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Entries in Cinematography (259)

Wednesday
Dec162015

Cinematography Outsiders

The creative leaps forward we've been seeing in the past decade have been staggering with our prominent cinematographers constantly developing new ways to experiment with visual storytelling and reinventing old tricks. Each year we also get exciting new voices added to the fray, but the Academy's cinematography branch has been reticent to include such future legends as Bradford Young and Greg Fraser.

This year is no different, with the heavyweight directors of photography set to dominate the category once again. Previous winners and perenial nominees Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant), Robert Richardson (the 70MM UltraPanivision The Hateful Eight), Janusz Kaminski (Bridge of Spies) and John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road) are all possible candidates, with the still Oscar-less Roger Deakins (pictured above, Sicario) is always a threat. Our likeliest first-time nominee Edward Lachman for Carol is an example of how hard it can be to break through while delivering brilliant work.

But why so exclusive? This isn't a category that hugs close to the Best Picture lineup typically, and while they've rewarded creative risks, it is typically for a seasoned vet rather than a fresh voice. None of this is meant to diss these veteran artists - they're the elite for a reason. However, here are some non-frontrunner candidates worthy of more discussion:

Creed - Maryse Alberti

While the ballyhooed single take shot is a perfect example of the furious energy Alberti visually brings to key story moments, it's the more subtextual moments that shine - like the shot above or Adonis shadowboxing to stock footage of his father. Her work here is like a less taxing companion to what she did with The Wrestler, but just as potent. With female cinematographers unrecognized by the branch, I dare you to see her work and claim that the lack of female nominees is because there are no worthy candidates.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec022015

NYFCC Winners

 The New York Film Critics Circle takes their sweet time each year debating their "bests" and shouldn't we all? Nevertheless it's agony for awards addicts like us, the excruciating wait times that commence between 9 AM EST and continue for hours. With lunch break. If you want to have a laugh at my expense I tried to predict the winners as part of the Gurus of Gold chart this week (update: This year they wrapped up by 1:00 PM though so all is well. The only thing i got right in my predictions was Carol for Film/Director)

A bit of Oscar adjacent history: In the past 20 years of their long long history (they're octogenarians now!) they've selected 4 films that went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, 11 more that were nominated and 5 that were critical darlings and eventual Oscar players but were shut out of the big race (Leaving Las Vegas, Topsy-Turvy, Mulholland Drive, Far From Heaven, United 93). Which is a long way of saying they have refined if not quite populist taste but they're never too far afield of Oscar's wheelhouse. Do they influence the Oscars? It's tough to say. The Film Experience's position is, generally speaking, that no single critics group influence voters beyond pointing them at films... but the NYFCC and LAFCA are the ones the industry cares most about and are most likely to let in... at least to pique their interest in particular films and performances.

So here we go...

Best Film Carol
Best Director Todd Haynes, Carol

It's worth noting, as Sasha Stone did, that very few directors have ever won Best Director twice at the NYFF. The list includes Martin Scorsese and Kathryn Bigelow and now Haynes. Carol was the big winner of today's announcement taking home 4 prizes.

Best Actress Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Best Actor Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Best Supporting Actress Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
Best Supporting Actor Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

But not in acting. That said these are wonderful choices for the prizes, going out of their way to remember Kristen Stewart's amazingly naturalistic engaging work as Binoche's personal assistant in Sils Maria. That performance has already won her a Cesar Award in France but since she's not campaigning things will probably stop here. Saoirse Ronan and Mark Rylance will surely go the distance to a nomination in Best Actress and Supporting Actor and both could well compete for the win... though we'll have to see the whole field before we really get into that.

The strangest thing is to ignore the supporting campaign (a legitimate choice to make everyone supporting in such an ensemble film) for Keaton and give him the Best Actor prize. But he gives the best performance in a film filled with good work so hurrah!


Best Screenplay Carol, adapted by Phyllis Nagy from the Patricia Highsmith novel "The Price of Salt"
Best Cinematography Carol, Edward Lachman

A thousand times yes. The whole team on Carol was doing exquisite work. That's why we asked them all why they were such geniuses. NYFCC are Todd Haynes fans (as all truly outstanding people are) and they gave Far From Heaven 5 awards in 2002.

