You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Best Cinematography’ category.

Here’s a quick round-up of what we think should win tonight. Follow along to see what Oscar gets right! (Hint: use the “John” column)

Jared John
Picture Argo Django Unchained
Director Spielberg Lee
Actress Lawrence Chastain
Actor Day-Lewis Day-Lewis
Supporting Actress Hathaway Hathaway
Supporting Actor Waltz Hoffman
Original Screenplay Flight Flight
Adapted Screenplay Argo Argo
Animated Feature Wreck-It Ralph Brave
Animated Short Paperman
Cinematography Lincoln Anna Karenina
Costume Mirror Mirror
Film Editing Argo
Makeup and Hairstyling Les Miserables
Production Design Anna Karenina
Score Life of Pi
Song Skyfall Skyfall
Sound Editing Django Unchained
Sound Mixing Les Miserables
Visual Effects Life of Pi
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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart, we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

Best Cinematography

The nominees are:

  • Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
  • Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
  • Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
  • Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
  • Skyfall, Roger Deakins

John

This is a good crop of nominees though maybe not very flashy. A number of them do interesting things with lighting and color. Django Unchained features a number of interesting shots – think of blood splatter against white cotton bolls – and Lincoln is an achievement of atmospheric lighting, usually framing its noble protagonist. Skyfall‘s probably here for two big scenes: the Shanghai office building where neon lights reflect through rows of glass walls and the shoot-out in the foggy Scottish highlands at the end. Both are pretty fantastic, though there isn’t as much that’s memorable through the bulk of the film.

karenina

Life of Pi will probably win. I feel like the film is more an achievement in directorial vision and visual effects, but good cinematography partially through digital manipulation is still good cinematography. It just isn’t as showy as it was in Avatar. While I think any of the nominees would make fine winners, I’ll toss my vote to Anna Karenina. The first half of the movie wows with its stylistic visuals, the camera swirling through hundreds of extras in intricately-choreographed scene changes. The second half of the film didn’t keep up the visual flourishes, but I think the material provides less opportunity.

Jared

This category has a stellar group of nominees. That said, I’m not a terribly visual person to begin with, so I’m won’t bother stepping through each one and talking about how pretty the pictures were. I’ll just say that I have the order (from last to my pick) as: Robert Richardson, Django Unchained; Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina; Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi; Roger Deakins, Skyfall; Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln. (With apologies to Deakins, who has been the bridesmaid far too many times without ever being the bride.)

lincoln_cin

Do I look good in this light?

But I was continually struck by a very specific aspect of Kaminski’s work in Lincoln. Virtually every shot of Day-Lewis seemed iconic. And where a somewhat similar approach may have felt unearned or over the top in, say, War Horse, it was pitch perfect here. Lincoln wasn’t exactly a hagiography, but it only added to the (mostly true) legend of the man. And virtually every scene saw the character framed and lit so memorably, as if every moment of his life was potentially the one that would make the cover of his biography. This approach may have been a bit much in a movie dominated entirely by the character, but with such a sprawling cast, the decision to constantly glorify Lincoln this way worked magnificently, heightening the dramatic effect and seamlessly enhancing the script.

Best Film Editing

The nominees are:

  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

John

argo_edit

Cut to: dramatic close-up

I’m not very versed in the art of film editing, but I lean towards Argo for its great pacing and skillful use of suspense even though we’re pretty sure we already know what happens. By the same standards Zero Dark Thirty is close, though I didn’t find the bulk of the film’s pace as effective. I think that may have been more in the screenplay, however.

Silver Linings Playbook is getting some notice in this category with its backers citing its comedic timing. It’s a good argument with one major flaw: it’s not funny.

Nominations are less than a day away! Time to put our forecasting mettle to the test and see if we can’t pick the nominees. Jared and I did all non-short categories and Brian joined us for the big six. I’ve highlighted in yellow where we differ.

Check back tomorrow to see how we did!

