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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Cinematography (139)

Monday
May192014

Oscar Predictions & Curiousities : Visuals & Score

I haven't forgotten about the Oscar charts. This first installment is the most time-consuming is all, as it sets the templates up for an entire years worth of handwringing and hiearchy juggling. With this latest update we only have the "big eight" categories left to do (minus actor & supporting actress which we've already surveyed). But here are a few thoughts on new charts that are up...

WarDaddy's (Brad Pitt) team in "Fury". The film is scored by Oscar-winner Steven Price

SCORE
I perhaps overstate the music branch's love for their favorite sons each year. It's not that that love isn't evident each year (stop to consider how many composers, for example, have 8 or more nominations and how rare that is in many other fields) it's that Hollywood's favorite composers are quite prolific so, John Williams & Alexandre Desplat aside (who never miss for a nomination)  aside, there's no guarantee that any of them will win traction since all of their rivals are also in the mix each year.

A few things to be curious about in 2014:

• Steven Price (Gravity) just won the Oscar on his first nomination so can he become a favorite? If so he's scoring Fury, the WW II tank drama with Brad Pitt in the lead this year. 
• Which Desplat score will they go for since they always have (at least) a few choices: Grand Budapest Hotel, Unbroken, or Godzilla? Or all three. Heh.
• It's been awhile since James Newton Howard (Maleficent) or Danny Elfman (Big Eyes) were in the mix. This year?
• Will Thomas Newman (Get On Up, The Judge) ever win the statue? He's the most nominated working composer who has never won with 12 failed attempts

CINEMATOGRAPHY
I would've given them their whole post but I can't even talk about this today. *sniffle* Gordon B Willis (RIP) 

Maleficent wonders which fairy tale Oscar wants to hear

COSTUME
The internet did a good job of spreading the fun factoid I once shared that Colleen Atwood (Into the Woods) and Sandy Powell (Carol) don't win the costuming Oscar unless the other one is nominated. So we'll have to look elsewhere for fun trivia this year. A few things I'm curious about this year:

• Milena Canonero is back! The three time Oscar winner  did wonderful work on Grand Budapest Hotel. Oscar tends to shun creative stylized work like that (what a shame that they passed up her instantly iconic work on The Royal Tenenbaums) when they can opt for period realism instead so that's kind of a longshot but wouldn't it be sweet?
• Will Oscar help Anna B Sheppard stretch? If they like her Maleficent costumes maybe she'll get offered movies outside the World War II genre, the box that Hollywood likes to keep her in (She also costumed Fury this year.
• Which of the rising crop of costume design stars is going to make it to an Oscar nomination first: Jane Petrie (Suffragette - I have it for 2015 but maybe it'll  be released this year), Kurt & Bart (Hunger Games: Mockingjay), or Steven Noble (Two Faces of January, Theory of Everything) ?

FILM EDITING 
It's too early to talk about this category really since, more than any other category, it depends entirely on what people like for Best Picture. 

Will AMPAS finally embrace the creative achievements in Wes Anderson's filmography

PRODUCTION DESIGN
My prediction for Grand Budapest Hotel is, I'll admit instantly, wishful thinking. (But it's early, so I'm allowed a few of those). It's perplexing that the art direction branch, like the costumers, often shun cool stylization such as the kind you often see in Wes Anderson features. But I'm hoping that the production designers can't help but recognize Adam Stockhausen's extraordinary range, hopping from pre Civil War realism (12 Years a Slave won him his first nomination) to Wes Anderson's fanciful dioramas with not only ease but confidence and panache. 

A few other things to be curious about:

• Is Oscar done with the Middle Earth films (last year they had their first miss in this category) or will they want to send the Hobbit trilogy away with a 6th nomination for Dan Hennah?
• Can Maria Durjovic (The Imitation Game) finally snag a nomination? She's done great work before and been egregiously snubbed (think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and somehow the Oscar heat from Billy Elliott and The Hours didn't rub off on her either time
• Is Dennis Gassner a contender for his second win? He won the category for the very handsome Warren Beatty picture Bugsy (1991) but he's designed several completely gorgeous, classy and showy movies since then like, oh,  The Truman Show (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), and Big Fish (2003). Will Into the Woods be received well enough to make him a frontrunner?

 

Which Oscar fates are you most curious about for this season?