Best First Film Son of Saul d. László Nemes
Best Animated Film Inside Out (Pixar) d. Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen
Best Documentary In Jackson Heights d. Frederick Wiseman
Best Foreign Language Film Timbuktu (Mauritania) d. Abderrahmane Sissako
Special Award William Becker and Janus Films
Special Award Ennio Morricone, composer

Son of Saul looks fairly unstoppable for the Foreign Film Oscar this season so the race to watch is probably the nominations themselves. And whether Son of Saul can expand into other categories... which it wants to. As previously stated in the Documentary Finalist post it's odd that the Academy's documentary branch continues to pass on Frederick Wiseman's documentaries considering that they are routinely greeted with "masterpiece" level reviews; he's never been Oscar nominated.

That's it. On a scale of 1-10 how happy did today's announcement make you?

WE'LL LET CATE BLANCHETT HAVE THE FINAL WORD SINCE CAROL WAS THE BIG WINNER...

 

Friday
Oct302015

HMWYBS: Repulsion (1965) 

Not with a bang but with a whisper. That's the way Hit Me With Your Best Shot season ends this year. We didn't want to let our signature craft-loving series go... so we extended by a few random spaced-out episodes but as it turns out this series needs the weekly check-list reminder to keep the party hopping. So next season we'll return to our March-August madness only.

Happily, whispering feels appropriate when it comes to our final film this season: Repulsion (1965) in which Catherine Deneuve barely speaks because there's probably no room in her brain for words what with sex filling every metaphoric or literal (if you will) crack.

What would Roman Polanski make of the virginal Final Girl trope that took over the horror genre about a dozen years after his masterful trilogy of horror flicks wherein people lose their marbles (and possibly souls) in apartment buildings? (More...)

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct202015

Top Ten '86 Flashback. Plus A Room With a "Best Shot"!

We've done a terrible job of having top tens ready for you every Tuesday so here's a quickie from 1986 since it's Best Shot time again.

Top Ten Films of 1986

  1. A Room With a View (James Ivory)
  2. Aliens (James Cameron)
  3. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen)
  4. Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz)
  5. My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears)
  6. The Fly (David Cronenberg)
  7. Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beineix)
  8. Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola)
  9. Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood)
  10. The Mosquito Coast (Peter Weir)

Disclaimer: I haven't seen many of these films in a very long time. I am sure there are major titles I should reconsider or see for the first time since I wasn't seeing movies as voraciously back then. 

What does your top ten from that year look like?

Basically the top three there are "all-timers" for Nathaniel, not just for an annual list. And yes yes, I'm aware that IMDb considers the James Ivory classic a 1985 movie but that's stupid because it did not open that year. It opened nowhere that year. It opened in both its home country of the UK and in the USA and then spread to other countries in the early summer of 1986. It was a big deal, crossing over from the arthouse and justly receiving a slew of Oscar and BAFTA nominations (and actual statues, too). If you've never seen it, I envy you your first time. 

BEST SHOT CHOICES...
Please click over to see the choices and read these articles. My choice will be up tomorrow so if you're running late you still have time! REPULSION, our finale of the season, will also be delayed two days (you have until Thursday the 29th to post your choice) because we have a sudden trip to London for The Danish Girl interviews this weekend so Tuesday will be impossible.

FILMMIXTAPE

The film is never lacking for gorgeous imagery, with even the most perfunctory medium dialogue shots being frames you want to live inside.

ANTAGONY & ECSTASY

The fact that it's a depiction of a literal room with a view wasn't part of my calculation

CHIRAPAT

When my mind and body long for relaxation and comfort, I usually swing the ‘costume drama’ window wide open and let it soothe my soul... 

FILM ACTUALLY

Loved every preening, posh second of Daniel Day-Lewis's performance.

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

Maggie Smith, she’s the ultimate symbol of the film’s humor, making (poor) Charlotte Bartlett into one of her most remarkable creations and an indispensable part of the film’s comedic construction.

