is less, but better.” •

More from WSJ. Magazine

Cannabis Comes to Your Coffee and Candy—But Is It Legal?

A kissing cousin to pot is showing up in your coffee, candy and chocolate bars.

Companies are selling a growing number of products that contain cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical found in hemp. It’s being added to everything from gumdrops to beverages, as marketers claim benefits such as pain relief and stress reduction.

Proponents say CBD gives users a wash of calm but is “non-psychoactive”: It doesn’t produce a high like marijuana, hemp’s sister in the cannabis plant family. Consumers credit CBD with benefits such as anxiety relief and inflammation reduction, but researchers say it’s unclear what causes those effects—or even whether they are real. The legal status of CBD products is often murky too.

They are sold on the margins of the big-box retail establishment and are typically found in health food stores, boutiques and regional store chains. Lord Jones CBD gumdrops sell for $45 in boutiques, spas and natural foods stores. A Veggimins chocolate bar with 100 milligrams of CBD retails for $25 at health food and grocery stores. A cup of “flower power” CBD coffee at Moorenko’s Ice Cream Cafe in Silver Spring, Md., costs $5.95. A counter display promises it “will not make you fail a drug test.”

“It’s like taking a Xanax without the Xanax,” says Stein Willanger, a 38-year-old event producer in Los Angeles. He takes a peppermint-flavored CBD oil purchased over the phone anywhere from once to three times a day, sometimes after a workout, other times before bedtime. “My shoulders relax and there’s an easiness that overcomes you.”

Alexandra Coppola, a 27-year-old server at a restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., first picked up a bottle of CBD oil at Cambridge Naturals, a health-food store. She tried 9 milligrams—about three droppers full—directly into her mouth on her way to work. “The effect was amazing,” she says. “What I was worried about didn’t matter as much. Not in a way that I was forgetting my responsibilities. But it gave me peace of mind and an overwhelming sense of calmness.”

CBD comes from the cannabis plant, which has different varieties. Cannabis grown for marijuana use is bred to have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces the “high” people feel. Hemp is a different variety of cannabis that is very low in THC but can be high in CBD. Proponents of CBD are quick to point out that it is not THC.

Jeff Chen, director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, says much is still unclear on the science behind CBD’s purported effects. “We are trying to understand what is happening, why it’s happening or even if it is a true phenomenon versus placebo,” he says. CBD’s function as a so-called cannabinoid—a unique group of compounds found in cannabis that can interact with brain and body receptors—may contribute to self-reported effects such as anxiety relief and inflammation reduction, he says.

The legality of CBD products is also a gray area. For years, federal law regulated hemp alongside marijuana as a “controlled substance,” making it illegal to sell certain extracts or derivatives. In 2014, a federal farm bill let states start pilot programs to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of hemp. Some companies interpreted that as a green light to sell CBD-containing products.

Sales of hemp-derived CBD in food, supplements and personal-care products grew 88% to $327.4 million in 2017, according to Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm based in Tampa, Fla., that predicts the market will grow to nearly $600 million this year. Brightfield believes the business could explode to $5.7 billion next year if Congress passes legislation from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) that would more clearly allow companies to sell hemp-derived products, including CBD. Its prospects for passage are unclear.

For now, nine states and the District of Columbia have broad laws allowing recreational use of cannabis, which may include hemp. Even in states with the broadest language, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always legal to sell CBD-containing products. At least one of those states, California, has recently said that hemp-derived CBD isn’t generally allowed in food or beverages.

Nationwide, a Food and Drug Administration spokesman says CBD cannot be sold in dietary supplements or added to food that is being sold between states. “We remain concerned about the proliferation and illegal marketing of unapproved CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. The agency referred questions about CBD sales confined to states where cannabis is legal to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson says CBD-containing product appearing on shelves “is there illegally,” but enforcement is not a priority for the agency, which is focused on the opioid crisis. In the states that have legalized cannabis use, “DEA is not after that. That would take a lot of manpower that DEA doesn’t have,” he says.

The legality of selling CBD to minors is another gray area. In states where cannabis is legal, there is usually a minimum age requirement of 18 to 21 for purchasing, says Dr. Chen. CBD products appearing on store shelves, however, often carry no age restriction, he says.

CBD entrepreneurs have navigated the legal landscape in different ways. Joseph Dowling, Chief Executive of CV Sciences Inc., says the company ships its CBD oils and capsules to all 50 states, including where cannabis is illegal. “We think we’re still covered under the 2014 Farm Bill.”

“It’s more nuanced than that,” says John Puckett, chief executive of Barlean’s, a Ferndale, Wash.-based supplements manufacturer. He says the company initially avoided shipping to certain states where cannabis isn’t legal, but starting this summer ships to all 50 states.

Some CBD marketers go out of their way to note that their products don’t contain the psychoactive THC. Beekeeper’s Naturals, a Los Angeles-based brand of honeys and supplements, invites consumers to “take the edge off during a stressful day” with its B.Chill honey, which it says contains “0% THC.” (Chief Executive Carly Stein says it contains CBD, though it is not on the label).

Big retailers are largely staying away. Target spokesman Joshua Thomas says it sold “a select assortment of CBD oil products” for “a brief time last fall,” but it pulled the plug. “We no longer offer them.” He declined to say why. A Walmart spokeswoman says the company “does not currently offer CBD products.”

Some smaller chains are forging ahead. Lucky’s Market, a Niwot, Colo.-based chain of more than 30 grocery stores in 11 states, says it carries “a variety of products that contain CBD in our stores where it is legal to do so,” selling CBD in states where cannabis is legal, according to an emailed statement from spokeswoman Krista Torvik.

Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market, a Midwestern chain of natural-foods stores, says that last summer, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission’s enforcement agents removed CBD from shelves at an Indianapolis store. Two months later, store officials received an emailed statement from a State Excise Police official saying they would not continue CBD confiscations. “We interpreted that to mean that we could continue to sell it,” says Jonathan Lawrence, the chain’s director of vitamins and body care. Earlier this year, Indiana state law legalized hemp-derived CBD.

At parties and school pickups across the U.S., CBD is a topic of conversation. Michelle Steiner, a distributor for Kannaway, a network sales unit of Medical Marijuana Inc. focused on hemp-based CBD products, says she has 100 clients—most of them fellow moms and neighbors—near her home in Demarest, N.J., and has hosted CBD cocktail events at local bars and restaurants.

“It comes up in conversation all the time,” says Erin Lafond, a 44-year old elementary-school teacher’s aide and one of Ms. Steiner’s clients, who says a daily 25 milligram capsule of CBD has helped her sleep better. “It’s like the answer to everyone’s prayers.”

Write to Anne Marie Chaker at anne-marie.chaker@wsj.com