My Favourite Shots from the 2010s

It may seem obvious but film, at its core, is a visual medium and the relationship between what’s in the frame and what’s out of the frame. Over the last decade, a couple of shots stood out to me and I thought I’d share it alongside commentary from the artists behind the camera.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

“In the lobby of the hotel, which was a sort of a department store that Wes found in Görlitz, Germany. It was no longer being used and it had this beautiful skylight. And Wes knew if we went to an existing hotel, we really couldn’t control it the way we wanted. He wanted to paint it and very much control the art direction. When you shoot in a real hotel, there are always restrictions. He wanted a place that he could convert to his hotel. So when he found this department store, he said “this is the place.” The same lobby of that department store became our lobby and for the ’60s portion of it, Adam Stockhausen, our production designer built a giant drop ceiling, a fluorescent ceiling, which the Communists frequently did at that time. They took out the beautiful lights and put in overhead fluorescent lights, so that kind of ruled our aesthetic in the ’60s quite a bit, particularly in the lobby. Then when we switched to the ’30s part of the film, it was a much more romantic time, much more beautiful. So we pulled that fake ceiling off the lobby and lit through the skylight which gave it a very soft kind of ambience and then we had a lot of practical lights in the background that were very warm and it gave kind of a nice glow that made the place seem much more inviting. It was certainly a different feeling for the two time periods, for sure.” — Robert Yeoman via Indiewire

Moonlight (2016)

“Cinema is a little over 100 years old, and a lot of what we do is built around film emulsion. Those things were calibrated for white skin. We’ve always placed powder on skin to dull the light. But my memory of growing up in Miami is this moist, beautiful black skin. So we used oil. I wanted everyone’s skin to have a sheen to reflect my memory…hat pink light behind her in that scene and within the film generally helps to express another side of her,” says Laxton. “I think the color pink can have a lot of associations but I think one of them can be beauty. On set it rounded out this character in this moment that is very dark and very intense. She’s yelling at her son. But it allowed us to understand that she’s a whole character as well.” — James Laxton via Time

Master of None (2016)

“When we started the show, we were very into ’70s American films. The show creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang met each other on Parks and Recreation, and that show had a very hand-held, documentary-style look. They wanted to do something different for Master of None. James Ponsoldt was the director of the pilot. The four of us got together and wanted to do this ’70s wide-screen style. We looked at a lot of Robert Altman movies and Hal Ashby movies. We wanted to settle the camera down a little bit more, use a wider frame so you can have more actors in the frame at the same time, cut a little bit less, and use longer takes. And yet, find a way for the camera not to be boring, to have a little dynamism to it. That is what informed most of our choices.” — Marc Schwarzbard via Sound and Picture

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

“The film is all about nature, so the color palette is so wide. I accepted everything, whatever was in nature. I didn’t force it to be anything. Of course, there’s the color palette of the costumes and the set, which involves a lot of people, also. This is another type of observation that I have to do.” Soyombhu Mukdeeprom via Deadline

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

“I thought it would be interesting if the interiors of this huge, monolithic building always had the feeling of moving sunlight. Some of those sets were very severe, just square walls with no windows or obvious light sources, so I looked for different ways to bring patterns of moving light into them. One architectural reference we liked used water as a ceiling piece to create a caustic light effect; we took that idea and embellished it. Two scenes in Wallace’s office — which is basically a platform surrounded by water in this big concrete box — were probably the most complicated bits of lighting.” — Roger Deakins via ASC

Carol (2015)

“You’re seeing something that’s hidden, but it’s also, for Carol and for Therese, to convey what’s hidden on the surface of things. Through these layers, the camera is kind of dealing with this isolation. It’s something hidden but that you’re fracturing the world. And our approach was to look at ways to incorporate a subjective viewpoint. In a film there’s kind of a silence and moments of suspension. And this layering of the images becomes kind of a subtext for their emotional states. They’re encapsulated in these cars where we see them from the outside and the reflection on the cars are what’s — let’s say what the forces are outside of them. But what we see through the car also affects how we feel about who they are and their entrapment.” — Edward Latchman via Variety

Her (2013)

“[Production designer] K.K. Barrett brought in a book by the Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, whose work is mainly large [6×6] format. The images are pristine moments from everyday life — serene, feminine, and quite soulful. As the movie progressed, we did add more color and more clearly designed elements. But the overall theme was a future that was soft and intimate.” — Hoyte van Hoytema via No Film School

Skyfall (2012)

“Originally, it was talked about shooting that on location in Shanghai, because we were actually going to do a lot of shooting in Shanghai. That got whittled down, so we didn’t do much there. To shoot it on location would have been such a restriction. We talked about the big billboard advertisements, so we thought it’d be really great to use that and to make it about reflections. Obviously it’s in an office building with glass, but they’re mirrors in a different way. That’s how that evolved…think you want a clear idea of what you want to put the audience in. If you shoot with a billion cameras, then there’s no perspective. You want to use one shot at a time, so it’s better to discover what that is before you shoot, rather than trying to make something in the cutting room, and then it just becomes generic. You just shoot a lot of coverage. We very much wanted to center it around the characters and be with the character ‐ and with Bond in particular — to see what was unfolding.” — Roger Deakins via No Film School

La La Land (2016)

““What we took from those musicals a lot, visually, was the aesthetics of old Hollywood,” he says. “I think what we really aimed for was to try to achieve that technicolor look in camera. And Hollywood, for us, was also a very anamorphic medium, with films from the fifties like a Star is Born and wide-screening format in 2.55:1 CinemaScope. That was more important to us than more well-known musicals, like, Singing in the Rain, which is actually a 4:3 aspect ratio.” — Linus Sandgren via Chimera Lighting

