Picking the best new lensers

Posted by · 8:44 am · August 24th, 2010

As you know, we at InContention are dedicated to spotlighting below-the-line talent, so this excellent cinematography-themed piece at The Playlist caught my eye — in it, Oli Lyttelton singles out five individuals that he feels are spearheading an exciting new generation of DPs, breaking down their past achievements and future promise in some detail.

The focus on newer names is both refreshing and necessary, given how awards voters can be resistant to outstanding work from comparatively untested talents. Of the five worthy names he puts forth, three — Greig Fraser (“Bright Star”), Eduard Grau (“A Single Man”) and Adriano Goldman (“Sin Nombre”) — arguably deserved awards traction in the 2009 season than they eventually got, while two — Robbie Ryan (“Fish Tank”) and Michael McDonough (“Winter’s Bone”) — seem destined to be similarly slighted this year, given their low profile and the gritty unprettiness of their projects.

I’d happily co-sign Lyttelton’s endorsement in all five cases, particularly Fraser (whom we interviewed back in February, and who placed high on my personal cinematography ballot for 2009) and Ryan, whose fluid, woozy handheld camerawork on Andrea Arnold’s sophomore feature still leads my list of Oscar-eligible work this year. I sympathize with those who found Grau’s breakout work in “A Single Man” too fussy, but it’s skilfully attuned to Tom Ford’s visual sensibility; the 28 year-old Spaniard also provides the most valuable contribution to negligible Britpic “Kicks,” and is said to have a strong showcase in the upcoming Sundance-stamped thriller “Buried.”

Here’s Lyttelton on the unusual process behind Robbie Ryan’s shooting of “Fish Tank”:

“Fish Tank” is arguably Ryan’s most visually striking work to date, and deservedly landed Ryan a BIFA nomination for the cinematography. Unusually, the film is in a 4:3 aspect ratio (or, if we’re being anal, a 1.33:1 Academy ratio), an initially distancing move which ends up being hugely engaging. Chasing an extreme form of naturalism, Arnold and Ryan’s plan was originally to shoot entirely photochemically, without any digital post-production. As it turned out, however, almost no theaters are equipped to project in the format, and they had to digitally reduce the frame in post. You wouldn’t tell from the finished product however, which featured some of the most indelible images of the year.

Lyttelton closes out the piece with a scattering of well-chosen honorable mentions, though I’m surprised to see none for such notable talents as Andrij Parekh (“Sugar,” “Blue Valentine”), Sean Bobbitt (“Hunger”) and British up-and-comer Philipp Blaubach, whose startling, resourceful lensing of the recent thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed” is chiefly responsible for what clammy tension the film generates. What new (or as-yet-unsung) cinematographers have grabbed your attention?

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11 responses so far

  • 1 8-24-2010 at 9:14 am

    Tye-Grr said...

    Fraser and Grau did amazing work on ‘Bright Star’ and ‘A Single Man’, respectively. I thought for sure atleast Fraser would score his first Oscar nom for ‘Bright Star’, which was one of the best lensed films of last year, IMHO. I doubt he’ll get in this year for ‘Let Me In’, but ya never know! His work looks promising though. I also liked Dan Mindel’s work in ‘Star Trek’, from the glossy shine of the U.S.S. Enterprise scenes, to the sewage green hues of the Romulan ship, and the enhanced lighting of the final scenes on Vulcan as the drill eats at the planet’s core; good stuff.

  • 2 8-24-2010 at 11:47 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Big ups to my buddy James Laxton for getting mentioned in the piece too!

  • 3 8-24-2010 at 11:51 am

    Xavier said...

    Since you like “spotlighting below-the-line talent,” this link of eight burgeoning young actresses may be of interest – http://fashionindie.com/refreshing-hollywood-starlets/

  • 4 8-24-2010 at 12:22 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Thanks for the link, Xavier, but I think you might be confused on the definition of “below-the-line”:


  • 5 8-24-2010 at 2:28 pm

    JJ said...

    Funny, my #1 and #2 for cinematography last year WAS ‘Bright Star’ and ‘A Single Man’. Beautiful, beautiful work which aided the stories.

  • 6 8-24-2010 at 3:40 pm

    Lance McCallion said...

    Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – “Syndromes and a Century,” “A Letter to Uncle Boonmee,” “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”

  • 7 8-24-2010 at 4:53 pm

    timr said...

    Great little mention for Philipp Blaubach. I’ve been on to that guy for a while. Before Creed, his work on Hush was amazing, given the circumstances…

  • 8 8-24-2010 at 4:54 pm

    Sarah El said...

    My thoughts exactly, JJ. Between the cinematography, art direction, costuming, and so on and so forth in both Bright Star and A Single Man, they were two of my visual favorite movies last year (though they were also just good movies above the line as well).

  • 9 8-24-2010 at 4:54 pm

    timr said...

    …and he did an excellent job on The Escapist as well.

  • 10 8-24-2010 at 11:46 pm

    Glenn said...

    Greig Fraser also did very fine work on “The Boys Are Back” and “Last Ride”, two films not many people will have seen.

  • 11 8-25-2010 at 3:56 pm

    John said...

    Maxime Alexander (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, P2, The Crazies)
    OK, so his taste in scripts may not match the Academy’s, but this guy can shoot terrifying like nobody’s business. In P2, he shot an entire film in a parking garage, often using Christmas lights to bring color to anotherwise dark film. But his other three movies managed to be utterly terrifying in BROAD DAYLIGHT