Besides a magical rapport with a camera, what else do Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Curtis Hanson, Ron Howard, Nicolas Roeg and even Timur Bekmambetov have in common with Academy Award nominee Wally Pfister, the brilliant cinematographer who makes Christopher Nolan's epic movies look so fine. (The clue is in the picture)

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by De Palma fan

    on 22 Feb 2011 15:37

    Corman was the master of finding talent Robert Towne,Peter Bogdanovich,Dennis Hopper,Lazlo Kovacs,Ron Howard,John Sayles,Joe Dante,Scorsese,Coppola,Jack Nicholson,Paul Bartel,Curtis Hanson,Jonathan Demme and His DP Tak Fujimoto.

    He really is a giant of film

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by Alina

    on 22 Feb 2011 09:31

    @jayfurneaux

    Citizen Kane.

    @Trevor

    Completely agree with you re: Avatar. I feel that the criticism of Avatar (all style, no soul) can be levelled at Inception (it's just that Inception requires a higher reading level to comprehend).

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  • Comment number 30. Posted by Blodget

    on 21 Feb 2011 19:33

    @Trevor
    I now look like I got into a tizzy over nothing. But it's always fun to get into the bloggers' state of mind and get agitated and self-righteous.

    In certain ways I wish I'd been able to ignore everything besides the special effects. Unfortunately (or not?) I wasn't. I found something similar occurred when I studied early silent cinema recently. What narrative there is is negligible, and infrequently do I ignore this and enjoy the attraction of the films themselves.

    But this is hijacking the thread. Cinematography. Yeah. Wally Pfister's a reason to celebrate. As is Robert Elswit, who I have endless respect for for having shot P.T.Anderson's films, particularly There Will Be Blood. I read a really interesting article (http://digitalcontentproducer.com/mil/features/video_oldfashioned_filmmaking/index.html) concerning the technicalities of shooting TWBB and nothing has made me want to understand the minutiae of cinematography more. Were I able to direct a film, not knowing about how it'll be shot would be like having no control over the editing or script.

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  • Comment number 29. Posted by BillPaxtonsSecondBiggestFan

    on 21 Feb 2011 15:40

    I'm going to take a step back on the Inception talk in this one. Spent far too much time discussing it a few threads back.

    However it's great to have a conversation about Cinematographers, often a person who's role gets over looked in favour of actors and directors. I wasn't aware of Pfister until this video blog but I'm glad I am now. I re-watched Insomnia last night (for me, still Nolan's best film) and it's a fantastic looking film, all bleached whites and colourless fog; a perfect example of a character's mind state being visually represented by excellent cinematography.

    The other film I watched last night was Brief Encounter and that is also a beautifully photographed film. The station at night, with the steam trains running through it, is a brilliant insight to a world that no longer exists. Robert Krasker - the DOP on the film - also worked on The Third Man, a film with some of the most dramatically impressive contrasts between light and dark ever put on film. The shadowy nature of Lime's work is perfectly reflected in the dark corridors of Vienna's dark underworld. Superb stuff.

    From now on, I'm going to pay more attention to cinematographers.

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  • Comment number 28. Posted by Sapphire77

    on 21 Feb 2011 11:27

    I still think Inception is fairly unremarkable in certain ways. It's basically well made, though and in that sense it may very well be a masterpiece if that makes sense. But as far as e.g. Nolan's imagination is concerned, he can't hold a candle to e.g. Hayao Miyazaki. Now THERE is someone who makes stuff that I can see people being truly surprised by. But Inception? I still don't see it. And it may be a masterpiece if you define that word a certain way. But it's certainly not a flawless masterpiece. That joke comes to mind where that one guy sort of tricked Ellen Page's character into kissing her. If I remember correctly it has no purpose whatsoever than to be just that: a joke. It's not part of anything concerned with the basic story being told or any subplot or character arc or whatever... Nolan might as well have hired a stand up comedian to come in during the screening who would say "Ok, people we will continue with the movie in a second. But first, here's a cute joke I came up with today." I mean I understand that a movie should be a balanced experience but to achieve that this way is just a fairly cheap way of doing it. No offense, Christopher.