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

“[It’s in] association with those classic romantic films of the ’40s and puts these two young African-American people in that moment,” said Laxton. “That convergence of history, or what was happening with race relations in the 1970s, mixing that with classical Hollywood of the ’40s is a powerful statement, a powerful message and a powerful image. When I see it, and I hope when audiences see it, there’s a real sense of strength or how powerful love can be.” — James Laxton via Indiewire

Sicario (2015)

“The whole part where Emily Blunt is crossing the Mexican border with the FBI to go look for the dealer who is incarcerated there was very important to me. I had to show on the screen the third-world chaos that was Juarez back, with all of its urban violence. Transposing the seething, colourful, almost suffocating aspect of the city, whilst contrasting it with the completely desert landscape of the American side… There, again, Alex Webb helped me to transcribe that sensation. You know, when I was a younger man, I remember that I was much more attracted to photography than to the cinema. That is also where I get my admiration for the work of photographers and their liberty…” — Roger Deakins via AFC

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant is a story about trappers, pioneers in a huge, harsh landscape. We both wanted to make it in the wild, with no stages or bluescreen, no Burbank methodology. We wanted a strong, visceral, immersive and naturalistic experience for the audience — not just to follow the journey of the central character, but to make it feel as if it was actually happening in front of their eyes. We wanted the audience to feel the sheer cold, to see the breath of the actors on the lens, and experience the powerful emotions in the story. We were also determined to shoot the movie in order of the story, which we did.” — Emmanuel Lubezki via British Cinematographer

Interstellar (2014)

“I have to say I love big format. I always loved medium format photography for instance. It’s exposing a bigger negative. It’s not only that the definition and color rendering is beautiful but also, it creates this very beautiful short depth of field. So it’s the most pristine format you can have but at the same time it’s so textured because of the way the lens is rendered on a negative that big. So getting the IMAX camera was very nice.” — Hoyte van Hoytema via Den of Geek

Brooklyn (2015)

”… I was influenced by Gordon Willis from The Godfather (1972). It is a romantic version of Gordon Willis lighting. And, he died the last day of the shoot when we were shooting under the bridge that he shot for Manhattan (1979)!” — Yves Belanger via Screenprism

Tree of Life (2011)

“We used real light, and the sun, wind and rain and other elements that came our way became part of the story. A very important theme in the movie is the constant passing of things, the changes and flow that are part of life. By not imposing yourself on nature, you are able to catch these very fleeting, ephemeral moments. That theme had a parallel in our approach to the filmmaking.” — Emmanuel Lubezki via British Cinematographer

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

“…Rian [Johnson, the director] is so visually strong and precisely authored. Like every shot is really meant to tell the story the best way possible. It’s never flashy visuals or just kind of clumsy catch-as-catch-can. But that said, I mean this movie, actually some of the very strongest stuff he didn’t plan as precisely. So it’s not to say that it’s clumsy, it’s more just like he’s confident now and rightly so, that he doesn’t have to plan micro-details as much because he knows that the absolute best version — you know if you plan with false precision, you’re going to be blind to some details that are going to become obvious when you see all the other details there.” — Steve Yedlin via Collider

Black Swan (2010)

“One of our early reference images came from our collaboration with Rodarte, the fashion designers who created the movie’s costumes. The image was a cube that was pristine on the outside, but had all of these spikes within it. That provided the central metaphor for the movie: a beautiful ballerina who’s holding this pain inside her. There was a yin-yang to the concept that’s reflected in the movie’s black-white chiaroscuro.” — Matthew Libatique via ASC

The Social Network (2010)

“[David Fischer, the director} likes symmetry — balanced compositions, strong lines, level frames, zero keystone effects. He favors [dolly] track and avoids cranes as much as possible. I believe there is only one handheld shot in the entire movie. David was so clear on what he wanted visually that camera placements and focal-length choices were easy to make.” — Jeff Cronenweth via ASC

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

“Anything with Max (Tom Hardy) hanging down on the truck or swinging around on the pole — the trucks aren’t moving, so we were able to shot it very safely, and the VFX made everything move. We also used massive wind machines, dust machines, to give the feeling that they were doing 80 kilometers an hour — anything we could think of it give the audience the feeling that they were actually moving.” — John Seale via Hollywood Reporter

Parasite (2019)

“It’s only a few minutes of the film, but Kyung [the cinematographer] and I put the most effort into that sequence when the film temporarily turns into a road movie. These were the only on-location scenes; most of the film was done on sets. The sequence looks like one connected path, but each was shot in a different location in Seoul, very far apart, and on different days. Each shot was complicated — shooting at night with the lighting, and setting up the rain. From a producer’s point of view, it was complicated, but our producer was supportive. Kyung and I love to shoot in the rain. But it wasn’t just about visual aesthetics; it was tied to the overall theme. In the film, everything is aligned vertically. Water only flows from top to bottom, from rich neighborhoods to poor ones, and it never flows the other way.” — Bong Joon Ho (Director) via Variety

Roma (2018)

“I would refrain from that classic, stylized look with long shadows and high contrast, and go into a more naturalistic black-and-white…I didn’t want to try to hide digital in a ‘cinematic’ look but rather explore a digital look and embrace the present…Every frame needs to have information in every single inch of it, meaning I want it to go into deep blacks but still have some detail, and I will go into highlights but still have detail,” — Alfonso Cuaron via Film School Rejects

Cold War (2018)

“In Poland, there was no color in those days, in those years. Everything was black and white,….The US, in the 50s and 60s, there was very strong colors. It was so vibrant. And Poland… it was completely… there was communism, you know. Everything was grey.” — Lukasz Zal via Film School Rejects

Film Lover. Squash Player. Economist. Currently in Hong Kong.

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