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Over the past two weeks we’ve been revealing our choices for most of the Oscar categories. Here is a handy recap of those picks! Refer to this page often during tonight’s telecast to see if you should be agreeing with the winners! (Hint: use the “John” column)

Adam Brian Jared John
Picture Hugo The Artist Midnight in Paris
Director Allen Scorsese Havanavicius Malick
Actress Mara Mara Williams Streep
Actor Dujardin Dujardin Dujardin Oldman
Supporting Actress Bejo Bejo Spencer Chastain
Supporting Actor Hill Nolte Branagh Plummer
Original Screenplay Midnight in Paris Margin Call The Artist Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay Hugo The Descendants Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Art Direction Midnight in Paris Hugo Hugo Hugo
Cinematography The Tree of Life Hugo The Tree of Life The Tree of Life
Costume Anonymous Jane Eyre
Film Editing Hugo Moneyball The Descendants
Makeup Harry Potter The Iron Lady Harry Potter The Iron Lady
Score The Artist The Adventures of Tintin
Song The Muppets The Muppets The Muppets
Sound Editing Transformers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Transformers Drive
Sound Mixing Transformers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Transformers Transformers
Visual Effects Transformers Rise of the Planet of the Apes Harry Potter Transformers
Animated Short A Morning Stroll A Morning Stroll A Morning Stroll Wild Life
Live Action Short Time Freak Time Freak
Documentary Short Saving Face The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here!  Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small.  We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before.  On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

This time we are going to talk about Cinematography and Film Editing.

Cinematography

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
  • Hugo, Robert Richardson
  • The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
  • War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

JOHN

When I saw War Horse, I thought it was being projected incorrectly. Particularly in the opening act as our remarkable horse is mucking about in the mud, the lighting is so bizarre that I thought it looked like a sound stage. It turns out they were specifically going for an old-fashioned visual style and lit accordingly. But, well, it’s not for me. I understand that shooting in black and white requires some special considerations from equipment to lighting and The Artist certainly has some visual flair, so I suppose I won’t begrudge its nomination. Dragon Tattoo and Hugo both look great, though the 3D was sort of a miss for me in the latter, but The Tree of Life really takes this in a walk. Even though it drives my colleagues nuts, the bulk of the film is a stream of exquisitely crafted shots. Lightbeams, clouds, reflections. A little meandering, but gorgeous! It’s really just a visual delight. And while I know that’s all part of Malick’s style, DP Emmanuel Lubezki still captured those images and they aren’t the delicate, crisp visuals that they are without him.

ADAM

As much as it pains me to say it, The Tree of Life should win Cinematography (if for no other reason than it shouldn’t even be considered a “movie” without the fantastic camera shots).

JARED

There are differing schools of thought on just how invisible good cinematography should be, but I think everyone can agree that great cinematography shouldn’t be distracting.  Well, everyone save for Janusz Kaminski, apparently.  His shots may be pretty, but they are so repeatedly in your face, demanding you acknowledge their beauty.  If I were to guess, it seems like there were a few specific shots that locked in his nomination here, and I would have edited every single one out for taking away from the film.  The cold, gray feel of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems rather appropriate, though I’m not sure anything stands out in particular.  Here’s some thoughts from Robert Richardson, cinematographer for Hugo, on the film.  I’m not sure if it is fair or not, but I’m docking the film some for the 3D here.  If Hugo represents the new frontier of 3D movies, then to me, 3D is dead.  Here’s an interview with Guilluame Schiffman, cinematographer of The Artist.  I was struck by how the film managed to look both old and new.  It is impressive to end up not looking like a replica, or a parody, of old black and white films while still feeling like it was something more than someone just hit the switch for black and white.  Schiffman talks about light in the interview, and I really liked the lighting of the scenes just before the fire.  In the end, though, if John and Adam can agree on something, seems like I’m going to be with them.  Whatever my thoughts on The Tree of Life as a movie, it seems impossible to argue against the cinematography.  The shots were, yes, beautiful and memorable and exquisite.  But they did all that while feeling so essential to the movie as a whole.

BRIAN

I wish I knew more about how the film industry, the production aspect essentially. I don’t wholly understand how to split out film editing from directing from cinematography from each other. Who makes specific decisions on how to film a particular scene or splice a set of scenes together? Who should I really be giving credit to? Hopefully, the Oscar voters themselves know how to divvy up the credit, but I’m probably giving them too much credence. No matter, I’ll use this space to offer the first in a series of why Hugo is my favorite movie of the year.

