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Entries in Cinematography (268)

Wednesday
Mar162016

Q&A: Australian Greats, Leading Men, and Camera Muses

It's time for reader questions. Here are 10 recently asked I'm opting to answer tonight. Join the conversation in the comments. 

INQUIRER: Who do you believe is more worthy of an acting Oscar between Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Johnny Depp, and who do you think is more likely to win one?

This would surprise anyone unfamiliar with the site but Brad Pitt towers over the other two. He's among my all time favorite movie stars. But you've crafted a tricky question because all three men have loyal camps that they've earned. Cruise is the most consistent, always laser focused on Doing His Job in whichever movie. Depp is the most inspired when he's inspired but he's also the laziest. It seems impossible to imagine now but people did not want him to play Pirates like he played it. The studio was concerned. What is he doing? Now people hire him to for Depp shtick and that's what he gives to the point of self parody! Pitt is the most uneven actor among the three but he's also the most endearing, has the best taste, has aged superbly with his talent, and has evolved the most. Years ago I felt certain that all three would eventually be crowned but it's hard to picture now. If any one of them does a moving hit drama when he's an old codger though perhaps he'll get a career achievement prize. If none of them ever win competitively I'd wager that Brad Pitt is the most likely to get an Honorary Oscar. 

This might be as good a time as any to tell you (warn you?) that April will be ACTOR MONTH here at the blog. We talk about actresses so much that it's time for a wee curveball. Any requests?

TABITHA: Why do female movie stars now largely seem to be in their 20's or 60's? There seems to be a resistance to embrace middle-aged stars (apart from Sandra Bullock or Charlize Theron).

I blame this phenomenon entirely on sexism and the patriarchy. It's intrinsically tied to the "Last F***able Day" phenomenon that Amy Schumer named so brilliantly. I think once an actress has passed that threshold of straight men being "ewww she's AGING -- how dare she?" and is now just an older person, who for better or for worse are often desexualized in art, it's easier for people to just enjoy their acting again. That's my 100% correct theory. It's also harder for female stars to age because a huge percentage of them are famous in part because of exceptional beauty which is not necessarily true (certainly not percentage wise!) with their male counterparts.

KEVIN: if you put Meryl on a strict diet of auteurs, who would you pair her with for her next 3 films?

[more Q&A after the jump]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar152016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Atonement (2007)

Briony's eyes. Every shot is telling, this one directly, confrontationally to the camera.

Stupendous. It's stupendous, darling."

That's Mother Tallis's review of her precocious daughter Briony's (Saoirse Ronan) very serious new play at the beginning of Atonement (2007). It's also any sensible person's reaction to this amazing motion picture. Seeing it again (I hadn't seen it since 2007) was close to overwhelming. Praise be to Director Joe Wright and Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey because this thing hasn't aged a single day. If anything it's become more beautiful with the passage of time, a neat trick since memory is one of its great subjects. It's superbly acted (particularly by James McAvoy in what is certainly his most moving performance), and features a veritable parade of emblematic, gorgeous, and thrillingly visceral images for this exercize of ours. What to even choose: Cecilia wet and haughty at the fountain; The lovers, already "characters" in future novelists Briony's mind erotically pressed against books in the library (my runner up for Best Shot); that amazing tracking shot at Dunkirk which pulls us out of the story (sort of) just long enough to stingingly remind us that War doesn't care about Individual Characters and Their Arcs -- it's ready to soil everything; any closeup of Briony whether she's imaginatively confused (Saoirse Ronan), guilt-ridden shellshocked (Romola Garai), or, wide-eyed with the fraternal twins of truth and fiction (Vanessa Redgrave); and of course anything and everything involving Keira Knightley in the green dress, the dress that should've won Jacqueline Durran the Oscar in a landslide.

Here are the choices from our Best Shot Club, open to anyone who wants to join after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Mar102016

Reader's Choice: a look back at Gattaca (1997)

Welcome to the new bi-weekly series "Reader's Choice." For the first episode I gave you a choice of several films currently streaming and you picked Gattaca (on Amazon Prime). I hope you enjoy and comment since we haven't talked about this movie ever, that I can recall. - Nathaniel

Memories of Gattaca are fuzzy at best. I saw it only once in theaters 19 years ago. I remember: Jude Law in a wheelchair; sterile, sleek, and awesome production design; Uma Thurman being an icy receptionist?; Ethan Hawke being less of a perfect specimen than Jude Law in the context of the movie (this remains true out of context); a hard to buy premise about violence being bred out of the human race?; something about brothers swimming? That's it. 

