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
Categories
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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.



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Frame by Frame – Bad Boys (1995)

Year1995
Decade1990s
CinematographerHoward Atherton (imdb link)
DirectorMichael Bay
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorColumbia
GenreAction
Cameras – Panavision Panaflex
LensesPanavision Primo (spherical)
Format35mm Film
CategoriesColor-Blue; High and Low Angles; Shafts of Light; Close-Ups; Firearms
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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.


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Frame by Frame: The Dark Crystal (1982)

Year1982
Decade1980s
Cinematographer  Oswald Morris (IMDB link)
DirectorJim Henson, Frank Oz
Aspect Ratio2.40
DistributorUniversal
GenreFantasy
Cameras – Panaflex
Lenses  Anamorphic
Format  35mm
Schedule – Principal photography began on April 15th, 1981 and wrapped on September 11th, 1981. The film was shot at EMI Elstree Studios near London.

The Movie
A pair of elf-like creatures on the planet Thra embark on a quest to repair the titular gem – and thus end the reign of a species of revolting reptile/bird hybrids called the Skeksis. Jim Henson’s all-puppet extravaganza was a modest hit during the Christmas season of 1982, but was overshadowed by the blockbuster success of E.T. earlier that year. However, the film became a home video favorite for a generation of kids – myself included – who were equal parts terrified and enthralled by The Dark Crystal, which was significantly more frightening than unsuspecting parents anticipated from the creator of The Muppets.
The film was the swan song of three-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Oswald Morris, who shot the movie back-to-back with Henson’s The Great Muppet Caper and then hung up his light meter.

Further Reading
Starlog, April 1983 issue (Download)
American Cinematographer, December (1982) (Download)
Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
The Making of the Dark Crystal 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

 

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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 ›

Frame by Frame: The Stepfather (1987)

Year1987
Decade1980s
CinematographerJohn Lindley (imdb link)
DirectorJoseph Ruben (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio1.85
GenreHorror
LensesSpherical
Format35mm

Key Words
Shot-by-Shot Scene Breakdowns                    Camera Moves

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The Movie
A seemingly bland suburban realtor (Terry O’Quinn) marries into a widowed family and reacts violently when the clan doesn’t live up to his ideal of family values.

A link has frequently been drawn between the violence in the horror films of the 1980s – particularly the slasher flicks of the era – and the decade’s shift toward moral conservatism. When characters flaunted the tenants of the religious right that flourished under Reagan, their demise was swift. Have sex and you die. Take drugs and you die. Joseph Ruben’s clever low-budget thriller The Stepfather is one of the few films to intentionally and explicitly make that connection, presenting a portrait of unhinged patriarchy raging against the white middle class male’s dwindling influence that still feels relevant 30 years later.

Check out the movie while it’s streaming on Amazon Prime.
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Frame by Frame: Friday the 13th (1980)

Year1980
Decade1980s
CinematographerBarry Abrams (imdb link)
DirectorSean S. Cunningham (imdb link)
Make-Up Effects – Tom Savini (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio
 – 1.85
DistributorParamount
GenreHorror, Slasher
LensesSpherical
Format35mm
Other Key Words
Point of View
Shot-by-Shot Scene Breakdowns

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