I have seen two movies that give me hope for the future of 3D technology: Avatar and Hugo. The former bombarded me with visual awe, in part because that’s what James Cameron does and in part to obscure the weaknesses in plot and character development (also what James Cameron does). But Hugo uses the technology to create the atmospherics surrounding Hugo the character. The opening sequence especially threw me into the world of early-20th-century Paris — first the snow that appeared to be falling on my feet and then the journey through the clock gears of the Montparnasse station. The movie itself is a mash note to the early days of film and the imaginative spirit of the industry’s pioneers – and Scorsese and his team created a film that the Georges Melieses of the world would have made had the technology existed. I was enthralled by the film for multiple reasons, but the aesthetics made me yearn to be a part of Hugo’s world.

As for the other nominees, I’d also be pleased to see recognition for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Artist, as both also built a world in which even if I don’t want to visit it (those Scandanavians are scary!), I feel as though I understand the types of characters who live there.

MoneyballWar HorseThe Descendants and Tree of Life — all of them leave me cold and uninterested.

Film Editing

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants, Kevin Tent
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Moneyball, Christopher Tellefson

JOHN

Film Editing is an interesting category, partly because I’m not sure I’d always be able to tell a well edited film! The Artist, Hugo, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all had bloat issues. I know that’s not all editing; it’s not the editors’ fault that the script for Dragon Tattoo calls for a story that just refuses to end. On the other hand, I had significant problems with The Descendants and Moneyball but still found them slickly edited. The visual style of Moneyball gives a film about numbers some flash. The segues between scenes are something I definitely noticed on a second viewing. I suppose I pick The Descendants as my winner for its tonal balancing act. The dramatic parts don’t become over the top and the comedic parts are nicely balanced by pathos. Yes, that’s also parts writing, acting, and directing, but hitting the right beats and matching with the right shots are all within the Editing realm.

Snubs: To me, the master Editing work of the year is in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In such a dense, non-stop story, the editing needs to be precise to keep it all coherent. But this is also a film that keeps its revelations understated, allowing the audience to figure things out for itself. With that in mind, editing is key. A shot lingers just long enough to register who that character is out in the courtyard or to note that there’s something odd with one man’s shoes. It’s always just enough to tease without hammering its points home.

JARED

I feel completely out of my depth when talking about editing, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ve found the article I’ve read on the discipline fascinating, but it kinda seems that without knowledge of the script and total footage the editor had to work with, bestowing honors is something of a crapshoot.  I’m going with Moneyball.  I had a number of problems with the movie, one of which was some of the weird scenes that felt out of place from the standpoint of the story.  But these stylistic touches, or flashes to statistics from a computer, or video from a baseball all felt like they organically flowed, and I’m going to chalk that up to the editing.

John’s post made me remember I promised to write up a few more categories.  He’s kind to suggest that our “social lives” prevented us from going more in depth.  I don’t like to lie, but I don’t believe a lie of omission is necessarily a lie, so here’s Cinematography and Costume Design, which I believe wraps us up?

Cinematography

Nominees: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit

These nominees match up perfectly with the American Society of Cinematographers, who gave their award to Wally Pfister’s work in Inception.  I’m not going to pretend to really know anything about this art form, so sure, I’ll go with the people who actually know what Cinematographers do.  That said, Roger Deakins (nominated for True Grit) is on his 9th nomination and has yet to win, so it would be nice to see him take one down.

Costume Design

Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit

If you’ve seen me in person ever, you probably know I am one of the least qualified people in the world to discuss this category.  So yeah, I didn’t catch the Julie Taymor film, but all the others had pretty clothes, I guess.  But, uh, let’s make me feel good about myself for having seen I Am Love

We’re not just tackling the big categories this year, but the smaller ones as well. Some of them, at least. Not all of these categories are worthy of the intense and brilliant consideration we give things here at Golden Grouches, now are they?

Today I’m looking at two visual technical categories.

Cinematography

Nominees: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Inglourious Basterds, White Ribbon

This feels hard to call because so much of Avatar is visual effects and the traditional relationship between how the director of photography films and what the audience experiences is altered. And so it’s something different from what we see in the other nominees. (Here’s a little about it.) The camerawork in The Hurt Locker does a great deal to insert the viewer into the action and is instrumental in creating the film’s thrills. But I’ll lean towards Avatar and its trailblazing 3-D shooting.

Film Editing

Nominees: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

I think it’s impressive how Avatar has such a huge scope but the action never gets muddled. I don’t recall ever getting lost in a scene due to confusing shots- and this film is full of epic battles in 3-D. For both Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker, the editing is part of what makes the tension so palpable. The way the intense scenes of The Hurt Locker are artfully constructed is what pushes it over the top.

So it all comes down to this. Nominations come out tomorrow and the Grouches are staking their pristine reputations on their predictive powers! Brian, Jared, and John took a stab at the top eight categories while John and Jared went on to predict the rest of the non-short categories. There’s a lot of overlap, so any picks where we differ has been shaded.

The Big Eight:

And the rest (note we also predicted how many Best Song nominees there will be, since there can be 0, 2, 3, 4, or 5)

Who will reign supreme? We’ll declare a winner tomorrow!

I dwell frequently on the points of films, a topic I discussed here. As a primer, I struggle with certain “important” films when their point escapes me or seems not worthwhile, but I wonder if that’s a hypocritical stance since I don’t demand the same from films that I love but who don’t strive to be anything more than entertaining. There’s no right answer but I find it a fascinating topic to ponder. Adam lambasted me for that post (in person, not on the blog because Adam does not write posts, apparently), which made me think more. And another friend gave some good perspective to my search for a point to Inglourious Basterds that I may dive into in a later post.

Amidst all of this I saw The Road, the type of bleak film that often interests me but leaves me pondering what the point of it all was. And I initially had the same reaction here. Viggo Mortensen and son Kodi Smit-McPhee wander a post-apocalyptic landscape, struggling to eat, avoiding roving bands of cannibals, and flashing back to happier times with wife/mother Charlize Theron. It’s essentially two hours of people doing horrible things. I know a common criticism hurled at the film is that the power of the novel comes from the beauty of the prose. In novels, beautiful writing can itself be a point. But how to make a film meaningful if you can’t translate the source’s most important asset?

But with reflection, The Road clearly has themes of survivalism and the challenge of retaining humanity in the most horrible of circumstances. I’d say many Holocaust movies explore similar topics.

So does that help me? I don’t know. It puts me more at peace with the film, which I liked but did not love. I find it more satisfying than There Will Be Blood, a film I still can’t wrap my mind around but which still enchanted me more.

As for the film itself, I very much enjoy the apocalyptic/dystopia genre so I had high hopes for this one. It does disappoint a little; I think the slow, ponderous pace wears a little thin after a while and the oppressive bleakness begins to bear down on you. The plot and the characters are interesting enough. I think where it excels is its imagery. My lasting impressions from the film won’t revolve around a plot point, a line of dialogue, or a performance, but of the burnt-out landscape and the atmosphere of devastation and desperation.

It’s also definitely a film that improves after you leave the theater. It takes some time to sink in and benefits from further reflection. Part of that too is that it has a pat and unsatisfying ending; taking some time to get away from that as well as recovering from rather unsettling experience of actually sitting through the film is a help. And, crucially for this discussion, thematically it needs some time to sink in because my first reaction after it was, “What in the world was that?”

I suspect at this point that The Road won’t be receiving any love from the Academy. Viggo is very good but probably not Best Actor good. I think a Cinematography nod would probably be pretty good though. And maybe northwestern Pennsylvania can get an award for managing to look so damn depressing. Area Most Like a Post-Apocalyptic Hellhole?

I know 2008 is a distant (bad) memory, but much like last year’s Margot at the Wedding diatribe I wanted to circle back and get a few things off my chest. It’s funny how it worked out- this site managed five posts dedicated to the entire Best Picture slate (and none for The Reader or Benjamin Button) but got up multiple posts for films like The Wrestler, Happy-Go-Lucky, and The Visitor. We know how to be relevant, eh?