 

Tuesday
May132014

Visual Index ~ Blow-Up's Best Shots

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot topic is Michelangelo Antonio's new wave classic Blow-Up (1966) and we're dedicating it to Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave, the first biography written about her which is released this week from Pegasus Press. I read an advanced copy on my cruise last month. The author is Dan Callahan, who I know here in New York City and who is a tried and true Actressexual™ (and loved that word the moment Nick and I coined it). He's previously written a book on Barbara Stanwyck so you know he has good taste. Because he values actresses, the biography is more concerned with her gift onscreen and stage than her scandal-laden politics, though those details are there, too. (Dan also picked his favorite shot from the movie for our little weekly viewing party.)

Imagine my surprise when Vanessa Redgrave was barely in the movie! I had remembered the film quite differently but this movie is a slippery one, as you can tell from the write-ups. We had more dissenters than we usually get when we pull films directly from the canon.

Blow-Up's 7 Best Shots?
as determined by the brave cinephiles playing the Hit Me With Your Best Shot game
[Click on the images for the corresponding articles]

As critical an indictment of the camera eye as anyone who made his living on the backside of a camera could possible make." 
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

The photographer as minotaur in his own labyrinth...
- The Film Experience 


More than just a simple glamour shot..."
-The Film's The Thing 


 

We're just as paranoid as Thomas is...

- The Entertainment Junkie

 

 Redgrave makes you ask all of these questions and far more."
- Dan Callahan author of "Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave" 

Creating his own story using still frames..."
- Intifada


The guy can’t decide what he should be doing, and I think that’s my problem with the movie..."
-Coco Hits NY

I took my cues from Antonioni and his lead and went for something that captivated me simply for the mood it conveys..."
- Film Actually 

 

NEXT ON HIT ME
Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000). This film was part of our first season of Best Shot so this one, like Mean Girls last month, is a reprise. But if you weren't with us in 2010, now's the time to join the cause before the Mutants Strike Back in X-Men Days of Future Past which opens on the 23rd.

Tuesday
May062014

Visual Index ~ 3 Women's Best Shots

Given that 3 Women is a different picture every time I lay eyes on it, I'm dying to see what other people see in it, too. Thus, this brilliantly strange atypical Robert Altman is an ideal film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, wherein everyone is welcome to choose what they think of as the "best shot" from the pre-selected film.  Find out what others saw in this picture by clicking on the photos to read the corresponding articles at these fine blogs.

11 BEST SHOTS FROM 3 WOMEN (1977)

They float about as a pair throughout the film as creepily as those cinematic twins in another Shelley Duvall classic...
-The Film's The Thing 

She tries it on for size, decides she's gotten enough, and goes on her merry way... 
-Dancin Dan on Film

 

A magnificent construction that highlights all of these themes while subtly foreshadowing what will happen later in the film...
-The Entertainment Junkie 

I’m a sucker for shots involving reflections, so I find this one very beautiful...
- Coco Hits NY 

The film opens in a sort of dream space and never quite leaves even as many sequences (especially in the first hour or so) seem fairly straight forward...  
-Musings and Stuff 


I would attend the hell out of one of Millie's dinner parties...
- Stranger Than Most 

"Persona 2: One More Woman Makes 3"
-Best Shot in the Dark  

Point #2 is that this is the exact moment where the distinction between Millie and Pinky starts to break down...
- Antagony & Ecstasy 

Dreams can't hurt ya."
-Intifada 


Millie, singular and perpetually out of place Millie, with twins both literal and figurative...
- The Film Experience 

 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this creepy, disturbing film...
- Film Actually  

Next on Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) 

Tuesday
Apr292014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Mean Girls (2004)

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we're reairing one of the earliest of episodes. We invited new readers to select a shot if they weren't around in 2010 when "Best Shot" first began so this survey of Mean Girls best shots, as chosen by each participant (click on the link for the corresponding article) is an fusion of old and new pieces 'round the web. Here's my choice:

And what I originally wrote:

The camera tracks Regina through the hallway after she's hatched her brilliant revenge plan. She's regained control of the screaming rage we saw in the prior scene and she's just gliding through the hallways, with a neat hint of actressy athleticism. Gone is the sex kitten and in her place the marathon runner. 

