Sunday, August 22, 2010

2009 Honorees: Cinematography

In a perpetually competitive category, though this year wasn't as tough as some, my favorites of 2009 were...

Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker, whose ace kineticism no longer surprises but still invigorates, especially when blending the furtive, the laser-sighted, and the panoramic;

Christopher Doyle for The Limits of Control, because even beyond his delectation in bright, unusual hues, there'd be no movie without his managing of visual tension and geometric motifs;

Adriano Goldman for Sin Nombre, because what he lacked in novelty he more than compensates in striking, dramatic, rich-toned lensing, distilling place as well as edgy mood;

Jeong Jeong-hun for Thirst, who can go anywhere Park wants to go, from epic grandeur to woozy delirium to febrile abstraction, even in a film where light is the enemy; and

Lance Acord for Where the Wild Things Are, who fuses generational reverbs by braiding 60s lens flares, 70s dolor, and modern ironies, and relishes the woolly materiality of the Things.

Extremely honorable mentions to Yorick Le Saux for the lurid dynamism of Julia's camera movement and its natural and artificial lighting and to Gustav Danielsson for finding just the right lenses, palettes, and frames for Roy Andersson's ingenious tableaux mordants in You, the Living.

Further honorable mentions to Greig Fraser for Bright Star, Alain Marcoen for Lorna's Silence, the unbelievably named Martin Gschlacht for Revanche, and Alexis Zabe for Silent Light.

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Blogger Alex Constantin said...

no such line-up can exist without mentioning The White Ribbon :)

yes, I'm one of those people

11:23 AM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I can't dislodge myself from the sense that The White Ribbon made its cinematography too much of an end in itself, and much too glossy at that, despite the striking images and moments therein. And the amount of digital intermediate required to punch up and unblemish all those whites is, from what I gather, intensive enough that I feel strange holding it up to the same level as the others (although I'm sure they spent some time in the DI lab, too).

But I'm all for stumping for favorites! Thanks for chiming in, Alex.

11:43 AM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

I am shocked that you don't have Greig Fraser's work on Bright Star in your top five. In fact, that was the one person that I thought would be a "sure thing" in the lead-up to your Best Cinematography Honorees (since I wasn't certain if your love for The Hurt Locker would extend to Ackroyd's oft-criticized choices, and since you hated Antichrist).

4:51 PM, August 22, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

I'm down with all these picks -- even The Limits of Control, though I prefer Doyle a little less fussy. I, too, think Fraser deserves better than the second tier of honorable mentions, though I'm fully aware that any mention from you is pretty damn honorable, so why kvetch?

Once more, our ballots overlap twice, this time on Ackroyd and Acord. I'm as certain of my nomination (and probable win) for Anthony Dod Mantle for Antichrist as I am of why I suspect you dislike the work, and I know you're not fully on the 35 Shots of Rum train, though Agnès Godard notches up yet another of my nods for the film here. She had to fight Andrij Parekh and Sugar pretty hard for her slot, though.

6:02 PM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Robert: I liked Fraser's work a lot, and if I rewatch Bright Star, I might really kick myself. The only strike against it that kept it below the other seven was that I don't remember being surprised by the work the way I was by the five nominee and the "higher" runners-up. Even Ackroyd was expanding his menu of styles and palettes a bit, and Fraser's completely gorgeous lensing felt pretty "prestige Campion" to me. Which, as we know, is a very, very good thing in my world! But, that's why. (What are the oft-criticized choices that Ackroyd made in Hurt Locker? I'm out of the loop....)

@Guy: How dear of you to save a nice word for Limits of Control. I love the Sugar mention and wish I'd thought of it. I really liked that movie but have had the damnedest time fitting it into a single category - and I'm afraid I won't be doing many more categories for '09 as it is. I was impressed to a certain extent by what ADM was up to in Antichrist, but a lot of it felt a little silly to me, like those high-contrast slo-mo shots of CG in the shower, and the rather desperately hard lean on handheld bobs for mood enhancement. Just not my cuppa, but hard to argue with in many respects (like The White Ribbon, above). Certain shots in 35 Shots of Rum are completely indelible, but like a lot of that movie, most of the lensing has largely slipped my mind.

10:17 PM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

Nice lineup, although we only up once (Thirst). I otherwise would go with Bright Star, The White Ribbon, Antichrist and Nine. I went for pretty last year, apparently.

11:55 PM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I love that we match on Thirst! And even though those others weren't my picks, they really are hard to argue with, especially from the standpoint of Pretty. And look how many co-defendants you've got just in this comment thread!

12:10 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger tim r said...

My mid-year list last September went:

Fish Tank
The Hurt Locker
Modern Life
Sin Nombre

I'd have a hard time pushing any one of those out, but there's no way Thirst would fail to get in eventually. Sugar and Bright Star would be close, and I'd want to give thought to Deakins for A Serious Man as well. I know you felt oppressed by the film, but I was profitably discomfited on the whole (if that makes sense) and his devious framings had a lot to do with that. Boring though it gets to nominate him year after year, I certainly think this is his best work since the Jesse James/No Country two-header; then again, his contribution is so closely allied with everything that makes ASM such a divisive proposition that I'd never expect him to pop up in your mentions!

2:58 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

I'm with Glenn on pretty, especially with Nine and Bright Star...what can I say I was seduced. I'd add The Lovely Bones as a third (don't shoot, ha). In retrospect Where the Wild Things Are seems like such an obviously good choice I can't say why I always forget it in this category.

11:50 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd go with:

1. Where the Wild Things Are

2. The Hurt Locker

3. The White Ribbon

4. Bright Star

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

10:27 PM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

@Nick: Well, perhaps I worded that wrong, but he had his detractors. Two that I can bring up right away are Kris Tapley ("...the stylistic approach was more aggravating than organic to the sense of tension Kathryn Bigelow and her DP were looking to emulate") and Jim Emerson ("I'm not particularly fond of the snatch-and-grab, shaky-cam style Kathryn Bigelow employs in The Hurt Locker -- or those fusillades of twitchy, punch-in and recoil zooms, either..."). Granted, just two people that I can quote directly, but I had heard those criticisms from others.

As for me, I never saw the cinematography as problematic or distracting, but I couldn't quite get behind it as spectacular enough to call it one of the top five of the year, either. I'm an Antichrist man all the way.

1:31 AM, August 24, 2010  

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