ALLISON TOOEY

If it wasn’t for the costumes and some of the dialogue, the movie could have been set in almost any time period...

SORTA THAT GUY

Like many films chosen for this series, A Room with a View is a film I had meant to see sooner, but just never got around to it. 

MOVIE MOTORBREATH

Oh look!...

Exactly! Look at these movies. Pick a shot. Repulsion (1965) starring Catherine Deneuve is next on October 29th.

Wednesday
Sep092015

Belated Thoughts / Wide Eyes: Mad Max Fury Road's "Best Shot"

Nathaniel, reporting, one sleep before TIFF screenings drag me into the darkness and swallow me up...

one of the scariest images ever onscreen. one of the best title card intros, too.

Have you finished reading the previous choices for Mad Max Fury Road's "Best Shot" in the visual index? It's one of most perfect subjects for this series we've ever chosen, in no small part because the movie's gargantuan pleasures stem so specifically from the visual storytelling, rather than from dialogue, performance or sound --though those bring their own pleasures, of course. In fact, there is not a lot of dialogue in the film. Neither is their any exposition for expositions sake. The story is all there in the imagery, a grand adventure which can be enjoyed on multiple levels, provided you're really looking at it. Unlike many fine films we see each year, it's impossible to imagine this one in another form. It's neither a novel with pictures nor possible to conceive of as a stage play; Fury Road is pure cinema. 

For this, we cinephiles, must raise our hands in that pyramid shape the War Boys are so fond of and pay respects. Not to Immortan Joe who claims himself the "Redeemer" who saved his slave-like masses but to director George Miller and his cinematographer John Seale who are saving the action picture. (At least for now. Miller, like fellow rare action genius James Cameron, works too infrequently to actually do permanent rescue.) More... 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep072015

Visual Index ~ Mad Max: Fury Road "Best Shots"

For this week's edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, our last until October, we're looking at George Miller's thrilling return to his signature franchise Mad Max: Fury Road. It's the kind of movie that, as we just discussed on the "best of summer podcast," really goes the extra mile. And we're not talking about Imperator Furiosa's detour to "the green place" though that's well out of her way as drives go. George Miller completely outdid himself with this saturated, explosive, delirious, feminist action film.

One shot won't do of course which is why "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" is a communal experience. We each choose one and hopefully it adds up to a survey of a movie's crucial inspired images. My piece will be up late tomorrow before your host heads out for the Toronto International Film Festival and because this movie totally deserves an extra day. If you meant to participate and forgot, you have 24 more hours to get your choice in. I'll add more entries if they come in...

MAD MAX FURY ROAD
Directed by George Miller (Mad Max, Lorenzo's Oil). Cinematography by John Seale (The English Patient, Witness). Starring Charlize Theron & Tom Hardy
Click on the 10 images to read the 12 corresponding articles

Miller has made his subtext text in this image...
-The Entertainment Junkie 

 Despite being an intensely colorful film, there are actually just two main colors in the film’s palette...
-Magnificent Obsession 

 I was not prepared to be blown away by the awesomeness...
-Jija 

Given the sprawling vistas and circus craziness that are the film's bread and butter, my pick for best shot is almost idiotically off-book:
-Antagony & Ecstacy 

For all the images incongruous potency and humor, it's also a rich story point, introducing us to "the stuff" that got stolen and humanizing it.
-The Film Experience 

It just hit me so hard in the cinema I legit gasped...
-Cinematic Corner 

Movie Motorbreath - VIDEO ENTRY

Throughout Fury Road, character is defined by action; how we react to it and what we do after.
-Zitzelfilm 

Anguish never looked so beautiful...
-I Want to Believe

 

The grand spectacle that Miller created in that vast, unforgiving, and beautiful desert wasteland...
-Sorta That Guy

a palpable sense of the scale of the action...
-Film Actually

The movie is full of scenes that reveal themselves with a remarkable efficiency
-Awards Circuit 

AGAIN. You have 24 more hours to get your "best shot" in before we close out this episode late Tuesday night before TIFF travels begin!