Frame by Frame – Guava Island (2019)

Year2019
Decade2010s
CinematographerChristian Sprenger (imdb) (official site)
DirectorHiro Murai
Aspect Ratio1.33
DistributorAmazon
GenreMusical
CamerasArri Alexa LF
Lenses – Canon K-35
Format
 –  Digital

Categories
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Opening Credits
Wide Shots
Close-Ups
Montage
Lens Flare
Symmetry

The Movie
A musician on a tropical island (Deni, played by Donald Glover) runs afoul of the local despot when the former’s celebratory musical festival threatens the productivity of the latter’s silk factory. Shot with intentionally minimal publicity last year in Cuba, the short film (its runtime is a brisk 55 minutes including interludes from Glover’s musical alter ego Childish Gambino) combines many of the talents behind the FX show Atlanta. Among them is cinematographer Christian Sprenger, who pulls off the magic trick of making the Alexa LF look like vintage 16mm film.
Guava Island is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Check out some behind the scenes pics of the shoot on Sprenger’s Instagram feed.  Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Year2018
Decade2010s
CinematographerChayse Irvin (imdb link) (official site)
DirectorSpike Lee (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio2.39
DistributorFocus Features; Universal
GenreDrama; Period 1970s; Best Picture Nominee
CamerasPanaflex Millennium XL2, Arricam Lite, Aaton Penelope, Arriflex SR3 (16mm)
LensesSpherical; Zeiss Super Speeds MKII, Zeiss Master Primes, Panavision Ultra and Super Speeds, Panavision PVintage
Format  35mm; 16mm
Film StocksKodak Vision3 250D 5207, Kodak Vision3 500T 5219, Kodak Eastman Double-X Black & White Negative Film 5222 and 7222, Kodak Ektachrome 100D
Production info – 31 days of principal photography

Categories
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Eye Lights
Car Shots
High and Low Angles
Two Shots
Three Shots
Low Key Lighting
Police Station
Highlights
Eyelines
Phone Calls

The Movie
Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. The unlikely undercover mission began with Stallworth establishing phone contact posing as an interested new member, first with the local chapter and eventually with the organization’s “executive director” David Duke (played by Topher Grace). The sting ultimately became a two-man operation – with Stallworth (played by John David Washington) handling the phone calls and fellow detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) standing in for Stallworth for the face-to-face interactions.

The film earned Spike Lee his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Three O’Clock High (1987)

Year1987
Decade1980s
CinematographerBarry Sonnenfeld (imdb link)
DirectorPhil Joanou
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorUniversal
GenreComedy
LensesSpherical
Format35mm

Categories
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Character Introduction
Inserts
High and Low Angles
Rack Focus
Cross Dissolves
Full Shots
Profile
Silhouettes
Unusual Camera Perspectives
Venetian Blinds

The Movie

A “new student” profile piece for the school paper turns into an adolescent nightmare for a timid reporter (Casey Siemaszko) when the story’s subject (Richard Tyson) challenges him to an after school showdown. Siemaszko spends the remander of the day attempting to escape the confines of the school before the final bell tolls. Director Phil Joanou – who was just 24 when production began, making him younger than both his leading men – saw the film as a pubescent nod to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.

“The original script was called After School and was very much a John Hughes style comedy, very broad with lots of slapstick. When I came on I had really loved Martin Scorsese’s movie AFTER HOURS (1985). If you compare Scorsese’s film with my film, you will see that I was heavily influenced by AFTER HOURS, as in I stole a ton of stuff from it! In the film, Griffin Dunne is trapped down in SoHo and no matter what he does, he can’t escape his fate. It’s very similar to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH in that this kid is trapped in high school and no matter what he does, he can’t escape. The original script was much more about him having to confront the bully, and I added ”Well, what if he tried everything he could think of to get kicked out.” The ticking clock and the trapped hero were what I brought to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH. I also tried to make it much more of a black comedy as opposed to a straight-ahead teen comedy.” – director Phil Joanou, from an interview with Money Into Light

Shot on location in Ogden, Utah over 33 days, Three O’Clock High failed to make back its $6 million budget while in theaters. It’s developed a bit of a cult following over the years – culminating in a Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory – and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Roger Ebert, however, was not a fan of the stylishly shot movie, awarding Three O’ Clock High one star and condemning it as an extension of Reagan era American machismo.

Hollywood teenage movies have been edging toward fascism for years. There once may have been a time when nice kids got ahead by being nice, but in today’s Hollywood, muscle and brute strength count for everything. – Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun-Times

 

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Year2018
Decade2010s
CinematographerBruno Delbonnel (imdb link)
DirectorThe Coen Brothers
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorNetflix
GenreWestern
Format – Digital
Camera
Arri Alexa Studio XT and Arri Alexa Mini (shot in 3.4K Open Gate ArriRaw)
LensesArri/Zeiss Master Primes and Arri Alura zooms (15.5-45mm, 30-80mm)

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel on his preferred focal lengths…
“I’m a big fan of wide lenses – I don’t like long lenses so for me a 32mm or 40mm is a long lens already. On Inside Llewyn Davis we shot almost everything with a 27mm. And the same here on Buster Scruggs – 70% of it is with a 27mm.” – from Variety

Categories
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Wide Shots
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Close-Ups
Western Showdown
Vanishing Point Perspective
Color – Blue
Three Shot
Dusk
Day Exteriors
Stagecoach

