Cinema Bros’ Top 35 Shots of 2017

Cinematography is, in many ways, the most important aspect of the film. As the pen (or computer now I suppose) is to the writer or the brush is to the painter, so is the camera to the filmmaker. Cinematography is the language of cinema. Yes, the acting, costumes, set, sound and writing are also important, but choosing what to show the audience (or what not to) and how to show them is what makes movies, movies.

So, in order to recognize the great work cinematographers did last year, we have compiled our Top 35 Shots of 2017:

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Super Dark Times

Director of Photography: Eli Born

By Jacob

This shot from Super Dark Times is every kid’s dream. Slicing things cleanly in half with very sharp objects should probably be a national pastime, right next to blowing stuff up on the 4th of July. It starts as harmless fun for these friends with a katana, but as the title might suggest things get super dark, super fast. Eli Born’s camerawork in this film is some of the most interesting stuff I saw from any film in 2017, and I’m actually somewhat terrified to see what he could do with a bigger budget. Super Dark Times is hauntingly beautiful to look at, and this katana slow-mo shot is only the beginning…trust me.

Atomic Blonde

Director of Photography: Jonathan Sela

By Josiah

Yahoo! Movies named this scene the best American fight scene of all time. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it definitely is toward the top. Coming from a crew that worked on John Wick, it makes sense that we’d get a scene like this. Like the rest of the action in Atomic Blonde, this scene is brutal as hell. For nearly ten minutes and pretty much one shot (Though it was definitely multiple shots stitched together through the magic of CGI), Charlize Theron gets the ever-living shit beat out of her and kicks some serious ass of her own. The camera work isn’t overly impressive, but it does exactly what it needs to do which is let the performers bring the brutality. The audacity to attempt this is crazy. To actually pull it off is deserving of recognition.

Watch the full shot here

Lady Macbeth

Director of Photography: Ari Wegner

By Jacob

I don’t know how many total shots comprise Lady Macbeth, but the number is likely far lower than I could even guess. There is a sickening and horrific stillness to the film that I’ve not seen before. This shot encapsulates this unflinching eye perfectly. Lady Katherine does a lot of sitting. And while she sits, she thinks. These moments seem harmless, but they give way to scenes that make you beg for them to end. When you want the camera to cut away, when you desperately want the scenery to change, it’s as if the cinematographer says “no.” Lady Macbeth is a slow-burn thriller dressed up as a period-piece drama. You’ve been warned, so proceed with caution.


Director of Photography: Chung-hoon Chung

 By Sam

This may be one of the most surprising and unsettling shots in all of It. It is a perfect jump scare as we suddenly see terrifying visage of Pennywise, larger than we’ve seen him before, burst from the projector screen. What makes it extremely effective is the use of the projector clicks to darken the screen periodically and give us a sense of dread of what might pop up next. What does pop up is entirely unexpected. How could anyone have expected a giant clown head. It is ridiculous and almost comedic upon further viewings. But the balance between comedy and horror is what makes It an incredibly entertaining film.

The Bad Batch

Director of Photography: Lyle Vincent

By Josiah

There are two reasons Blake Shelton should never have been named Sexiest Man Alive last year: The shot of Jason Momoa as Aquaman rising out of the water in Justice League and the entirety of The Bad Batch, though this shot in particular. There are so many incredible shots from The Bad Batch because director Ana Lily Amirpour and cinematographer Lyle Vincent have incredible eyes for visual storytelling. I could have gone with many others, but this one just seemed right. It is our first introduction to The Miami Man and it is also one of the first moments in the film that Amirpour signals that it is ok to laugh a little. The shot comes in the middle of showing the bro culture of the cannibal camp with a bunch of jacked people working out. The Miami Man stands apart though, looking off into the distance with his sweet ass shades and drinking a refreshing can of Jizzy Fizz. It says so much about the character and it is just a great, funny shot.

John Wick: Chapter 2

Director of Photography: Dan Laustsen

By Jacob

John Wick: Chapter 2 is my most beloved film of 2017. It might be one of my most beloved films of the last decade, maybe even of all time. It is so ridiculous, so asinine, so off-the-wall insane that it works absolutely and completely to perfection. From Keanu Reeves’ performance to the cartoonish villains to the filmmakers saying “Sure, let’s film an action sequence in a room full of mirrors!” this film has it all and then some. I picked this mirror trick shot because, well, there are 57 other shots I could have picked and this was the one I saw the most. John Wick, Baba Yaga, walks through some sliding glass mirror doors to off his umpteenth baddie of the film. Watch out, he might be coming for you next.  


