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Entries in Cinematography (161)

Wednesday
Apr012015

Best Shot Visual Index: Mommie Dearest (1981)

For our April Fools tradition of celebrating 'bad movies we love' (last year it was Can't Stop the Music) we opted for Frank Perry's ill-fated but extremely memorable Mommie Dearest (1981). The film, which was quickly adapted from Christina Crawford's 1978 best-selling memoir (published just a year after her famous mother's death), starred Faye Dunaway as the great movie star and Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid as Christina, Steve Forrest as Crawford's longtime boyfriend Gregg Savitt and Rutanya Alda as Crawford's loyal assistant Carol Ann. The book was controversial in its day, with many stars defending their former co-star but the stories stuck in the public consciousness and the movie lives on in infamy. It was greeted with much derision, winning multiple Razzies (the entire principle cast just listed was nominated in their individual acting categories) but Dunaway's work, oft-quoted and beloved to this day in certain communites (ahem), has always had its share of valiant defenders.

Paul Lohmannn (Nashville, High Anxiety) was the director of photography and here are the films most memorable or "best" shots, according to participants around the web.

MOMMIE DEAREST BEST SHOTS
10 images chosen by 11 blogs
Click on the images to read the corresponding articles 

The film is at its best, in fact, when it's focusing on Joan and her relationship with celebrity and fame, rather than the tawdry details of her family."
-The Entertainment Junkie 

I've spent the whole afternoon sick to my stomach and terrified that I just can't do camp anymore."
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

Whatever the Real Joan Crawford felt for the Real Christina may never been known. But Movie Joan has a clear resentment for Movie Christina."
-Video Valhalla 

She’s like the shark in Jaws... She smelled the blood and now she’s going to go for it." 
- Where Are The Advertisers

This movie could be the greatest movie of all time, if it weren't so clearly one of the worst."
 
- Fistful of Films

I had never seen Mommie Dearest before, but being a child of pop culture, I've certainly seen the infamous "No wire hangers!" scene spoofed and referenced hundreds of times..."
-Queerer Things 


Ultimately, this dishonor – fuck the Razzies – is a cornerstone of the film’s so-bad-it’s-good camp classic legacy...
-Paul Outlaw 


This shot right here is filled with bone-chilling intensity..."
- I Want to Believe

For a moment what the film needs is not a stronger director but an exorcist."
- The Film Experience 

The thing is -and I feel a little bad for Christina saying this- that nobody cares about the abuse she suffered as a child..."
- Coco Hits NY

While Joan (definitely) failed as a good mother, her resilience as a Hollywood star and later a Pepsi executive are to be admired" 
- Drink Your Juice, Shelby

 

NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT ON BEST SHOT: Because Joan deserves balance, the feminist western Johnny Guitar (1954). Won't you join us? Joan is pretty great in it.

Wednesday
Mar252015

"Yesterday Today and Tomorrow" - Best Shot Visual Index

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot subject is Vittorio de Sica's gorgeous comic love song, three of them, to Italy and super-sized movie star charisma. Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are special on their own but together it's something else again. Vittorio de Sica is one of Italy's great directors but usually when people reference him they're talking about neo realism and his classic The Bicycle Thief. That's nothing at all like this colorful playful romantic comedy. The film was shot by Giuseppe Rotunno who also lensed Rocco & His Brothers (previously covered in this very series) and later went on to an Oscar nomination for the Bob Fosse masterpiece All That Jazz (1979). Yesterday Today and Tomorrrow was a hit, another feather in both stars caps (they were already international superstars) and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and a BAFTA for "Foreign Actor" for Mastroianni but today it's underdiscussed.

It remains most famous for one scene in particular, Sophia's modest but ultra sexy little striptease pulling a stocking down to the horny delight of childlike Marcello. The stars later riffed on that scene together in Robert Atlman's fashion comedy Pret a Porter. Since there are so many images in this post (one from each short film from most of the participants) they'll have to go after the jump. And if these images and great articles don't convince you to see this Oscar winner, all hope is lost!  

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar172015

"Is this a courtship or a donnybrook?"

Top o' the morning...er... evening to you and a Happy St. Patrick's Day. To prepare for tonight's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we started the morning off right  by screening the John Ford classic The Quiet Man (1952). For those who haven't seen the film, it's about a rich American (John Wayne) who moves back to his ancestral homeland determined to settle down and immediately falls passionately in love with a fiery stranger (Maureen O'Hara) before he's even learned her name or bought that home which which to settle down into; O'Hara has that affect on people. One of the reasons I love watching old movies that I only have vague familiarity with (usually as a child) is that they're altogether different when you watch them as an adult. I've loved O'Hara since I was a child but I tended to avoid John Wayne movies (Red River is the only one of his films I've seen more than once, entirely due to Montgomery Clift). Which is why I was quite surprised to be drawn to John Wayne's stoic but expressive performance here and nearly chose this image as my best shot

I'm limiting myself to three images after the jump. It's so difficult because this movie is gorgeous. It won the Cinematography Oscar and its not hard to see why...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar032015

Visual Index ~ The Sound of Music (1965) "Best Shots"

Each Tuesday night we ask anyone with a pinterest, blog, tumblr or what have you to post their favorite shot from a preselected movie. To kick off Season Six: The Sound of Music (1965) for its 50th Anniversary.

