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Entries in Cinematography (144)

Tuesday
Jul222014

Under the Skin and Into the Fog

Formless void and darkness. And then light, blinding light. Jonathan Glazer and his gifted cinematographer Daniel Landin present them in that Biblical order. They toy with them for the remainder of Under the Skin, separating them like they're playing god.

Honorable Mention

Perhaps they are since this haunting film begins, as far as I can tell, with Creation, or a creation of sorts. Is it our protagonist being formed (?) or, rather, assuming a new form complete with vocal exercizes to play the role. (The mystery woman is never named in Under the Skin, and none of the men she entices and lures into her formless void, ever think to ask her for it so we'll refer to her as "She" or "Her" since it's Scarlett Johansson we're talking about). What She needs language for is something of a mystery. She seems to communicate best telepathically in the eery repeated shots of her and her driver/accomplice staring at each other or staring into windows / mirrors. That's as good an explanation as any for how she understands the thick Scottish brogues around her when English is not her mother tongue.

Though the details of what exactly is occuring in any given sequence of this great picture are often indecipherable, the artistry of the film is not. It's alternating visual schemes of darkness and light, its elemental preoccupations (water, air, fire... and, well Earth, all play key roles) and its weird asides (the blinking mask, that golden shimmer interlude, the cake!) and Scarlett's fascinatingly alien comportment all prove more rewarding on second viewing. 

Runner Up

The most powerful recurring image and in some ways the most inexplicably frightening is watching the men slowly sink into blackness, like sailors willfully drowning for a siren's call. You may have your own ideas about what exactly She is harvesting their skin for but I assumed it was the creation of more faux humans like herself. And if so, how perverse that Creation is always doubling as Destruction. 

And speaking of perversity, Here's my choice for Best Shot, below. In a film full of startling imagery, it's something as mundane as a car on the road, and a woman in the fog, from the point of view of a car's dashboard. It's a visual choice as it continues the film's often ingenious play on stark blacks and bright whites while reversing the now familiar feeling of men swallowed up in blackness. It's a narrative choice, marking as it does the transition to the film's last act and reverses our usual view of looking out the car's window with her and for a moment, the same view looking at her. It's an emotional choice as I forgot to breath watching it. She has rejected her calling, an apostate suddenly wandering in a strange land without purpose.

Best Shot. Into the Fog

Glazer leaves us waiting for Her return a full 14 seconds before we join her in the fog. Her emotions are still totally alien to us as she rotates in place, staring into the liquid air. Looking for what? Everything that should be mundane, including this view from inside a car we've spent half the film in, is riddled with complexity and eery wonder. Glazer has the power to render the familiar alien and by the film's end, and rather movingly, the alien familiar.

I'm not otherwise a religious person but the cinema is my church and Jonathan Glazer is one of the new gods. I've watched Under the Skin twice now, both times with equal parts reverent awe and abject fear. I'm a true believer. 

See the whole roster of chosen shots from 22 other HMWYBS participants

 

Tuesday
Jul222014

1973 Look Back: Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye"

We're giving 1973 some context as we approach the Smackdown. Here's Matthew Eng on an Altman film.

There’s an unmistakable sense of nostalgia that permeates Robert Altman’s seldom-seen 1973 neo-noir The Long Goodbye, an air of reminiscence highlighted by the film’s title track, a nifty, pliable, lovelorn little number composed by John Williams and Johnny Mercer that gets incorporated endlessly throughout the movie, evoking sporadic familiarity, even though we rarely hear the same version twice. It transforms itself, from scene-to-scene, into a flimsy piece of supermarket Muzak, an ivory-tickled barroom ditty, even a castanet-laden flamenco. It’s a caressing torch ballad one moment and a marching band’s funeral hymn the next. The song, in all its reimagined incarnations, continually threatens to embed itself into the viewer’s mind, but just as quickly eludes any tighter hold. It’s as though the film, in its own increasingly weary, tumbledown sort of way, is nostalgic for the tune, longing for something that comes back but is never the same.

It’s telling of Altman’s intentions that the film forsakes any other discernible music apart from this titular track, save for the classic, semi-satiric “Hooray for Hollywood,” which opens and closes the film. The Long Goodbye may be based on an eponymous Raymond Chandler novel, centered around a character made legendary by Bogart, and hitched to an entire history of early noir filmmaking, but it is not a mere, Body Heat­-like retread. And although there may be obvious admiration and even some slight affection for the genre in all of its former, mannered glory, it’s certainly not a love letter.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul152014

Best Shot: Any Batman Film (1966-2012)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns from its June hiatus for a 75th celebration of the masked vigilante with a thing for winged rodents (here's the future schedule - next week is Under the Skin). We asked anyone who wanted to play to pick a theatrically released Batman film (there are 9 of them) and choose its best shot. Here's what the participants saw when they looked at these pictures.

Click on the photos to read the corresponding articles. It's the Same Bat-Time on Same Different Bat Channels. 