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  • Comment number 27. Posted by Trevor

    on 21 Feb 2011 10:27

    @Stephen - we're all friends here. No really :-)
    I enjoyed Avatar immensely. And the 3D was fantastic. I'm often disappointed with movies in general, and 3D, but here I wasn't.
    Avatar-bashing seems all too easy - so I take pleasure in standing up in a group of cinephiles and loudly proclaiming "I saw and ignored its faults for the sheer colour, spectacle and visual magic & technical majesty on offer"

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  • Comment number 26. Posted by Blodget

    on 21 Feb 2011 01:47

    @Trevor - I stand corrected. With that unnecessarily forceful and oddly personal response to me bashing Avatar, you've proved me wrong. It was colourful. It featured many colours. As many as the rainbow!

    And yes, it was spectacular. Its many wonderful reviews proved that. I must be completely on the wrong track. In fact, as a technological achievement, I'm sure it was astonishing. I know next to nothing about the evolution of CGI and have a little more than a passing interest in 3D, thanks to my brother studying it for a few months, but yes, it was spectacular.

    The unfortunate thing was that I was held back from viscerally enjoying its visual brilliance by the unbelievably lazy script, which led to several other problems; the interminable length, embarrassing acting, and to be honest, the constant critiques telling me "yes, it's badly written, but it's certainly spectacular". I know I'm not the first to say it, but there's not point in lying about my opinion of a film. Even if it can make me super-smart and impressive in front of Doctor Mark!

    But wait, didn't Mark say that Avatar was too long but undeniably spectacular? And didn't he have big reservations about The Dark Knight?

    I don't know. I could be on completely the wrong track.

    But I'm not.

    And let's not forget that a $1billion box-office return as opposed to $2.7billion hardly makes a film what most consider "proper" filmmaking. It's not as if I crow-barred in a comparison between Avatar and Of Gods and Men to curry favour.

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  • Comment number 25. Posted by Amber_

    on 21 Feb 2011 00:25

    More Inception talk? Well, at least you're consistent.

    For my part all I can do is close my eyes, cross my fingers and ohhhhh I hope Roger Deakins wins!

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by jayfurneaux

    on 20 Feb 2011 23:04

    I agree with Carole above; a good DP can set the tone of the film as well (or better) than the director on some occasions. Robert Surtees work on Summer of 42 comes to mind as does Oswald Morris's photography of Moby Dick, Tonino Delli Colli's photography on Leone's The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Freddie Young's work on Lawrence of Arabia, Gordon Willis's work on The Godfather and Gregg Toland's work on Citizen Cane.

    Tolland is the neglected hero of Citizen Cane; he approached director Orson Welle's (known to be a maverick) with his ideas to "test and prove several ideas generally being accepted as radical in Hollywood" and was given a free hand.

    Tolland's ideas dictated how Welles had to shoot some scenes, whilst Tolland's abilities helped to make some of Welles's ideas filmable. Citizen Cane is famous for being ground breaking in how it told a story and its visual style (even today few films are really that adventurous); Tolland played a major role in that.

    A good DP helps the director bring the film to the screen; in many cases the DP also scouts locations for their visual appeal and appropriateness and makes suggestions as to how scenes could work most effectively.

    By it's nature film is a collaborative and - above all - a visual medium. I'm sure many first time directors have relied heavily on the experience of their DP and quite a few so-so movies have been lifted (or even made unforgettable) by the DP's contribution. As with photography, different DPs also are also noted for their own styles, lighting and areas of expertise and are hired to give a film a certain 'look' and style.

    First division directors (Spielberg, Scorsese, Nolan etc) have the budgets to work with the best DPs; they do so (rather than choose unknowns) because they know how important the DPs contribution will be; the choice of DP can be more important (IMO) than the casting of the lead actors.

    A few directors (having moved up from being DPs to directing) also act as their own cinematographers; Nick Roeg's visual style is a striking example of such ability.

    As Carole Crawford puts well above 'They have the "eye" IMHO. They can make or break a movie for me.'

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by Carole Crawford

    on 20 Feb 2011 22:06

    The cinematographer.DP is the person who has the wonderful perspective of making the scene/movie look the way it does. DP's like Wally Pfister, Roger Deakins, Dean Semler and many others make it all worth while in seeing the amazing vistas we do on the big screen.

    They have the "eye" IMHO. They can make or break a movie for me.

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