Unlike its obvious counterpart in belovedness, The Wizard of Oz (previously featured in this series) it was wildly popular from the day it opened. If you adjust for inflation it remains the third highest grossing film of all time after Gone With the Wind (1939) and Star Wars (1977). Like GWTW, its production trouble seems to have magically made it a stronger film rather than torpedoing it. Funny how fate works. For example Christopher Plummer's contempt for the project (he turned it down several times and loudly denounced it afterwards) bleeds through but affects the movie in surprisingly perfect ways, balancing the sweet with just enough sour. 

In short, it's one of 'Our Favorite Things'. 

Best Shots from
THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb142015

Best Cinematography: Can Chivo Do a Back-to-Back?

If Oscar were a beauty pageant (we know it feels like that sometimes but it's not) the previous winner in each category would have to hand over their tiara Oscar to the next winner. In that case let's hope the world's favorite DP is ambidextrous since he is probably passing the statue to... himself.  After years of worthy nominations without winning, the genius DP Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, who won last year for Gravity, could well win again for another virtuoso turn that's also an aesthetic triumph. But how common are back-to-back wins exactly in the cinematography categories? It used to happen on occasion when there were two cinematography categories (black & white, and color) and thus twice the number of winners but once the category was fused in 1967, it's only ever happened once: John Toll did it in the 1990s with Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Still it's hard to imagine Lubezki losing on the 22nd. Budapest surely won't sweep and it's the only other Best Picture nominee in the category. Mr Turner and Ida would make very worthy winners but they seem unlikely for reasons of size, popularity, mood, country of origin. As for Roger Deakins. His nominations each year are becoming Streep-esque. It's not that Unbroken isn't handsome looking but it's hardly one of his tiptop achievements. Deakins still trails the late George J Folsey (Meet Me In St Louis) for most nominations without a win in this category (13/0) but he'll tie him the very next time he's up to bat. If Unbroken had been better loved he could have made a run for it.

The Nominees:

Birdman - Emmanuel Lubezki
Grand Budapest Hotel - Robert Yeoman
Ida - Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal
Mr Turner - Dick Pope
Unbroken - Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Birdman or Mr Turner

My ballot for this category 

Monday
Jan192015

Lensing Black Faces: Why the Bradford Young Snub Stings

Manuel here taking the MLK holiday to discuss the cinematography category in terms of its aversion to honor black faces.

Young on the Selma set

Amidst all the outrage surrounding Selma’s near-shutout at the Academy Awards (nabbing only two nominations in Best Picture and Best Original Song), the focus has been on Ava DuVernay’s absence in the unsurprisingly male best director lineup and David Oyelowo’s absence in the unsurprisingly white best actor lineup. I want to focus today on Bradford Young’s absence in the best cinematography lineup. Had Young been nominated, he’d have been only the second African-American black D.P. [Ed. Note: thanks for correcting me on this crucial distinction, Ian & 3rtful] to be nominated for an Oscar (the first and only so far is Remi Adefarasin, nominated for his beautiful work on Elizabeth). Of course, this also reveals the systemic lack of diversity that TFE bestie Jessica Chastain brought up just last week at the Critic’s Choice Awards. Can you really focus on this type of statistic without addressing larger institutional issues? Not really. Or rather, not constructively. And so, rather than focus on this one snub which is already quite disappointing given Young’s rising profile, I wanted to know what it might tell us about the academy’s reticence to celebrate D.P.’s that lens black faces.

I’m never satisfied with the way I see my people photographed in movies. I think it comes from a lack of consciousness – if you grew up in a community where you don’t know black people, I wouldn’t suspect you would photograph them in a concerned way. - Young on the Politics of Lensing Black Films

The Academy, as it turns out, has been rather skittish about nominating directors of photography who have worked with the type of canvas Young so skillfully paints with in Selma. Indeed, several films with predominantly black casts have been on the hunt for a cinematography award before, sometimes coming quite close to landing that coveted distinction... 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan072015

The Cinematography Guild's Nominees 

The American Society of Cinematographers chose the following five films as the best shot of the year. According to Twitter The Imitation Game is the odd man out. It was shot by Oscar Faura who is definitely talented (see The Orphanage and The Impossible) but discussions around this film rarely concern themselves with the quality of its cinematography (which can't really be said for the other nominees here). 

1 of roughly 1,890 amazing shots in Mr Turner

 

 

It does remind slightly of when The King's Speech got that perplexing actual Oscar nomination for Cinematography over at least a dozen (at least it bears repeating) well shot and more inspiring choices from 2010. Of the ASC nominees only Lubezki has previously won an Oscar (for Gravity) and Roger Deakins is of course ever the Bridesmaid, never the Bride (which we used to be able to say about Lubezki). Dick Pope has one previous nomination to his credit (The Illusionsit) 

Assuming the Oscar race is between Lubezki and Deakins, who do you think will win? Do you think this will be the Oscar list and if you don't which film with acclaimed cinematography (no matter what one thinks of each film) sneak in?  Selma? Interstellar? A Most Violent Year? Wild (interview)? Gone Girl? The Homesman? or something else entirely? My write-in vote is Yorick LeSaux's work on Only Lovers Left Alive.

P.S. My final Oscar predictions are coming next week. Obviously I need to rethink my chart - way off there! We're just waiting for Oscar nomination balloting to close up shop (which happens tomorrow evening).