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Old 11-11-2012, 06:20 PM   #1
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Default Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

In the last few weeks I've been rewatching some films from the 1980's/90's, such as Die Hard, Gremlins, Total Recall, Back to the Future and Beetlejuice, and what stuck out to me was that every one of these movies had a distinct look.

If I look at movies now, they all look the same. The majority is either heavily filtered or post processed, and even worse - most of them in the same way; which leads to a majority of today's movies looking the bloody same. Same colors. Same everything. And they look muddy as hell, and flat, as if characters were painted on the backrounds/sets.

A reason I'm fond of Christopher Nolan's movies is his cinematography, which is pretty distinct, and doesnt' rely on filters or post-processing, but rather on lighting and production design. Another director who sticks out is Guillermo del Toro, who uses a much less raw and naturalistic look, but who has a distinct style and clearly knows how to use his tools.

That was my rant. I'll further elaborate later, but would like to know what you think of the points I've made.


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Old 11-16-2012, 12:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

I disagree entirely.

Firstly, I don't think you can at all group the relative quality of cinematography into decades. There were some incredible looking movies in the '80s and '90s, and there were some awful looking ones too.

And the same can be said for today. Although I completely disagree that most movies look alike now - plenty of the bdtter movies I've seen this past 5-7 years have all had very definitive and unique looks to them. If there's been any simularities, it's that everyone else has been trying desperately to copy Chris Nolan (see, The Town ).

As a general rule, I actually think its EASIER nowadays to make an incredible looking movie. Why? Because production values are higher, there's more resources available, and technology has improved to the point that even low budget films can be shot in stunning 4K HD. A lot of those are things that movies from previous decades never even had the luxury of attaining.

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Old 11-16-2012, 12:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

i agree that there is a distinct look that set time periods apart, when it comes to film, but that maybe due to quality and possibly what I would call the mood of an audience.

But...Gone with the Wind has some far better cinematography that most films to day. Lawrence of Arabia challenges Lord of the Rings in terms of picture so, I disagree on that level.

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Old 11-16-2012, 12:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

But his point is that Total Recall looks better than, say, Dredd.

Which is absolutely ridiculous.

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Old 11-16-2012, 04:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Lawrence of Arabia challenges Lord of the Rings in terms of picture so, I disagree on that level.
Challenges it? I just got done watching the Blu-Ray. It betters it by quite a margin.

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Old 11-16-2012, 07:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Nolan totally uses filters.

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But his point is that Total Recall looks better than, say, Dredd.

Which is absolutely a matter of opinion.
Fixed

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Old 11-16-2012, 11:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

No, it isn't.

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Old 11-18-2012, 09:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Not to sound too childish but; yes it is.

How 'good' a film looks is purely subjective. If someone thinks movie X looks better than movie Y, that's up to them. There's no right or wrong.

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Old 11-18-2012, 09:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Not to get all philosophical, but there are some pretty universal standards of beauty. Its fairly new for postmodern relativists to be saying that beauty is merely subjective with no objectivity whatsoever.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:01 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Fair enough. Let's say someone did look at both films objectively and still ended up with the view that X was better than Y. It still boils down to opinion at the end of the day.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:04 PM   #11
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Okay, but that doesn't mean the conversation should just shut down.

I mean, I'm not criticizing you personally necessarily, it just bothers me whenever someone makes a critique or comparison of something and someone else replies "well, but that's your opinion." Well, yes, it is... but let's talk about it beyond that simple point.

I mean, we know for a fact that people's tastes can change. Happens all the time. Through conversations they can see new things they never saw before. Maybe this conversation leads to someone being persuaded that hey, film x actually IS better than film y for good reasons and they get won over to the other person's opinion.

On another note, I think I agree with the basic premise of the thread. A lot of popular movies in general these days seems to be made with blue and orange filters, etc. which are starting to bore me to tears. I miss some of the cleaner shots of older cinema. But not all modern movies fall to this.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:18 PM   #12
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Not to sound too childish but; yes it is.

How 'good' a film looks is purely subjective. If someone thinks movie X looks better than movie Y, that's up to them. There's no right or wrong.
Wow, you really don't know what you're talking about.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:22 PM   #13
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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On another note, I think I agree with the basic premise of the thread. A lot of popular movies in general these days seems to be made with blue and orange filters, etc. which are starting to bore me to tears. I miss some of the cleaner shots of older cinema. But not all modern movies fall to this.
On a related note, while the filters don't bother me so much, you know what does? Modern shot compositions and the number of cuts in a scene.