Join me in this revisit...

A fascinating juxtaposition: When the costume design credit arrives we're looking at a naked body

Gattaca begins with a beautiful blue credits sequence which becomes eerier as it goes along once you realize what its macro imagery is telling you. Ethan Hawke is ridding himself of all human detritus: dead flesh, body hair, cuticles, until he's smooth as a statue. He repeats this in several ways though sometimes (at work) the detritus isn't his. All the workers at his job get their fingers pricked upon entering like its a diabetic research center. There are even daily urine tests... which seems extreme for a world that's so into cleanliness. What if someone misses the specimen cup? 

At the pee test the doctor (Xander Berkeley) looks right at his penis and says the following. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar082016

Visual Index: Best Shots from Ghostbusters (1984)

With the new riff on the ol' Ghostbusters property nearly upon us, what better time to look back at the original comedy smash? While the film's comic tone and dialogue are well remembered its visuals are less often discussed. The film was shot by the Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács. He logged a lot of quality time in the romantic comedy genre (What's Up Doc?, My Best Friend's Wedding, Say Anything...) but made his name in the 70s on scrappy, famous and/or ambitious pictures like Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo, New York New York, and Paper Moon.

Without further ado, let's see what the Hit Me With Your Best Shot club thought of the look of this picture and what slimy memories this revisit stirred up...

GHOSTBUSTERS
Directed by Ivan Reitman. Cinematography by László Kovács. 
Starring: (in order of billing) Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver,
Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton & Ernie Hudson.
Click on the 12 images to read the 15 corresponding articles

Bill Murray. What does make him tick?
-54 Disney Reviews 

The look on their faces tho... 
-Daniel Laferriere *first time participant*

Grown white men have their fun while the rest of the world cleans up their mess...
- Bennett Prosser *first time participant*

A good old fashioned 80s Improvement Montage, complete with a song that is either brilliantly awful or secretly genius...
-Scopophiliac at the Cinema *first time participant*

It arguably has endured as a beloved classic precisely because the people in it are so full-heartedly human.
-Nebel Without a Cause

 I'm well aware that this is nobody's idea of a scary movie...
- Antagony & Ecstasy

it’s fun to see things pop in and out of frames, especially when the frames are static. It’s almost like seeing a painting being disturbed...
-Coco Hits NY


 It’s useless to try to deny my love for her and it’s inescapable that my best shot features her...
-Magnificent Obsession 

Bill Murray's chemistry with everyone... and I mean everyone in the movie.
-Movie Motorbreath

The images of Sigourney keep getting richer and sexier as the insanity mounts
-The Film Experience

We Need to Talk About Dana Barrett’s Apartment.
-FilmMixTape

Recreating the Exorcist as a screwball comedy date...
-Bohemian Cinema Salon *first time participant*

The movie doesn't really get interesting, narratively and visually, until midway when Weaver's character gets possessed by the spirit of Zuul.
-Sorta That Guy


Most of my favorite shots are when the movie embraces its crazy and over the top nature.
-Wick's Picks *first time Best Shot participant!*

Ghostbusters is a perfect '80s blockbuster version of the classic 50s monster B-movies...
-Dancin Dan on Film

 

NEXT WEEK: Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement (2007) with James McAvoy, Keira Knightley & little Oscar nominated Saoirse Ronan. [Keira Knightley Voice] "Come back to me it."

Tuesday
Mar082016

Stay-Puft, Sigourney, and the "Ghostbusters"

This is Nathaniel's entry into this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot topic, Ghostbusters (1984). Tonight, we'll see what others chose!

This may shock readers of a certain (young) age but would be blockbusters used to open directly against each other rather than giving each other wide berths to accumulate loot. No really, they did! Ghostbusters and Gremlins, courting the same demographic, opened simultaneously on my birthday weekend in 1984. I chose Gremlins (which little me loved) and caught Ghostbusters a few days later with school friends. Ghostbusters emerged as the clear champ with the public but little me thought Gremlins ran circles around the supernatural comedy: scarier, funnier, cuter monsters, better-paced... only faililng in its lack of SigWeavieness. They were both big hits, of course, but Ghostbusters was HUGE -- Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man walking amongst skyscrapers huge. And it stayed ahead in pop culture, too, netting Oscar nominations (Original Song & Visual FX) and endless sequel or revival talk thereafter.

Cut to 2016: With the gender reversed reboot on the way, it was a topical choice for Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Plus I figured I'd finally see what charms eluded me way back then...

Click to read more ...