In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Outbreak

The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

Other reviews
Review Archives

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

Other reviews
Great Movie Archives

Avatar and Oscar again raise thequestion: What is cinematography? (Part 1)

Imagine the headline: "Up" Wins Oscar for Best Cinematography. That's essentially what happened Sunday night, but the movie was "Avatar." "Up" won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. "Avatar" won for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography. Realistically, "Up" and "Avatar" should have also have competed in a new category -- something like Best Computer-Assisted Animation. It's past time to acknowledge the difference between cinematography -- the photographic process that involves capturing light through a lens -- and animation or green screen work that involves compositing digital images in a computer. Both can be extraordinarily impressive. Let's just agree to call them by their right names.

Advertisement

A quarter century ago, the great British cinematographer David Watkin, accepting his Oscar for "Out of Africa," offered the Academy a little education in his art and craft when he acknowledged that the pretty helicopter shots of African scenery for which he knew he had won the award were shot by the second unit. Today, Academy voters still don't quite seem to understand what cinematographers -- once known as "lighting cameramen" -- actually do. But what they do has radically changed over the years, too.

Aboard Dusty Cohl's Floating Film Festival in the early '00s, I remember the great Director of Photography Haskell Wexler lamenting that he was no longer assured of control over his own work, which could be digitally altered in post-production so that it no longer resembled what he had actually shot in the camera during production.

This isn't really a recent development. Even 15 years ago, in the awkwardly titled four-hour BFI documentary "A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Film" (see clip above), Scorsese, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian de Palma spoke of a new kind of filmmaking that no longer resembled photography so much as computer-aided painting. It's still an art form, but it's no longer quite photography, any more than theater is cinema....

So, when a movie like Avatar is 80 percent CGI or more, how do we (re-)define what the term "cinematography" means?

(to be continued...)

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's Unorthodox Depicts a Melancholic Escape from Faith

A review of the new miniseries Unorthodox, now playing on Netflix.

Cloud Atlas in the Time of Coronavirus

While the pandemic will pass, our awareness of each other should not.

Home Entertainment Guide: April 2, 2020

The newest on Blu-ray and streaming includes 1917, The Grudge, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Leave Her to Hea...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus