The Beauty of Film: Liza the Fox-Fairy

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Liza the Fox-Fairy (2015) — Péter Szatmári (cinematographer) & Károly Ujj Mészáros (director).



The Beauty of Film: Midnight in Paris

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Midnight in Paris (2011) — Darius Khondji (cinematographer) & Woody Allen (director).

Allen has often been credited with making New York one of the characters of his films. So it was particularly important that he not only set this film in Paris, but put it right in the name. Khondji received a nomination for this work from the British Society of Cinematographers and the Independent Spirit Awards. He lost to Guillaume Schiffman for The Artist, which is understandable since The Artist was an amazingly successful black & white film in 2011. He also received an Academy Award nomination 15 years earlier for Evita. Just look at the sources of light and their different colors. It is an effective way to make the background seem as important as the character moving within it.


The Beauty of Film: Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes (2009) — Philippe Rousselot (cinematographer) & Guy Ritchie (director).


Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. as Watson and Holmes, © WB 2009.

The Beauty of Film: The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994) — Roger Deakins (cinematographer) & Frank Darabont (director).

Victory only has meaning if it comes at a price. This is why the whole team cannot make it through a movie without it feeling unsatisfying. For instance, compare The Shawshank Redemption with its loss of Brooks, to Furious Six where not only did no-one die, but in fact on character came back to life. But seriously, consider Star Wars and Fellowship of the Ring. Without losing main team members characters in them, would they have turned out as well? And see how their third installments compare to their first ones as they move further from those losses. That is to say, that drinking beer and smoking on a hot roof sounds okay, at best, but when you are stuck in a 1940s prison then those cold beers probably felt delightful. It is the success of the acting and of the this shot that allow the audience to feel this satisfaction with them—particularly when Andy Dufresne abstains from drinking as well.


The Beauty of Film: Be Kind Rewind

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Be Kind Rewind (2008) — Ellen Kuras (cinematographer) & Michel Gondry (director).

To fully appreciate this shot, you have to know the premise of the film. Two ne’er-do-wells have to watch a video rental store, but they accidentally erase most of the tapes. Thus to save the day, they try to refilm them personally. Below Jerry (Black) and Alma (Diaz) are reenacting RoboCop. Additional kudos to Rahel Afiley and Kishu Chand as costume designers because that RoboCop costume from junkyard parts is amazing.


Jack Black & Melonie Diaz in “RoboCop”.

The Beauty of Film: V for Vendetta

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V for Vendetta (2005) — Adrian Biddle (cinematographer) & James McTeigue (director).

I actually thought that the Wachowskis directed this, but was mistaken. This shot shows excellent lighting through multiple sources. Even though it is just after curfew the locale is dark and scary, while providing enough logical light, from multiple sources, to read the government’s slogans and to shine off of V’s awesome knives, all while showing the background of an authentic London street. If I am not mistaken, this is Knockturn Alley.


The Beauty of Film: Rambo: First Blood Part II

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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) — Jack Cardiff (cinematographer) & George P. Cosmatos (director).

Did you know that Jack Cardiff was an Oscar winner? 38 years prior he won for Black Narcissus. Now I have never seen that, but I did see his Oscar nominated War & Peace, and it was well shot despite having a small hurdle of 6′ 2″ Henry Fonda needing to look like a mountain of a man despite being a handsome son of a gun instead, which he did an okay job of. Some people might think that at 71, and over 20  years removed from his last Oscar nomination–Fanny–he must have been depressed. Not me. I bet that still being relevant and getting to work on such high budget action shots probably felt pretty damn cool. Also, just look at the lighting in the shot below! Now if only the acting and story had been deserving of the cinematography of a man such as Jack Cardiff.


Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo with an explosive tipped arrow. So instead of having an Avenger named Hawkeye (M.A.S.H. surgeon), shouldn’t we have an Avenger named Rambo? Why would Nathanial Hawthorne care?

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