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
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.
Director of Photography: Jonathan Sela
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.
Director of Photography: Ari Wegner
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
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
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
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
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.