BEST SHOTS IN BATMAN FILM FRANCHISE
29 images selected from 9 films by 17 participants

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun272014

Yes No Maybe So: Fury

Behold, a glorious poster for Fury, the forthcoming war drama (opening in November) starring Brad Pitt and assorted thespians of the male gender. If the movie is great (a big if) this is the kind of poster that would become iconic. It's almost mythic already, what with the perfect but unexpected composition, evocative mood, stormy color and the title painted on the tank's gun. 

The trailer also came out this week so let's break that down with our Yes No Maybe So system after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun262014

Welcome to the Academy. 10 Interesting Invitations

The Academy welcomes its new members at an invite only event in September, just as we begin to feel the rumblings of Oscar buzz everywhere.

While not every person nominated for the first time for an Oscar in any given year is invited to join the next year (isn't that weird?) it's common practice that they are. So new names like Lupita Nyong'o, Barkhad Abdi, and more established actors like Sally Hawkins and June Squibb will all be voting for the first time this coming season after walking the red carpets as nominees. That's expected. What's far more interesting is the people invited in any given year that have not been nominated.

Here are ten names I want to highlight because they're interesting invitations for one reason or another.

Sean Bobbitt - Cinematographer (12 Years a Slave) - egregiously snubbed last year which might have done it but that's not his only beautifully shot film. He also filmed Hunger and Shame and The Place Beyond the Pines. contributing much to their moods and power.

Bradford Young - Cinematographer (Pariah, Mother of George, Aint Them Bodies Saints, Middle of Nowhere) one of the brightest stars among newer DPs. The Academy could not have chosen better. He's just brilliant.

Denis Villeneuve - Director (Prisoners, Enemy) Surprised this Canadian hasn't been invited previously given that Incendies was nominated in Foreign Film. Technically speaking the director isn't an official nominee when a movie is nominated for Foreign Language Film but here at TFE we consider it to be so since the Director accepts and sometimes keeps the Oscar.

Sonja Klaus - Production Designer/Set Decorator (The Counselor, Prometheus)- she's done pretty great work for Ridley Scott several times as well as work on big popcorn movies like X-Men First Class and the Lara Croft movies.

Casting Directors In General - 22 of them were invited (!!!) which leads me to believe AMPAS is seriously considering finally adding a Casting Oscar. People have been complaining that there isn't one within the industry for some time.

Paul Rudnick -Writer. Rudnick was such an endearing and important comic voice in the 90s (Addams Family Values, Jeffrey, In & Out) but his last feature film credit was literally The Stepford Wives ten whole years ago. So why now for the Motion Picture Academy? I don't begrudge him any honors but he doesn't even work in movies any more. (though his first project in ten years is supposedly due this year, a TV movie with Bette Midler). 

Casting Directors In General - 22 of them were invited (!!!) which leads me to believe AMPAS is seriously considering finally adding a Casting Oscar. People have been complaining that there isn't one within the industry for some time.

Beatrix Aruna Pasztor - This costume designer has never been nominated despite a filmography that includes films of wildly varied genres: Vanity Fair, Aeon Flux, Great Expectations, Brothers Bloom, To Die For and many more so she's versatile. But I'm highlighting her mostly because Nick and I like saying her name to each other. (Long story)

Josh Hutcherson in "Mockingjay Part 1" / Ben Foster in "Lone Survivor"

Josh Hutcherson & Ben Foster - Actors. Sometimes the actor invitations are real head scratchers when it comes to timing. Aren't we a bit premature on Josh (please note: I like him as an actor) and aren't we super duper late to the party on Ben Foster who has been quite acclaimed for some time. Was it Lone Survivor that did it? These things are puzzling because if you didn't want to invite him after 3:10 to Yuma what the hell is wrong with you?

Beth Grant - Actress (Small Role Goddess of Limitless Indies / Mainstream Efforts)

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion."

 

The full press release from the Academy is after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun102014

Best Shot: OITNB Season 2

No sophomore slump for this sensation. Orange is the New Black's second season arrived on June 6th for the masses to binge watch on Netflix. We ended Season 1 with a cliffhanger battle between Piper and meth-head hilbilly Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning,) which landed Piper in the SHU (solitary confinement) and as Season 2 begins she's being hauled off in the dead of night, completely unaware of what's happened, whether Pennsatucky is dead or alive, and where she's headed. The unfamiliar guards act as if she isn't even there.

Please tell me where we're going."

It's a sensible enough question, and a perfect one for a new season which no longer has the source material to work from (Chicago was the end of Piper's jail term in the book and here it lasts just the first episode of the season). Untethered to adaptation, and with the rich often fictionalized world of the prison already established where will Jenji Kohan take us? [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun052014

Throwback Thursday FYC: Uma in Henry & June (1990)

The Film Experience time travels so consistently between the now, the future, the distant past and the recent past that Throwback Thursday, that grand internet tradition, hasn't meant much. But then a lightbulb - "Throwback Thursday... Oscar Campaigns"

Remember Henry & June (1990)? Oscar and Uma anecdotes after the jump...

Click to read more ...