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Entries in Cinematography (245)

Wednesday
Apr132016

Visual Index: Best Shots from "Witness"

Hit Me With Your Best Shot revisited Witness (1985) this week to celebrate the continuing excellence of the Australian cinematographer John Seale. It was such an unexpected treat to see him doing ambitious ravishing and inspired work as a septugenarian (Mad Max Fury Road) that rivals anything he did in his 30s (Careful He Might Hear You), 40s (Rain Man) or 50s (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley) and though he didn't win a second Oscar he did win our renewed ecstatic fandom. Seale's earliest Oscar nomination came for his work lensing the gorgeous moving cop drama Witness (1985).  Here are the results of our "Best Shot" challenge from the participants. The more eyeballs the merrier so join us one of these weeks alright?

WITNESS (1985)
Directed by Peter Weir. Shot by John Seale
Click on any of the 12 images to be directed to the corresponding articles
(Nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Cinematography) 

 I really liked how well rounded all the Amish characters are...
-Rachel's Reviews 

How does violence affect a child?
-Film Mix Tape

Christian Bonamusa

 

He apparently took plenty of inspiration from Flemish and Dutch painters of the 17th century (art history student alert!)
-Magnificent Obsession 

The cinematography in this whole sequence is breathtaking...
-Cinema Cities 


It *is* a crime thriller, but it's more heartfelt and intimate and could very well be categorized as a love story... 
-Sorta That Guy 

The movie isn’t what I expected, but in ways that were very pleasant. 
-Wick's Picks 


In its best moments, Witness is some straight-up Terence Malick magic hour Days of Heaven shit...
-Dancing Dan 

That atypical reserve gives the cop drama a unique contemplative charge within its genre. 
- The Film Experience

I went for a shot that embraces the silence...
-Scopophiliac at the Cinema 

a romantic drama that forgets its supposed to be a thriller until the last 20 minutes
-Drink Your Juice, Shelby 


Perhaps the most impressive moment of Ford's career 
-Cinematic Corner

 

What is your favorite shot from Witness? When was the last time you'd seen it?

Next week on "Best Shot": Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page in THE BEGUILED (1971) to be remade by Sofia Coppola (!)

Tuesday
Apr122016

The Act of Seeing in "Witness"

Peter Weir's Oscar nominated Witness (1985) was not chosen for our Best Shot series for its title, though that's as apt a logline for this series as any. The title refers to young Samuel Lapp (Lukas Hass, in a sterling child performance) but it neatly doubles as a surprisingly hushed command to the audience out there in the dark.

Lukas Haas figures it out at the police station

The story may spring from an abrupt violent murder in a public bathroom which Samuel sees, wide-eyed, from a bathroom stall but there's very little about the hit drama that is as in your face as its story beats and genre might otherwise suggest. From its earliest longshot of Amish villagers coming into view above a field of grass, to its sublimely casual farewell of its last shot (with two men crossing paths outside the home of the woman they both love), the movie is surprisingly gentle and patient.

Though violence bookends the events and the movie's sheer quality grants it that Oscar ready "Best" scale, Witness is actually something of a miniature. Weir focuses nearly all our energy on watching our good cop hero John Book (Harrison Ford, perfection), live among the Amish as he hides from the bad guys, figuring out his next move, rather than hunting them down. That atypical reserve gives the cop drama a unique contemplative charge within its genre. And Peter Weir and John Seale's beautiful work in composition and lighting keeps you entranced throughout whether you're watching barn raising, peach canning, or cow milking, or a very odd couple (city cop and Amish widow) hoping the other isn't seeing their longing. The light through windows and from sun or (often) lamps is always artfully caressing these marvelous faces (kudos to casting director Diane Crittendon for going with unknowns or barely knowns for the Amish characters and giving Viggo Mortensen his first feature film role). In another amazing shot about seeing, the Amish father finds his daughter and the cop dancing in the barn and they're lit behind by the lamp and the headlights from Book's car. It's one of the only shots that feel theatrically staged but it works because it's so heightened, the father's distorted suspicious understanding and the couple feeling guilty about sins they haven't yet committed.