Director of Photography: John Mathieson

By Sam

Up until this point in Logan we had not seen Laura’s true potential or her gruesome abilities. This is her last innocent moment before she slaughters the men on the TV screen she is looking at. It is a somewhat morbidly funny scene once you have seen the full context. The scene originally seems like a child eating cereal and watching TV, almost like a Saturday morning cartoon binge from back in the day. In no way would the normal viewer expect her to then murder a group of men with hand claws.  Dafne Keen is great in this scene as she is in the rest of this phenomenal film.


“Snowden” Review – In Oliver Stone’s Film, 1984 is 2016

By Josiah Wampfler

Snowden is quite appropriately Oliver Stone’s 1984. The George Orwell novel about a dystopian, authoritarian society in which mass surveillance of the populace is the norm is far too similar to the truths that Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 about our government’s own mass surveillance programs. Stone obviously saw the similarities and the influence of the Orwell classic is clear. Yet the world depicted in Stone’s film is our own and there is no escaping the terrifying truths it reveals. Unfortunately, unlike Orwell’s novel, you can’t escape Big Brother just by putting the book down.

When I first heard Stone was doing this film I thought the subject matter would be perfect for him and I wasn’t wrong. Snowden is his return to form. He has the right material to work with including a complex, interesting protagonist in Edward Snowden and a thrilling tale dripping with secrecy and deception. And he brings his uniquely compelling style as well as much-needed humanity to a story that could have easily have gotten too technical. The end result is a film that is both important in its subject material and captivating in its filmmaking.

Stone’s wholly unique style is what really makes this film stick out. In a month characterized by fairly conventional releases like Sully and Blair Witch, the director’s bizarre editing and unorthodox cinematography are a breath of fresh air. Stone’s interesting and sometimes strange camera decisions help keep the film clipping along at the right pace by diversifying the look of the film throughout. It is the first film he has shot on digital and he uses it to his advantage to make the film really feel digital. The color palette is quite vibrant, he constantly uses beautiful shots of extremely tight focus and the picture has a great amount of digital grain in it that just works. And Stone also uses the camera to portray the paranoia of the events wonderfully, especially in one particularly brilliant shot toward the end of the film of Edward Snowden standing in a board room talking to the enlarged head of his boss and mentor, Corbin O’Brian, on a wall-sized TV screen. The shot is absolutely chilling as O’Brian looms over our protagonist and makes some shocking revelations.

While Stone brings the style to Snowden, the cast brings the humanity. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden is phenomenal, as is Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend, Lindsey Mills. The film smartly makes the relationship between these to the emotional through-line of the narrative. Though the film largely presents Edward Snowden in a very favorable light, it is in this relationship that we see the flaws of his character. He is overly-obsessed with his job, does not give their relationship the attention it deserves and says hurtful things when they fight. He is not perfect, which is what makes him a good character. And both Gordon-Levitt and Woodley do a wonderful job portraying two normal, imperfect people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Gordon-Levitt even manages to nail the voice and mannerisms of Edward Snowden. So much so, that it is somewhat hard to distinguish the two when the real Edward Snowden makes a cameo appearance at the end.

My only real gripes with the film are its length and Nicholas Cage. The film is a long 2 hours and 14 minutes, and even though Stone manages to keep up the pace throughout, the film still feels long. There are a couple of scenes here and there that, while entertaining, don’t feel entirely necessary. So perhaps a bit shorter cut would have helped. And with Cage, his character is almost completely pointless and I just can’t take him seriously anymore. It kind of felt like Stone helping out an old friend and not really serving the story.

Still, Snowden remains a pretty powerful piece of filmmaking. It tackles a story that is incredibly important and does it in a way that is stylistically impressive and emotionally connective. And it actually pairs quite nicely with the documentary Citizen Four, which delves into the more technical aspects of what Edward Snowden revealed about our government’s surveillance programs.

What the NSA was and still is doing, gathering large amounts of personal data from its own citizens, is something that needs to be talked about and currently that conversation is not happening. Both major party candidates for President this year have barely touched the topic and it is my hope that this film will equip more Americans with the information to intelligently discuss what the limits of government intelligence should be.