The Oscars, Analysed, Part Five, Best Cinemtography

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Next up on my list is the always fascinating category of Best Cinematography.

The Nominees:  Janusz Kaminski  ‘Lincoln’;  Claudio Miranda  ‘Life Of Pi’;  Robert Richardson  ‘Django Unchained’; Roger Deakins  ‘Skyfall’  and  Seamus McGravey  ‘Anna Karenina’.

Like with most categories this year, all 5 nominated works are great. But of course, snubs are abound, and no snub baffled more this year than the one ‘The Master’ got in this category. Filmed in 65mm by Romanian Cinematographer Mahai Malaimaire Jr., the first film since Hamlet (1996) to use 65mm. The film looked gorgeous on the screen, with its lavish, wide landscapes and perfect period details (The film has been snubbed in the Art-Direction category, strangely as well).

Other visually masterful films this year include ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’, ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’, who all could’ve been nominated. But the final 5 provide healthy competition, still.

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Who should win: Claudio Miranda  ‘Life Of Pi’. Last year, Robert Richrdson (who’s nominated this year) won deservedly for “Hugo”.  I think this year another 3D film, the best of them all, deserves to win for best Cinematography. The film was visual pleasure, and the way it utilized colours, the medium of water and the lighting used to illuminate the water tank that was used in the movie is a complete work of art. The images from this film are ridiculously beautiful. Having said that, for sentimental reasons, I wouldn’t mind seeing Roger Deakins take it for ‘Skyfall’, after all, he is due an Oscar (He should’ve won in 2010 for ‘True Grit’).

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Who will win: I’m unsure about this, I think the Oscars gave it a 3D film last year, so are they open to giving it to another one this year? I think they might look favourably over films like ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Lincoln’ here, or even ‘Django Unchained’, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Lincoln’ did win, but Miranda’s work for ‘Life Of Pi’ is good it’s hard to ignore. So ‘Life Of Pi’ it is.

Yazen Al Samen

The Best Films of 2012 – Part Two

5. ‘Argo’

argoWords by Yazen Al Samen

In ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck breaks into the Hollywood elite, by embracing what made Hollywood great. The true story of 6 escaped American hostages in Iran in 1980 and the plan to rescue them is too crazy to be true, and Ben Affleck’s movie takes this story and turns it into one hell of a thrill ride.

But the film goes to show the effect the media and the cinema has on the mind of the people, wherever they come from, and how they can influence politics. Affleck also embraces Hollywood “escapism”, by making a movie so fine tuned that even when you think it’s cheesy and predictable it enthralls and captures you. “Argo” is for the ages, and one of the leading contenders for Best Picture at the Oscars.

4. ‘Skyfall’

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Here is Bond for the 21st century. The 23rd installment into the Bond franchise is one of the best, probably the best. It is also quite a bold film, with the question in the center of it “Is Bond needed in today’s world?” This film takes Bond from Cold War antiquity and into 21st century technology, it is a film of a confused Bond, of a confused MI6, facing a whole new terror what they were used to, a more personal terror.

It is also a very self aware film, and with that it tests us the audience with relics of the past from Bond himself or his gadgets. It culminates into a movie about moving on, letting go, and effect of time itself on the human soul and the objects around it. Sam Mendes’ movie is quite a rare thing, a downright philosophical, entertaining, personal, blockbuster.

3. ‘Amour’ 

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Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ (‘Love’) probably has the most fitting title of any of this year’s films. It stars of cinema’s most memorable actors, Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, as Georges and Anne, an 80-something couple living a quiet life in the twilight of their lives. Soon, Anne has a stroke and starts descending into paralysis, leaving Georges to care for her.

The film goes into Georges’ struggle to care for Ann, and provides a test for his love and their enduring marriage. “Amour” ends up presenting quite a strong and powerful exploration of what love is, and where it comes from, and how it transforms along the ages. It is one of the most heartfelt and hard hitting films of recent years, and one of Haneke’s best films.

2. ‘Life of Pi’

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‘Life of Pi’ is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. It has outright the best use of 3D in movies, and surely some of the best special effects set pieces. It is quite an experience. Adapted from Yann Martel’s novel, it is about a young Indian boy who is left in the middle of the sea after a shipwreck, on a lifeboat, alone with a Bengal tiger. Very few modern films are this un-cynical of their mention of God, and the film’s hero starts off by saying that “this story will make you believe in God”.

But this is not the direction the movie is interested in. It is more about the nature of religion, the nature of belief and faith, and how the human mind works to give meaning and acquire comfort and relief, and how experiences shape our lives, in ways we may not know, and it touches on how “God” and nature work, and where we, and animals, stand in the world. Ang Lee’s film is of the most joyously uplifting spiritual experiences you can have at the movies. ‘Life Of Pi’ is tied in my eyes for the year’s best film, but my number 1 pick left me in more shock and awe, simply…

1. ‘The Master’

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This film has divided people. It is one of the most baffling of films. Yet it remains there, imprinted in our minds. An out of the body experience. No film has taken so much effort and detail in bringing onto the screen a relationship between two people.

Joaquin Phoenix’s alcoholic WWII vet is drifting in Fifties America, when he meets a cult leader, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who takes him under his wing. The two men bounce off each to other, two men of different styles, behaviors and mindsets. The movie leaves them there, as we see them in 70mm, and we stay mesmerized by how human interactions work, and how conversations, demeanors and charisma influence the mind and the body.

The film is a heightened experience, and its highly human and psychological content is well concealed within 50s American society, yet the film first and foremost is an experience, that works on the mind and the senses, and amazes you as it baffles you. No other film has been made like this.