The Movie

“I don’t hate my fellow man, even when he’s tiresome, surly, and tries to cheat at poker. I figure that’s just the human material. And him that finds in it cause for anger and dismay is just a fool for expecting better.” – the titular gunslinger Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) on his wanted poster nickname “The Misanthrope”

The Coen Brothers check off a pair of milestones – their first film shot digitally and their first intended primarily as a streaming experience – with this six part Western anthology that twists familiar genre archetypes including the wagon train, the bank robber, the prospector, and the gunslinger. The Coen’s subtext is often inscrutable and you’ll never catch them directly talking about the meaning of their work – even the film’s production designer says he wasn’t sure if the stagecoach passengers in the film’s final chapter are alive or dead. But mortality seems to be the brothers’ primary preoccupation here. One of the stagecoach passengers in the final segment – half of a bounty hunting duo – describes his role as distracting his targets with stories before his partner thumps them. Perhaps that’s the Coen’s way of defining their own role as storytellers – life can be cruel and its sense of humor ironic and all we can do is distract ourselves with tales until the reaper thumps us.

Joel Coen on his first streaming-centric release…
“We came into the business at a time when ancillary markets, which were essentially home video markets, were really responsible for the fact that we were able to get our movies financed. Sometimes, that was the principle way our movies were seen. So if you look at The Big Lebowski, it did a reasonable amount of box office but it did a phenomenal amount of DVDs. People primarily saw that movie on their television sets. For us to get too precious about it would be a little bit strange.”from the Washington Post

The Coen Brothers on shooting digitally for the first time…
“There’s so much latitude in what you’re capturing, you can make it look like pretty much anything later in terms of contrast, in terms of color, in terms of pretty much everything…You’re sort of deferring decisions about how it’s going to look until later because when you capture it on film, it’s actually in the grain of the negative…And when you’re capturing it digitally, you’re just sort of recording pixels, all of which are negotiable later.”from NPR

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Sweet Virginia (2017)

Year2017
Decade2010s
CinematographerJessica Lee Gagné (imdb link)
Director – Jamie M. Dagg
Aspect Ratio2.39
DistributorIFC Films
GenreNeo Noir
CameraArri Alexa Mini
LensesPanavision Primos
FormatDigital

Categories
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Dawn                             Car Shots                         Diners                                  Hotels
Low Key Lighting       Long Takes                      Mirrors/Reflections         Frames Within Frames
Silhouettes                   Full Shots                        Establishing Shots           Foreground/Background

The Movie
A triple homicide in a remote Alaskan town brings together a former rodeo champion (Jon Bernthal) and a violent drifter (Christopher Abbott) in this moodily photographed neo-noir. Though set in Alaska, the film was shot largely in Hope, British Columbia – the same location as Rambo’s inaugural outing First Blood (1982). Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Maniac (2018)

Year2018
Decade2010s
CinematographerDarren Lew (imdb link)
DirectorCary Joji Fukunaga (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio2.39
DistributorNetflix
GenreDrama, Sci-Fi
CameraPanavision Millennium DXL (optics by Panavision, color science by Light Iron, 8K large format sensor by Red)
LensesPanavision AnamorphicsC Series, E Series and T Series
FormatDigital

Categories
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Shot/Reverse Shot            Color                             Profile                             Low Contrast
Center Framing                  Lens Flare                    Diners                             Courtroom
Elevators                              Wide Angle Lens         Establishing Shots      Hotels
Iris                                        Office                             Frame Within Frames
Inserts                                  Bench                            Shafts of Light             Foreground/Background
Car Wreck                            Long Takes

The Show
Two participants in a pharmaceutical trial (Emma Stone, Johan Hill) find themselves intertwined in the trial’s therapuutic series of drug-induced delusions. Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame: The Deuce – Season 1 (2017)

Year2017
Decade2010s
Cinematographers – Vanja Cernjul, Pepe Avila del Pino (pilot)
Director – various
Aspect Ratio1.78
DistributorHBO
GenreDrama; Period (1970s)
Camera – Panasonic VariCam35, Arri Alexa (pilot only)
Lenses –  SphericalPanavision PVintage; Panavision Primos (pilot only)
FormatDigital; Shot in V-Log in HD (1920×1080) resolution with ProRes 4444 compression

Categories
Night Exteriors           Car Shots                       Frames Within Frames     Bars
Silhouettes                   Wide Shots                    Full Shots                            High Angle
Title Cards                   Mirrors                           Shafts of Light
Mercury Vapor Streetlights                              Sodium Vapor Streetlights

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The Show
The legalization of pornography alters the lives of the denizens of New York’s seedy 42nd Street circa 1971. Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Year1968
Decade1960s
CinematographerGeorge Romero
DirectorGeorge Romero
Aspect Ratio1.37
GenreHorror, Zombie
Camera – Arri 35 IIC (More on the Arri 35 II series of cameras)
Format35mm; Black and White
Production Info – Budget of $114,000 and shot in 30 days, which were spread out over seven months as Romero took breaks to tend to his Pittsburgh commercial production company
Key Words – Close-Ups

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The Movie
A group of bickering survivors hole up in an isolated farmhouse besieged by the undead in George Romero’s immeasurably influential Night of the Living Dead. The film redefined not only the zombie movie but the horror genre itself, drawing a clear line of demarcation between the genre’s history of gothic monsters and enlarged radioactive creatures and the more angry, violent and transgressive contemporary horror of the 1970s. In commemoration of Night of the Living Dead’s 50th anniversary, I’m looking back at some of my favorite frames from Romero’s directorial debut. Continue Reading ›