Sunday, 24 February 2013

Encore Awards (2012 in Review): Cinematography


More year-end (after the year’s end) film citations from me.

Yes, yes, I shall continue to say that I could not really say that I felt 2012 to be a banner year for films but it has been a banner year for various categories – production design, sound mixing, supporting actor (! More on that tomorrow) have all given me hell to come up with a final ballot. But, no other category was as much a treasure for me as the award for best cinematography. I shall admit, it’s always been my favourite “non-major” categories and I’m always partial to a film’s aesthetics. Instead of including my ballot on my visual awards long-list with editing, visual effects and choreography/bodywork (coming up soon-ish), I had to dedicate a full page to this category.

Runners-Up: Amour; Holy Motors; Life of Pi; Prometheus; A Royal Affair; Rust and Bone; Skyfall; Zero Dark Thirty

In a way, I’d even endorse any batch of my runners-up for a worthy category of nominations and there are maybe half a dozen more choices that were impressive in their own way, but my top 15 below.

(Photos take you to reviews, “reviews” or notes where available.)

TIER THREE

#15: Cosmopolis (Peter Suschitzky)
For invoking the stifling nature of the film while also suggesting the steeliness and opulence of our protagonist.

#14: On the Road (Eric Gautier)
For some excellent daytime road shots and being as in love with framing Hedlund as the narrative and Sal are.

#13: Frankenweenie (Peter Sorg)
For some key jokes and nice subtleties in its framing and for being continuously charming.

#12: The Hobbit (Andrew Lesnie)
For differentiating, even if subtly, from the original trilogy, being warmer but not less majestic and for still knowing to create wonder in a single frame.

#11:Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)
For doing some great groundwork in suggesting mood and importance without descending into sermonising and with many options for “great” shots.

TIER TWO

#10: Killing Them Softly (Greg Fraiser)
That travelling shot of the opening scene does such a fine job of representing the thrust of the entire film and as it continues his photography is just as effective taking us into the perspective of a stoned man, detachedly – but effectively – framing murders and robberies and icy cold bravura throughout.

#9: The Master (Mihai Malamaire Jr.)
The way it invokes its period is impressive to watch and like the score which seems intent on getting into Freddie’s mind Malamaire’s photography work is at times hypnotic and uncontrollable in the way it observes its subjects from fascinating angles.

#8: The Turin Horse (Fred Keleman)
Like the sound design it’s used to great effect to suggest a film with a horror background. The use of the black and greys is terrifying and unsettling oftentimes and is brilliantly signalling the “end-of-world” post-signs which the film is pointing to.

#7: Tabu (Rui Poças)
I wish I could centre my praise on something other than “Gorgeous cinematography being gorgeous” but I’d doubtlessly return to that nonetheless. Poças’s texture effects (love the graininess in the shot above) are so very successful and when added to the plays on contrast and shading he utilises makes the use of black-and-white in the film pop even more.

#6: Cloud Atlas (Frank Griebe, John Toll)
It’s impressive for the way it moves between genres and periods with such aplomb and then also for the sheer effectiveness with which it contributes to the “we are all connected” theme of the film without seeming heavy-handed and finding such interesting ways to shoot the mundane with a suggestion of “importance”.

...My ballot below the jump...
...from the 19th century to the 21st....


THE NOMINEES

#5: Moonrise Kingdom (Robert D. Yeoman)
Anderson’s typical inclination for imbuing his film with that vaguely synthetic quality is put to such great work here when it suggests so much taking into account Suzy steady supply of books which the film’s photography seems to evoke. Yeoman ensures that the shots are both arresting on that gut level, but also – significantly – providing emotional juggernauts, too. Also, I’m not sure if this is more Anderson than him but I’m in love with the blocking throughout the film.

#4: Django Unchained (Ralph Richardson)
Of course I am very partial to Richardson, but in a film of some things good and some things not his photography is my MVP. It’s a showcase for him and the genre allows him key opportunities to simply stretch his legs, but he’s also having fun with the use of texture in those flashback scenes and doing some interesting things with framing giving the film a significant visual panache.

#3: The Deep Blue Sea (Florian Hoffmeister)
“Why did you go to the Impressionists' that day?” And, Hoffmeister’s work throughout recalls the attributes of the period. The way that in pivotal scenes (that entire final sequence after Freddie leaves or twilight with Richard by his car) it’s the natural light manoeuvring which suggests key attributes of Hester’s psyche. Or the way when she appears on-screen the surrounding the frame becomes murky as she, in her often heavily saturated colours, moves to the foreground. It’s such deft and meticulous work and like the other attributes of the film is devoted to ensuring that Hester remains prominent throughout.

#2: Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)
The film is not exactly an exercise in visual trickery yet Wright’s love for the opulent in transforming his stage to Imperial Russia is overflowing with so many technical achievements I’m never quite sure what’s making a specific shot pop – sets? Costumes? Am I just being hypnotised by that score? Still, I feel mostly confident in calling this my favourite work of his and were it not for stratospherically good work from my #1 this would have been an easy choice. McGarvey is in love with its subjects but he’s not afraid to shoot the pretty things in ugly ways highlighting key defects in this “perfect” society.

#1: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Gökhan Tiryaki)
For one: gosh isn’t this movie outrageously beautiful? It only goes to show that contemporary films can be as gorgeously shot and lit as period ones. For two: Tiryaki’s night-time photography is not just gorgeous (gorgeous!) to look at it, it’s also nimbly zeroing in on the film’s major themes of concealment and revelations. That blackout isn’t just a chance for him to show-off with playing with light and darkness but his camera movements are packing a pretty significant emotional wallop. And, honestly - when has landscape been so beautifully photographed?

So, that's my ballot. Which cinematographers left you breathless in 2012?

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