Frame By Frame – Leviathan (1989)

Year – 1989
Decade – 1980s
CinematographerAlex Thomson (imdb link)
DirectorGeorge P. Cosmatos (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio – 2.39
Distributor – MGM
Genre – Sci-Fi; Horror
Lenses – J-D-C Scope anamorphic lenses
Format – 35mm
Film Stock Agfa XT
Click on any category to see similar frames from other films
POV Shots; Reflections; Shafts of Light; Lens Flares; Unusual Camera Perspectives; Color – Blue; Creatures; Set Design;

The Movie
A team of deep sea silver miners stumbles upon a derelict Russian craft with predictable consequences for anyone who’s seen Alien or The Thing.
Leviathan was one of three underwater-set studio flicks released in the span of six short months in 1989, top-lined by James Cameron’s The Abyss. It’s basically a direct lift of creature feature tropes transplanted from the void of space to the murky expanse of the ocean, but it benefits from an usually generous B-movie budget of $24 million as well as a solid cast (Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern) and below-the-line pedigree (Oscar nominees in cinematographer Alex Thomson, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and effects guru Stan Winston).
Leviathan’s underwater sequences were shot dry-for-wet at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The above-water finale was lensed in an infinity pool in Malta, located on the coast so that at the right camera angle the water of the pool lined up with the ocean to create the illusion of a distant horizon.

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Bad Boys (1995)

CinematographerHoward Atherton (imdb link)
DirectorMichael Bay
Aspect Ratio1.85
Cameras – Panavision Panaflex
LensesPanavision Primo (spherical)
Format35mm Film
CategoriesColor-Blue; High and Low Angles; Shafts of Light; Close-Ups; Firearms
(Click on any category to see similar frames from other films)

The Movie
A case of mistaken identity forces two Miami narcotics officers – bachelor Will Smith and family man Martin Lawrence – to switch places to protect a murder witness (Téa Leoni). The film transformed sitcom stars Smith and Lawrence into movie leading men and launched the career of 29-year-old music video director Michael Bay.
However, Bad Boys was almost a very, very different film. A Disney-produced version starring Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz – but still directed by Bay – was shut down just weeks before principal photography was set to begin in February of 1993.

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – The Platform (2019)

Year – 
Decade – 
CinematographerJon D. Domínguez
Director –
 Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Aspect Ratio2.39
Format – Digital capture
Categories – (Click on any of the following to see similar frames from other films) Frames Within Frames; Two Shots; High and Low Angles; Shafts of Lights; Inserts; Foreground/Background; Wide Shots; Close-Ups; Full Shots

The Movie
Spanish dystopian parable set in a vertical prison in which a platform of delectables descends down the structure’s hundreds of floors, offering those on top a feast and those on bottom little to eat except each other. The movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2019, but hit Netflix at the onset of a coronavirus quarantine that reinforced many of the film’s themes.

“If on our platform, instead of food, we had put toilet paper or facemasks, we would be talking about the same thing, about the selfishness that lies deep in our hearts.” – The Platform director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Lawless (2012)

Year – 
Decade – 
CinematographerBenoît Delhomme (imdb) (instagram)
Director – 
John Hillcoat
Aspect Ratio2.35
The Weinstein Company; Annapurna
GenreDrama; Period Piece; 1930s
Arri Alexa
Lenses – 
Zeiss Master Primes; Angenieux Optimo zooms; Spherical
FormatDigital capture
Categories – (Click on any of the following to see similar frames from other films) Night Exteriors; Reflections; Frames Within Frames; Silhouettes; Car Shots; Dusk; Three Shots

The Movie

At the tail end of Prohibition, three moonshine bootlegging brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke) refuse to bend when a federal agent (Guy Pearce) tries to cut himself a piece of the pie. Based on a true story.

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

CinematographerCharles Lang
DirectorMarlon Brando
Aspect Ratio1.85
CamerasMitchell VistaVision
Format VistaVision

Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.

Two Shots
Western Showdown
Locations – Jail
Frames Within Frames
Three Shots
Composing With Large Groups
Wide Shots
Full Shots

The Movie

“You’re a one-eyed jack around here, Dad. But I seen the other side of your face.” – Kid Rio (Marlon Brando)

Five years after his partner abandoned him to Federales, a bank robber (Marlon Brando) escapes from prison hell-bent on revenge against his old riding buddy (Karl Malden), who is now the respectable sheriff of a seaside California town.

One-Eyed Jacks marks Brando’s lone directorial effort and the production was a famously troubled one. After Brando and original director Stanley Kubrick not-so-amicably parted ways, Brando took over with a $2 million budget and three-month schedule allotted by Paramount. The shoot ballooned to six months and the price tag inflated to $6 million. Principal photography wrapped in June of 1959, but the movie didn’t hit theaters until March of 1961, with the final cut including Paramount-mandated reshoots that made Malden the clear villain and abandoned Brando’s downbeat original ending.

Even with the alterations, the film is bleak for its era, serving as a bridge between the “adult western” moral fables of the 1950s and the anti-hero laden revisionist 1960s oaters of Leone and Peckinpah. The latter penned an early draft of One-Eyed Jacks (which you can download here) and Rod Serling also contributed a treatment.

The film somehow ended up in the public domain, so shoddy cropped transfers have proliferated for decades on various home media formats. Criterion finally did One-Eyed Jacks justice with a 2016 Blu-ray release that featured a 4K digital restoration with input from admirers Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.


In addition to its curio status thanks to Brando’s presence behind the camera, One-Eyed Jacks is also an historical curio as the last film released in the VistaVision widescreen format.

Paramount’s answer to 20th Century Fox’s anamorphic Cinemascope, VistaVision was a spherical large format process launched in 1954. VistaVision achieved its ample frame size by flipping standard 35mm film on its side and sending it through the gate horizontally rather than vertically. The switch resulted in 8-perf frames that were twice the size of standard 4-perf 35mm film. Even with the optical reductions required for projection, the resulting image offered superior resolution and finer grain.

However, VistaVision’s tenure as Paramount’s format of choice lasted only seven years. By the time One-Eyed Jacks reached screens, improvements in film stocks and the anamorphic process as well as the ascendance of 70mm rendered VistaVision obsolete.

The process later found a second life as a high resolution format for shooting visual effects sequences, with ILM employing VistaVision on all three of the original Star Wars films.

Single Frames

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame: Mindhunter Season 2 (2019)

CinematographerErik Messerschmidt (imdb link) (Instagram feed)
David Fincher (Ep 1-3), Andrew Dominik (Ep 4-5), Carl Franklin (Ep 6-9)
Aspect Ratio2.2
CameraRed Helium 8K S35
LensesLeica Summilux-C

The Show
Season 2 of Netflix’s based-in-fact series finds the FBI’s fledgling Behavioral Science unit putting its theories into practice to hunt a child killer in Atlanta.

Frame Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.

Low Key Lighting
Composing With Large Groups
Three Shots
Two Shots
Full Shots
Eye Lights
Location – Car
Location – Bar
Skin Tones
Color – Yellow
Color – Blue
Mixed Color Temperatures

All the quotes below from cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt come from an interview I did with the DP for Filmmaker Magazine.

Single Frames