Monday, April 9, 2012

Cinematography of 2012

The Tree of Life - Emmanuel Lubezki

It couldn't be anyone else (although it was almost Robert Richardson). Terrence Malick's films always boasted exceptional cinematography, and The Tree of Life easily stands as the best of the bunch. From dreamlike memories of 1950s domestic life - both blissful & sinister - to absurdly ambitious depictions of the birth & infant years of the universe. Exceptional & impressive in every way.  

Hugo - Robert Richardson

Warm, glowing & perfect in every detail, Robert Richardson's swoon-worthy work for Martin Scorsese's epic but intimate masterpiece almost overtook The Tree of Life for first place. Where Tree of Life has an endless stream of unforgettable images, Hugo has single frames filled with so much incredible detail, you could press pause & just stare for hours. It puts Paris on an impossibly high pedestal.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Hoyte van Hoytema

Dusty, stuffy & always perfectly composed, Hoyte van Hoytema's lensing is quiet & unobtrusive while it sucks you deeply into both the period & the dizzying plot. Looking like a spy thriller lifted straight out of the 70s, it manages to pay homage while creating iconic images all its own (the sound-proof room... the landing strip conversation...)

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Jody Lee Lipes

You could write essays on Martha's mental state based solely on the images composed by Jody Lee Lipes. Shot almost entirely in long, unhurried shots that, together with the editing & performances, create the ambiguous tension of Martha's existence. Subtle & unflashy, but exceptional.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Jeff Cronenweth

Shot on digital in gloomy alleys, apartments, libraries, & the notorious Vanger family island, Jeff Cronenweth's images are by turns intimate, sinister & shocking; always soaking up every last ounce of atmosphere, facial flinch or particular shade of black.  

Hanna - Alwin H Kuchler

There are massive tonal shifts in Hanna, & Alwin Kuchler's cinematography negotiates them all perfectly. From the intimate danger of Hanna's snow hunting to her first teenage experiences on the back of a motorbike, through the diverse escape & fight sequences in underground chambers, dilapidated playgrounds, shipping docks & abandoned theme parks to the cherry on top: a thrilling single-take that follows Eric Bana out of a train station, down an escalator into an empty subway & through a visceral fist fight with a small army of hit men. Exceptional, exciting & effective.     

Drive - Newton Thomas Sigel

Wrapping it's characters in a perpetual warm neon glow, Newton Thomas Sigel makes 80s retro look cooler than ever while enhancing the graceful tension of director Nicolas Winding Refn's pacing. Through the occasional emergence of human warmth & explosions of unexpected violence on screen, Sigel's camera remains as cool & collected as the Driver. 

War Horse - Janusz Kaminski

All the sentimentality of War Horse is forgivable solely on the grounds of how gorgeous it looks. From sun-kissed farmlands to the misty trenches of no man's land, War Horse is ever a thing of painterly beauty.

The Artist - Guillaume Schiffman

The Artist's Hollywood is not a flashy, glitzy Hollywood, but a quietly inventive perspective of one man's life in the movies. Remarkably gorgeous for a simple, uncluttered film shot in grainy period black & white.  

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Seamus McGarvey

A movie that drenches you in blood & violence without showing any actual violence & precious little blood. The colour red refuses to leave the Khatchadourian family alone, while Kevin's expressive eating habits take on a disturbing life of their own. Seamus McGarvey's camera brings director Lynne Ramsay's vision to life.

Honourable mentions:

Jane Eyre - Adriano Goldman

Midnight in Paris - Darius Khondji

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 
- Eduardo Serra

Another Earth - Mike Cahill

Moneyball - Wally Pfeister