The shot functions like a reverse Hansel & Gretel; the witch leaving a bread crumb trail. In the bookend shot that follows the camera is still moving, gliding away from her, but the witch isn't. Witness her hungry self-satisfaction while she watches the children gobble up the crumbs; They're already baking in her oven!

So, that's my choice. What's yours?

14 MORE BEST SHOT(s)
as chosen by 16 of the greatest people you'll ever know
click on the image for the corresponding article 

a blink-and-you-miss moment in the film... absolutely hilarious."
-Sorta That Guy 


The best performance of her career..."
-Coco Hits New York 


The conspicuous gap between them...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

No shot in the film makes me bust out loud laughing more..."
-Best Shot in the Dark 


I love to think about Regina...
-Intifada 


Each of "The Plastics" has great lines, but Karen takes the cake"
- Dean A 

This could not be more on point."
- I Want to Believe 


...captured the insanely fun spirit of the film but also encapsulated the plot really well."
- Awkward is What We Aim For 

And she's not just maintaining a place among North Shore royalty, she's threatening to take over..."
-Cinemamelie


She even describes herself as 'a woman possessed'..."
-Film Actually 


...a wicked Madonna from a Renaissance tableaux."
-Movies Kick Ass

The queen of the jungle..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 


Daniel Franzese, far and away the funniest part of Mean Girls"
- Serious Film 

Her flock who've come to worship..."
-Musings and Stuff 

 

My pick for Best Shot has actually accrued more meaning over time....
-Dancin Dan

 

Oh you girls keep me young I luv ya..."
-The Film's The Thing 

 

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Next on 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' - JOIN US
05/06 Altman's strange / wonderful Three Women (1977) with Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek
05/13 Antontioni's mod classic Blow-Up (1965) Vanessa Redgrave and a mysterious murder 
05/20 Choose any or multiple Batman films. Pick and post your fav shot for his 75th

Friday
Apr252014

Tribeca: Posturing Bank Robbing Beauties in "Electric Slide"

More from Nathaniel at the Tribeca Film Festival

Electric Slide
There's something about the Killer Films logo, that has me rooting for the film that follows every time. Christine Vachon's company has shepherded so many confrontational and interesting indie films and voices into the arthouse over the years that it has both a nostalgic pull AND an edge, and those things rarely come conjoined. 

Electric Slide, about a bank robbing loser in 80s Los Angeles, definitely has the confrontational edge part though it's not what you might call "interesting". The only likeable characters are way on the periphery (Vinessa Shaw is engaging despite very little to do as a furniture store employee) like the pretty bank tellers who really sell their brief moments of victimization and carnal attraction to Eddie. But as a film it's intensely narcissistic, less concerned with what you think of it, than what pose it's striking and whether you'd hate-fuck it. Eddie, the protagonist, is a slurry-voiced fey womanizer (Jim Sturgess, A-C-T-I-N-G, for better and mostly worse) who is a perpetual delusional fuck-up. Early in the film he speaks of Los Angeles as suffering from "Success Exhaustion" but he doesn't have that problem. He owes everyone money including a violent French gangster (Christopher Lambert in Eurotrash mode). He steals from wives he's sleeping with (Chloë Sevigny, owning her awesome wardrobe and Patricia Arquette, just owning). He takes up with a young beauty (Isabel Lucas) who is his only rival for empty vacant posturing, they're aspirational fashion models in place of characters. Or maybe that is their character in a soulless Bling Ring kind of way? Instead of repaying his debts withs his loot he keeps spending it. 

Electric Slide employs a countdown format with 10 'chapters' and though the film does become slightly more tense as it progresses what's actually happening in the scenes is so similar that the countdown is reduced to affectation rather than a storytelling technique. And much of the film feels arbitrary - you could remove any of its subplots or any single scene and it'd be the same film. Still, and all, the film is pretty to look at with enticing cinematography and interesting frame composition from debut director Tristan Patterson and his DP Darran Tiernan so I'd love to see another film from the pair. The production design (Michael Grasley, from Sympathy for Delicious) and costuming (Jennifer Johnson whose biggest gig in the past was Beginners) fetishize the 80s well, too. If it adds up to nothing more than a gorgeous hipster fashion editorial, so what? With so many indies so indifferently shot from either budget constraints or the lack of an eye for visual storytelling, sometimes surface beauty is its own reward. 

Visuals: A-; The Rest of It: C-

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