The Reader‘s big category nods still bother me (to the extent that one can still be bothered by Oscar nominations in May), especially if it was at the expense of The Dark Knight or The Wrestler. It’s still a decent film but not all that effective at what it sets out to do.

Plus Kate Winslet is going for her third major award for her work in this film, as she is up for an MTV Movie award! And she’s competing against some familiar 2008 Oscar faces! She’s taking on Anne Hathaway again, though for Bride Wars instead of Rachel Getting Married. And Angelina Jolie- but for Wanted. Oh and Kristen Stewart for Twilight! Taraji P. Henson (Button) rounds out the list.

But let’s step back and reflect on this again: The Reader has been nominated for an MTV Movie award (but will lose to Twilight)! Its themes clearly resonate with the tween set.

ANYWAY

To me, the film has three distinct elements: the relationship between Hannah (Kate Winslet) and Michael (David Kross and Ralph Fiennes), the implications of Hannah’s involvement in the Holocaust, and the power of literature. Apparently the Weinsteins tried to play down the pedophiliac aspect but to me it was the best part of the film. Their awkward relationship, the way he becomes totally involved in her, and the repercussions that last for decades all really grabbed me. A sexual relationship with an older woman at the age of 15 isn’t going to affect every kid for the rest of his life but it’s entirely likely that it could. By young adulthood Michael is distant in all his social relationships. And when he is unexpectedly confronted with Hannah’s past it’s devastating.

The Holocaust elements have some good ideas. Who do we blame individually when a whole society commits and atrocity? And how does that society move on? It’s a fascinating question that helps propel the film even when it falters. The line from Michael’s classmate about how Hannah’s trial is proceeding only because a victim wrote a book about her crimes – that this is selective prosecution – is brilliant and I was dismayed when the film didn’t dig much deeper. But then Michael’s trip to a concentration camp completely crosses the line into Holocaust porn, one of the most egregious examples I’ve ever seen.

And then there’s the whole message about literature and literacy that couldn’t have fallen more flat. My discussion about this will go at the end due to spoilers, but suffice it to say it nearly entirely killed the movie for me. I couldn’t have cared less about the bond of literature between Hannah and Michael.

Quick Oscar notes. Kate Winslet is terrific and it’s nice she finally got her win. She’s excellent here though I wouldn’t have voted for her. I hope her win doesn’t go down as one of those “make up” or “lifetime” Oscars but it may since she was better in every other film I’ve seen that she’s been nominated for. I loved David Kross, who learned English for the role. He would have made an excellent supporting actor nomination. The picture, director, and adapted screenplay nominations are all hogwash. Cinematography is a fine nomination, especially since Roger Deakins needs a nom every year, right?

The end here is spoilery, but let’s face it if you haven’t seen The Reader by now you aren’t going to. You probably forgot about its existence.

It’s amusing that the “big secret” of the film is not that Hannah was involved in the Holocaust, as I had assumed walking in (in which case it would have been a horribly kept secret). Instead it is that she is illiterate. So. What. The film has gall to try to explain some of Hannah’s crimes using her illiteracy: note how she never would have taken the job with the SS if she hadn’t have been promoted at an earlier job to a position that required reading skills. If you want to make a film about an individual’s culpability in the midst of a civilization committing a terrible atrocity then do it- it could be very interesting. But literacy couldn’t be more irrelevant. Does her inability to read mitigate or exacerbate Hannah’s crimes in any way? Of course not.

And then she learns to read! Hooray! What redemption! Except that it matters not at all. Y’know, because of the Holocaust and all. Here’s a hint: if you’re going to make a film about the redemptive power of literature, DON’T REDEEM THE HOLOCAUST! Redemption from Holocaust requires a lot more than reading.

But Hollywood is self-centered likes to be reminded of the Importance of Art so it ate this film up. And I’ll stop before this turns into a post appropriate for the mouth-breathers at Big Hollywood.

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