I always try to finish the "Oscar Categories" of my own Film Bitch Awards before the Oscar nominations. I was racing to the deadline, panting heavily, sweating profusely and then I collapsed. I am now crawling towards the finish line. If anything can revive me it's eye candy! So here are my nominees for Art Direction and Cinematography. I would post Costumes too but I'm still arguing with myself over 8 films. (So many worthy efforts!)
But while I have your eyeballs, I want to talk about one film in particular. Film is a visual medium so you'd think it would be a given that filmmakers would convey their themes and moods and characters visually. But many of them don't, relying on dialogue as exposition or voiceover profundities or leaning heavily on the gifts of their actors to get themes and nuances across. In other words, we have too few Pedro Almodóvars behind the camera.
In the two stills above from The Skin I Live In (which went without any Oscar nominations and was not submitted by Spain for Best Foreign Film) you can see how visually rich and how carefully planned every beat in an Almodóvar film is [MORE AFTER THE JUMP]
The characters are reflected in their environments and vice versa. And yet they never feel like they're reaching for effect. Pedro has a great collaborator in production designer Antxóm Gómez who won a European Film Awards nomination for this art direction. But sadly no American awards traction followed.
In the first still we have a rape scene happening in front of a painting of a nude seductive woman. It's an unnerving juxtaposition on a number of levels (no spoilers here). I didn't notice it on first viewing -- I sometimes think awards season should happen a few years after the movies sink in -- but the sheet that the nude woman is lying in on the painting, well, a similar color repeats on the bedding where another sex scene takes place. In the later scene Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya) is more or less prepared to seduce but maybe this subconscious echo of color is helping to remind us that nothing that's happening in this movie is ever consensual in the purest sense which adds to the pervasive anxiety. It's possible that I just made up this connection and it was accidental but great movies allow you to free associate like that and pull you in ever deeper.
In the second still, you see the Dr. Ledgard's (Antonio Banderas) office. He's a plastic surgeon so the painting with the stripped musculature (which served as the teaser poster) is reflecting his profession but notice how Vera's dress is also reflected in the other painting; they're both his possessions.
The juxtapositions aren't always that obvious. Look at these two stills...
The first image is Vera's prison... uh, I mean room (!) with Dr. Ledgard observing her with fascination as he often does. Those scribblings on the wall are Vera's own creation. The window display in the second image is also related to Vera but this time it's Vera herself gazing (she's about to be reflected in the window). The backdrops aren't dissimilar to the eye but instead of Vera's scribblings we have what looks like a hand-drawing of an entire city. It's a sea of rooms where people might be living. People who aren't Vera.
Every year I'm tempted to expand the eye candy categories into 10 nominees or split them into period/fantasy and modern since there's so much in the way of rich deserving work by real artists out there that goes under congratulated each year. But for now a few words and as always I love to hear your opinions. Which eye candy onscreen really elevated the movie for you?
My nominees for ART DIRECTION & CINEMATOGRAPHY
With honors for Jane Eyre, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Artist and more...