War for the Planet of the Apes
Director of Photography: Michael Seresin
War for the Planet of the Apes really takes to heart that old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words and this shot is a perfect example of that. The little girl, Nova, has just been thrown into this group of apes after the death of her father. She is likely very confused and quite lonely. One of the toughest looking apes, Luca, sees Nova looking up at some cherry blossoms with wonder. In a simple gesture of kindness and love, Luca picks one of the flowers for her. It is a brilliant visual shortcut that establishes an emotional connection between the two characters using a great tender moment. That moment and the flower also come back shortly in another extremely emotional scene that wouldn’t have worked if this shot hadn’t come first.
Director of Photography: Juanmi Azpiroz
With time, I hope that Wheelman is recognized for its true place in ground-breaking cinematic history. It was shot in nineteen days on a shoe-string budget. That the film was shot entirely with cameras either in or mounted on a vehicle is somewhat unsurprising given the previous two filmmaking constraints. With Wheelman, Jeremy Rush and his cinematographer have crafted a high-octane genre film that also holds up as an actual movie in its own right. This shot comprised of Frank Grillo (the titular wheelman) calmly pointing a pistol-grip AK-47 at another moving vehicle is basically par for the course. Wheelman knows what it is and why it was made. It’s probably best if you get out of the way.
Director of Photography: Eric Kress
Colossal is one of the oddest and most unique films of 2017. It is also incredibly funny at times and this is one of those moments. At this point in the film Gloria knows that she is linked to the monster in Seoul and she wants to let her friends in on that fact. So she achieves this by doing what shall forever be known as The Crotch Dance. This shot is hilarious because we not only get to see Anne Hathaway doing a gesture that we probably never expected, but we also get to see a giant monster doing the same act. That is comedic gold.
Director of Photography: Rachel Morrison
There is a reason Rachel Morrison just became the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar and this shot is a perfect example. I love silhouette shots so much and this one is fantastic. We see the colors in the sky just before sunrise and the dark figures moving across the frame as their lantern lights sway. It all comes together in a simple, beautiful shot. The figures moving across the screen are the Jackson family, heading out to the fields to do extra work because the patriarch of the family, Hap, has a broken leg. This shot is wonderful not only because it is gorgeous, as much of the rest of the film is, but because it tells us something. The Jacksons have to work twice as hard as any white family and the scene that comes after will only continue to spell out that hard truth.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Director of Photography: Benji Bakshi
This shot is a repeated theme throughout Brawl in Cell Block 99. Bradley, the ex-boxer turned drug runner turned inmate has a singular tattoo on his body. The cross on the back of his head is gigantic. The camera is drawn to it, over and over again. It follows him in similar tracking shots at various points throughout the film and it’s not accidental either: Bradley is a twisted Christ-figure to say the least. He will do anything for the ones he loves, and he never flinches throughout his slow descent into hell. His cross may be scarred and bruised, but that’s just fine with him. Bradley doesn’t seem to notice as he mercilessly destroys everyone and everything in his way.
Director of Photography: Matt Asbury & Danielle Feinberg
Coco, although it isn’t live action, completely deserves to be on this list. Just as much effort, if not more, goes into making a compelling animated shot. This shot, which is our introduction to The City of the Dead, is intricate to an insane degree. They created an entire sprawling city scape with an astounding 7 million lights, which is a feat that has never been done before. This shot is also visually unique due to its coloring, which utilizes mainly orange and blue hues. The orange of the petals that make up the bridge to the city are particularly stunning. It is a beautiful shot that really sets up the huge scale of Miguel’s upcoming adventure.
Director of Photography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
One of the major successes of I, Tonya is how the skating scenes are filmed. They are incredibly dynamic with the camera up close to Tonya as she zooms around the ice (Something that was mainly accomplished by having a cameraman actually skate with her with a 35mm camera on his shoulder). But, though Margot Robbie was able to actually do much of her own skating, she is an actor, not a professional skater. Not all of the editing and CGI for these scenes was great (the face replacement at times was really bad), but this particular shot was seamless. Only seven women total have ever been able toland a triple axel, so they didn’t have the option of having someone actually do it. So, through a combination of editing tricks and CGI, they were able to craft this truly amazing shot.