I loved the old style method of using a continuous shots for extended periods of time, and even whole scenes. This modern method of having to cut back and forth every .5 seconds is borders on obnoxious half the time, and always limits the ability to really soak in the artistic quality of the shots.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:22 PM   #14
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Okay, but that doesn't mean the conversation should just shut down.

I mean, I'm not criticizing you personally necessarily, it just bothers me whenever someone makes a critique or comparison of something and someone else replies "well, but that's your opinion." Well, yes, it is... but let's talk about it beyond that simple point.

I mean, we know for a fact that people's tastes can change. Happens all the time. Through conversations they can see new things they never saw before. Maybe this conversation leads to someone being persuaded that hey, film x actually IS better than film y for good reasons and they get won over to the other person's opinion.
That's fair. I guess the only reason I even bought it up is because CConn straight up called someone else's opinion "ridiculous." Seems both I and CConn could have discussed things in more detail, rather than outright dismissing them in some form or another.

Here's an article from Cracked.com that talks about this very subject. The first two points in particular go into the colouring of films. It's pretty interesting, especially the stuff about genres sharing some sort of 'colour code'.

EDIT: Heh, looks like CConn and I replied at the same time. Seems like he's still in a pretty dismissive mood

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:25 PM   #15
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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I loved the old style method of using a continuous shots for extended periods of time, and even whole scenes. This modern method of having to cut back and forth every .5 seconds is borders on obnoxious half the time, and always limits the ability to really soak in the artistic quality of the shots.
Yeah, I did too. One thing I appreciated about Skyfall was that it had a number of long continuous shots. One in particular that stood out was the fight scene between Bond and Patrice in Shanghai. No fast cuts - just a long held single shot on a choreographed fight.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:25 PM   #16
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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That's fair. I guess the only reason I even bought it up is because CConn straight up called someone else's opinion "ridiculous." Seems both I anc CConn could have discussed things in more detail, rather than outright dismissing them in some form or another.
Never enter a debate purely because someone's verbiage upset you. Your emotions will subjugate the logic of your argument.

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Old 11-18-2012, 10:38 PM   #17
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Never enter a debate purely because someone's verbiage upset you. Your emotions will subjugate the logic of your argument.
I never had any intention of entering the debate, I was just sticking my nose where it didn't belong. I still stand by what I said, that it's a matter of opinion -whether it's objective or not. It was a mistake to enter the conversation the way I did though. Other than my comment about Christopher Nolan, I really contributed nothing to the topic, and for that I apologize.

I've since provided an interesting link, so hopefully we can get back on track


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Old 11-19-2012, 01:33 AM   #18
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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On a related note, while the filters don't bother me so much, you know what does? Modern shot compositions and the number of cuts in a scene.

I loved the old style method of using a continuous shots for extended periods of time, and even whole scenes. This modern method of having to cut back and forth every .5 seconds is borders on obnoxious half the time, and always limits the ability to really soak in the artistic quality of the shots.
I completely agree with this, the long take is becoming a lost art, especially in Hollywood. Guys like Altman, Cassavetes and Kubrick are a dying breed. It takes true vision to shoot this way because you have to be commited to it. Most films today are shot like an expensive Law & Order episode, all about coverage and editing. I'm excluding the indies, people like Aaron Katz are making amazing films such as Quiet City.

The greatest filmmakers like Sokurov and Kiarostami still use it and have produced the greatest works over the past decade. Dumont is the same. These films are living breathing things that you feel in your bones. And some are definitely not for the faint of heart either.

When I think of all the filmmakers who have influenced me, they employed the long take, or more specifically the art of deep focus.

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Old 11-19-2012, 09:18 AM   #19
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

Exactly.

The other thing I would love to see more of, is how Leone used to shoot his movies; where he seemed to dedicate entire scenes to just making visual art through various extreme close up and wide shots. It seems like directors are so consumed with plotting that they totally miss so many other aspects of the film.

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Old 11-19-2012, 01:05 PM   #20
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Exactly.

