All stills are property of their respective owners and are used here strictly for educational purposes.
J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year is the rare crime drama that balances epic and intimate themes well. Chandor’s screenplay makes big statements on capitalism and the American dream. But it’s also microcosmic in its scale, a character study of Abel Morales’ (Oscar Isaac) struggle to protect and grow his heating-oil business.
Abel built his company legitimately, and he takes pride in the righteousness of his decisions. Yet given external threats to his company, AMVY asks how much Abel will give into gangster-like behavior to stay ahead.
As underlined by the title, time and place is key to Abel’s predicament. New York City in 1981 had record high crime rates and was in the midst of a recession. Capturing the city rests on DP Bradford Young. His cinematography is authentic and realistic; rough edges, industrial sprawl and graffiti abound.
Uncharted 4 is the rare example of a action adventure game with emotional heft. It’s one thing to match expectations for pretty scenery, tight gameplay, and big set pieces. It’s another to have UC4 generate the emotions and surprise that I associate with a well crafted movie. Technological breakthroughs push the game into new territory.
That’s not to say story, dialogue and acting isn’t important. But gaming has reached the point where strong narratives are no longer revelatory. In recent years we’ve had the superb Tales From the Borderlands, Firewatch, and the Walking Dead series. Until Dawn and Heavy Rain also have their moments. And The Last of Us has a heartbreaking storyline that works on many levels.
UC4’s story is strong, but isn’t a high point for gaming. Graphics are the differentiating factor this round. It’s all in the faces.
All stills are property of their respective owners and are used here strictly for educational purposes only.
Most critical attention on 2014’s Nightcrawler centered on Jake Gyllenhaal’s lead performance. It’s understandable; Gyllenhaal’s character actor eccentricities gel together in a way we’ve rarely seen before. He’s intense and deeply unsettling as lead character Lou Bloom.
However, it’s smart cinematography that underlines his performance and sets the film’s dark, gritty tone. DP Robert Elswit forces the audience to empathize with Lou’s own sociopathic worldview.
Nightcrawler chronicles Lou’s growing career in L.A. crime journalism. Along the way we get a handful of conventionally filmed conversations with Lou at diners, cars, and TV stations. But crime scenes are the heart of the film and push the story forward. It’s also where Elswit makes many strong and unconventional shot choices.
It’s a bummer that Hannibal only got three seasons. Great acting across the board, especially by Dancy and Mikkelsen. But it’s DP James Hawkinson’s visual language – striking, dreamlike, horrific, often all at once – that makes it especially unique.
Another year, another Indiewire roundup discussion with top cinematographers on their preferred shooting formats. If you think it’s a one-sided argument of digital always trumping film, think again. While it’s true nearly every DP interviewed shoots with mostly digital today, there’s an interesting nuance to their position, one that speaks highly of the natural warmth and grain inherant to real film.
I thought I’d move past linking to more Gone Girl articles, but here we are; it’s that strong of a film. DP Jeff Cronenweth talks about Fincher’s preferred visual style:
I think that, for the most part, the camera is never in a position that would be a typical shot. There are no shots that are ever taken for granted. There’s a purpose behind everything — without getting crazy; obviously certain situations allow you a lot more freedom than other situations, but it always intrigues me that it’s slightly not normal, or not traditional, rather. The camera tends to stay lower; we’re always looking at people in an observational way that allows you, really, to study them and give them an opportunity to express whatever turmoil’s going on in their heads that then reflects in their performances. The camera has movement but nothing is ever moving for the sake of movement, you know? There’s purpose for everything, as opposed to filling in a void in content or our energy by deciding to make some interesting camera moves. The camera moves have a reason.
Considering Gone Girl was just released it’s an apt time to review director David Fincher’s filmography. There’s surely a lot of other good video essays out there, but this recent analysis by Every Frame a Painting is excellent. It’s devoted to a technical breakdown of Fincher’s preferred shot composition, supported by many examples from his entire filmography (with Gone Girl of course, exempted.)