The Lost City of Z
Director of Photography: Darius Khondji
The Lost City of Z is a film of a bygone era. We don’t see films like it often anymore. It was shot on 35mm and it features a slow, plodding narrative. It’s almost hard to believe it was made in 2017. As a touchtone of this dedication to cinematic history, this shot features an archaic form of photography being used to capture native Amazonians who have never seen this type of magic before. Explorer Percy Fawcett gleefully gathers his subjects together for a photograph while skeptical onlookers watch at a distance. It’s a beautiful shot from a hauntingly gorgeous film, and it’s a love letter to Hollywood days of old.
Director of Photography: Javier Aquirresarobe
This shot of the Valkyries descending upon the goddess Hela is simply epic. It appears as if they have broken through the darkness of hell itself to confront her and she stands awaiting them with all the confidence in the world. All of this happens in slow motion which adds to the tension and grand scale of the ensuing clash. The most unique aspect of the scene though is the light fluctuating around and over Hela. This was obtained through a new lighting invention called DynamicLight which consists of 200 lights in a circle that fire in sequence. In this way they were able to create an almost fluid like quality to the scene’s lighting and elevate an already visually stunning shot.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Director of Photography: Henry Braham
In true Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, director James Gunn opens up Vol. 2 with a great dance sequence, this time from adorable little Baby Groot. This scene was the moment I knew we were in for a great ride and the moment I knew that Baby Groot was a smashing success. Rather than show us the battle taking place in the back, we get a hilarious one shot dance that also manages to reveal a lot about the characters in the process. Immediately we are made aware that Groot is much like any toddler and the Guardians are his family as they manage to both fight the creature in the background and look out for their child. I could have picked many shots from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 because it is a gorgeous film, but this one just seemed to be the perfect combination of humor and style that makes these films so great.
War for the Planet of the Apes
Director of Photography: Michael Seresin
If you didn’t gather it from the title, War for the Planet of the Apes is indeed a war film. It only features two major battle set-pieces, yet they stick with you long after viewing the film. This shot from the first battle in the film is simply breathtaking. The Colonel’s soldiers silently climb a hill to ambush Caesar and the apes that fight for him. The backs of the soldiers helmets feature phrases like “Monkey Killer” and “Bedtime for Bonzo.” This deft camerawork shows that Seresin knows full well how to set the tone for a film while also shooting one hell of a battle opening. This sequence hooked me from the very beginning and I was riveted for the entire film.
Director of Photography: Sam Levy
There is so much to love about this shot. The natural lighting of the street adds a warm glow to Lady Bird’s happy display. Her outfit is completely outrageous which, not only helps to portray how eccentric she is, but also adds a splash of color to an otherwise monochromatic shot. Saoirse Ronan does a great job in this scene acting out the absolute jubilation of a young girl who just received her first kiss. She does all this standing in the middle of the road with not a care in the world and you can’t help but feel happy while watching.
Director of Photography: Elisha Christian
Like most shots in Columbus, this one is perfectly composed and breathtakingly gorgeous. For his directorial debut, Kogonada chose wisely to shoot in a town with some of the most interesting architecture in the United States. All of these beautiful places, including this stunning church, serve as a great backdrop for conversations between two people struggling with their relationships with a parent. As the location would suggest, the topic of conversation turns to religion and Kogonada brilliantly gives us a beautiful backdrop to gaze upon as his characters tackle the weighty topic.
The Florida Project
Director of Photography: Alexis Zabe
When I re-discovered this shot from The Florida Project, my eyes almost immediately welled up with tears. Sean Baker’s film about Moonee and the forgotten people on the outskirts of Disney hit me hard. The latter half of the film builds on the relationship between Moonee and her red-haired friend. Jancey is quiet and often reluctant to join in Moonee’s mischief. This dynamic is perfectly captured in this shot. Jancey stands close to Moonee, yet that’s not enough for this dark-haired, energetic girl. She grabs Jancey’s arm and awkwardly places it on her own shoulder. We can see ourselves in these two girls; the need for love and closeness is palpable. Amidst the saturated greens and pinks, we witness a bond that goes deeper than words. The Florida Project is ultimately a film about how we as humans care for one another. We could all learn from Moonee and Jancey in that respect.