The other thing I would love to see more of, is how Leone used to shoot his movies; where he seemed to dedicate entire scenes to just making visual art through various extreme close up and wide shots. It seems like directors are so consumed with plotting that they totally miss so many other aspects of the film.
More than likely it's less to do with focus on the plot, and more to do with keeping their audience entertained. Sad as it may be, the majority of regular movie goers aren't interested in watching works of art. Most people want stuff happening on screen. Of course there are directors around who still take their cues from greats like Leone, but you won't catch them breaking any box office records.

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Old 11-20-2012, 08:20 PM   #21
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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Exactly.

The other thing I would love to see more of, is how Leone used to shoot his movies; where he seemed to dedicate entire scenes to just making visual art through various extreme close up and wide shots. It seems like directors are so consumed with plotting that they totally miss so many other aspects of the film.
And that's what great cinema boils down, communicating ideas and emotion through images and juxtaposition, transcending whats on the page. It's not just some support device for the writing, it's a visual medium first and foremost. The greatest directors can make words seem futile.

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Old 11-27-2012, 08:09 PM   #22
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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I disagree entirely.

Firstly, I don't think you can at all group the relative quality of cinematography into decades. There were some incredible looking movies in the '80s and '90s, and there were some awful looking ones too.

And the same can be said for today. Although I completely disagree that most movies look alike now - plenty of the bdtter movies I've seen this past 5-7 years have all had very definitive and unique looks to them. If there's been any simularities, it's that everyone else has been trying desperately to copy Chris Nolan (see, The Town ).

As a general rule, I actually think its EASIER nowadays to make an incredible looking movie. Why? Because production values are higher, there's more resources available, and technology has improved to the point that even low budget films can be shot in stunning 4K HD. A lot of those are things that movies from previous decades never even had the luxury of attaining.
See, that's what I'm talking about. What you mean is that everything nowadays looks glossy. Perfect. One could say 'artsy'. When most of the time it looks like directors abuse of the tools they have. It's most of all lazy. "We didn't really try to be very creative about it on set, but a good digital color correction will make it look stunning. There ya go." I don't think a glossy, digitally color corrected movie from today looks better than, say, a movie which used both natural and artificial lights creatively.
I'm sorry, but to me lots of recent stuff, even while professional and easy on the eye, looks rather dull.

By the way, I rewatched Men in Black 3 on Blu-ray recently and I loved Bill Pope's cinematography; but, you know, Barry Sonnenfeld has always had a keen eye for visuals and cinematography (well, having started out as cinematographer). I've always liked his distinct look, and I'm glad he's sticking to it!


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Old 11-27-2012, 08:49 PM   #23
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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And that's what great cinema boils down, communicating ideas and emotion through images and juxtaposition, transcending whats on the page. It's not just some support device for the writing, it's a visual medium first and foremost. The greatest directors can make words seem futile.
Exactly. And I feel like so few directors really grasp that. It's all plotting, plotting, plotting to them.

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Old 11-27-2012, 08:57 PM   #24
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

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See, that's what I'm talking about. What you mean is that everything nowadays looks glossy. Perfect. One could say 'artsy'. When most of the time it looks like directors abuse of the tools they have. It's most of all lazy. "We didn't really try to be very creative about it on set, but a good digital color correction will make it look stunning. There ya go." I don't think a glossy, digitally color corrected movie from today looks better than, say, a movie which used both natural and artificial lights creatively.
I'm sorry, but to me lots of recent stuff, even while professional and easy on the eye, looks rather dull.
I don't find that to be true at all, though.

Moonrise Kingdom looked incredible, and featured very unique camera movement and shot selections. Yeah, it was color corrected like all of Wes' movies, but it was still incredible to look at.

Skyfall was an extremely crisply shot film that had both a glossiness and ruggedness to it at the same time. I feel like the cinematographer did an extremely good job of paying close attention to the film's various color palletes and hues.

Dredd looked equally amazing in a completely different way - blending bright outdoor shots with dark and muted interiors...

The Master was wonderfully shot, but quite different from the above three.

I just don't understand how you could look at those movies and say they all look alike. Or that something like Total Recall actually looks better.

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Old 07-30-2014, 04:26 AM   #25
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Default Re: Cinematography: The art of looking the same as in every other movie

The Tv show Utopia has some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. Cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland is awesome.

Hollywood should be knocking at this guys door.



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