But it's an atypical shot, in which we're essentially barred from looking, that emerges as one of this great film's most potent images

Harrison Ford earns this Oscar nomination.

In this phone call sequence, John Book realizes that his partner has been murdered. He hangs up the phone and the camera waits behind him as he processes and makes a second far more impulsive call. Though we're not seeing our star in the traditional sense his character and the details of his current situation are laid bare. The barely surpressed rage in his voice and his slew of profanities and threats paired with the camera angle seem to be protecting Book from himself, the way Book self-edits and is careful to behave as a guest in Rachel's home. The crisp details of the image (the textures of that borrowed Amish hat, the sweat on his hair, the minute shifting in his knotted neck) all add indelibly to this frightening flash of a good man letting the beast out.

Tellingly the very next shot of John Book, has him back in the horse and buggy, head bowed momentarily as if with shame. And then he explodes again when he sees a tourist taunting his new Amish friend (Alexander Godunov). Book may not be truly assimilating but his alien experiences are forcefully reshaping him in this exquisitely judged movie. 

Monday
Apr112016

Tomorrow Night 

Tomorrow night at The Film Experience - Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Witness (1985). Peter Weir's 80s classic (nominated for 8 Oscars, and not undeservedly) is currently available on Netflix. Revisit and join us.

Tuesday
Apr052016

Best Shot Peck Centennial: Roman Holiday & To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck was an instant sensation at the cinema. He was nominated for Best Actor in his very first year of the movies for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and the hits just kept on coming: The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Twelve O'Clock High (1949). The Academy became less interested in nominating him after that the 1940s but for his Oscar winning and most iconic role (To Kill a Mockingbird) but audiences never stopped loving him. He had key hit films for over 30 years in his big screen career.

Though he was a very politically active liberal he was never interested in running for office himself but he  proved to be an influential politician within the industry itself as a key AMPAS president. 

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in honor of Peck's Centennial, we gave participants the choice between what are arguably his two greatest films, Roman Holiday (1953) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar222016

Hit Me With Daredevil Season 2's Best Shots

I asked Hit Me With Your Best Shot participants to choose an episode or multiple episodes from Daredevil's second season on Netflix -- however they wanted to do it -- and write up their choice for a Best Shot. Because the second season has been available for less than a week, we're eschewing the traditional Visual Index so you don't have anything spoiled for you. Read with caution and quit on the episodes you haven't yet seen.

9 heroic blogs
Blue Canary (S1) 
Awards Madness (S2. Episode 1)
The Film Experience (S2. Episodes 1-3)
Sorta That Guy (S2. Episodes 1-3)
Cinematic Corner (S2. Episodes 1-6) 
Magnificent Obsession (Entire Second Season)
I Want to Believe (Entire Second Season)
Wick's Picks (Entire Second Season + a little Jessica Jones
Movie Motorbreath (Entire Second Season) 

NEXT TUESDAY:  We're a little early for April Fool's Day but we're still doing a notorious bad movie from a respected director, the psycho sexual sci-fi Zardoz (1974) directed by John Boorman and starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling

Monday
Mar212016

Daredevil Season 2 (Episodes 1-3)

Matt Murdock can't wait to hit the streets and rooftops each night as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. And I can't wait to finish my "Best Shot" entry super early for once. For this week's assignment (anyone can play along!) you can pick any one episode or multiple episodes of Daredevil Season 2 and choose a Best Shot. You have just under 24 hours left to pick one and post it since the Best Shot Roundup goes up tomorrow night at about 10 PM EST. 

I'll get to my three choices, one per episode, after the jump. But damn it's good to have Charlie Cox's naked torso Daredevil back on Netflix

Click to read more ...

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 ...

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