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Entries in Bradford Young (14)

Sunday
Nov272016

In Praise of Bradford Young

Chris here to spread some love for one of my below the line favorites in this year's Oscar Race. Like many of my cohorts here at The Film Experience, I am completely taken with Arrival. Director Denis Villeneuve's last two films (Sicario and Prisoners) resulted in Best Cinematography nominations for the genius Roger Deakins, but this time he partnered up with future legend Bradford Young to stunning results. If the Oscars want to reward some diversity below the line, Young is a mightily deserving talent.

Arrival seems like a fitting film to break him into the Oscar fold considering how it perfectly distills his greatest strengths: layering intimacy and the grandiose in equal measure, complimenting theme, and creating awe in the everyday. Like the film itself, his camera is only deceptively stoic with a great well of feeling underneath. Add in Arrival's many unforgettable images and fluid movement, and we have a real contender.

The cinematography branch is one of the stingiest to let in new voices, but with a major contender like Arrival he can hopefully break through. While much of his past work might have been too small for Oscar, he's been building a steady resume of immaculate work. Let's take a look back at five favorites from his work thus far...

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Tuesday
Aug092016

A First Glimpse of Villeneuve's 'Arrival'

Chris here with a first look at one of the fall's big Oscar question marks. Last year, Denis Villeneuve's Sicario did quite well by Oscar standards if you consider its punishing bleakness and divisiveness even if it missed the major races. This year he's returning with the sci-fi Arrival, and we've been patiently waiting to see if this will raise his Oscar cache.

To go with the building buzz, here are our first looks...

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Friday
Dec042015

Women's Pictures - Dee Rees's Pariah

Anne Marie returns after a brief break...

Over the course of this year, the purpose of our weekly "Women's Pictures" has been to explore the vast variety of female filmmakers. We've seen that women are not only present and working, but also highly diverse in their genre, style, and subject matter. Gender has often been a factor, but it has rarely been a focus. For the last month of the year, we're going to be watching films by two directors for whom gender, sexuality, and race are their focus: Dee Rees, and Celine Sciamma. Though both filmmakers have comparatively small filmographies, they have already established themselves as new, strong voices in contemporary cinema.

Dee Rees's 2011 film Pariah, based on the short of the same name, is an empathetic examination of a person usually invisible in cinema: the young black lesbian.

more...

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Thursday
Feb192015

Women's Pictures - Ava DuVernay's Selma

Nothing about Ava DuVernay’s career up to 2014 suggested the epic sweep of Selma. I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere are both quiet dramas, focusing on one central character and a handful of supporting players as they navigate a major, life-altering event. Race is the background against which these stories are set - coloring a heated music discussion, or shading the convict’s biased parole hearing - but racism isn’t explicitly addressed. This changes dramatically with Selma. In a year that has seen protests in Ferguson and serious discussions about diversity in the Academy, Selma has been called everything from controversial to current to incorrect. For its director, it’s proof that 6 years and 3 movies can rapidly mature a talent.

When telling the story of Martin Luther King’s 1965 protest march in Alabama, DuVernay focuses not on a man, but on a movement. She studies the Civil Rights movement as if it were a character, following not only Dr. King’s glossy speeches, but also the many behind-the-scenes maneuvering. King’s arguments with President Johnson, Johnson’s arguments with Governor Wallace, the student organizers’ arguments with King’s men, even quieter discussions between Coretta Scott King and Malcolm X expose the precarious balance between ideology and strategy that's needed to succeed. DuVernay manages to write her characters with humanity as well, populating the film with people, not symbols. Early on, Dr. King (dignified David Oyelowo) comments lightly that the reason he's in Selma is because he needs a bully to catch national sympathy, and the racist sheriff is that man. As men start dying, those words hang over King's head like a cross.

If I have one complaint with Selma, it’s that the violence is too beautiful. DuVernay deftly stages the action of hundreds of protestors for the camera, and re-teams with cinematographer Bradford Young. The result is similar to Raging Bull: every protest is shot differently, so that each violent outbreak feels fresh. If the night march feels familiar to 2014 audiences, if the first march feels claustrophobic, if the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge looks like a hallucinatory war film, that’s not unintentional. In Selma, Ava DuVernay has matched epic sweep with humanity and brutal vision. It’s a hell of an achievement for a third film.

This close to the Oscars ceremony, reviving the question of whether Selma was snubbed is pointless. But regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Ava DuVernay has joined a different illustrious company: unnominated female directors whose films were nominated for Best Picture. In an attempt to divine DuVernay’s future, I did some research, and discovered a pattern: Of these nine female directors, seven are still directing. Of those seven directors, four (including DuVernay) are now working in TV.

As anyone with a remote or a streaming subscription knows, we are currently in a second Golden Age of television. This is due in no small part to the diversity of creative talent. Every year, more shows are created by, directed by, and starring women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. In this increasingly colorful TV landscape, Ava DuVernay will be a welcome addition when she launches her show on OWN. But at what cost to film?

2014 has been widely criticized as the whitest, most male-dominated year of the Oscars in a long time. As much as I would like to blame our old scapegoat, the White Male Voter, this is also because of the homogeny of the films being offered to the Academy. When we can count the number of Oscar nominated female directors on one hand--likewise for directors of color--we should be shouting for more of these voices in film, instead of celebrating when the ones who’ve already proven themselves move to television (where they can get snubbed by the Emmys instead). I love Ava DuVernay’s work. I can’t wait to see what she creates with Oprah’s blessing. But surely I’m not alone when I say: Ava DuVernay, please come back to film soon.

 

Thus concludes our first month of Women's Pictures. Next week will be a vote to choose our next female filmmakers. Who do you want us to cover? If you have suggestions for future Women’s Pictures directors, post them in the comments or find Anne Marie on Twitter!

 

Thursday
Feb122015

Women's Pictures - Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere

Is it trite to start a film review with a Langston Hughes quote? Near the end of Middle of Nowhere, after Rosie (Lorraine Toussaint) yelled out "Every year is next year for you!" I kept thinking of the Hughes poem Harlem“What happens to a dream deferred?” Hughes offered several possibilities, but his final warning rings truest for the characters in Middle of Nowhere:

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Ava DuVernay’s second feature casts an empathetic eye on how the day-to-day particulars of supporting a spouse in prison - the hours of travel, legal battles, fees, bus rides and delayed desires - slowly, inexorably wear down even the most hopeful people. So what does happen for those deferred dream people who wait for next year?

Unlike I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere is not based on personal experience. Regardless, the film feels intensely personal. It’s told from the point of view of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi, in what would be a star-turn if there was any justice in the world). Ruby drops out of medical school and becomes as a night nurse to support her husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick, sullen in a prison jumpsuit or smiling in Ruby’s memories). He is serving an 8 year prison sentence for an initially unvoiced crime. Though Ruby supports Derek financially, legally, and emotionally, her own support system is thin - a doting but directionless sister (Edwina Findley), a mother (Lorraine Toussaint) whose good advice is undermined by poor delivery, and an amorous bus driver (David Oyelowo). The cast is extraordinary, and the film is shot by TFE favorite Bradford Young, but what DuVernay does with her raw materials turns the film from simple melodrama to subtle character study.

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