Erick Lee, a young cinematographer, has edited and posted on Vimeo a very enjoyable compilation of his favourite moments of widescreen cinematography from this century.
While much of this is instantly recognisable, a few segments I failed to identify, even on the second or third viewing. See how many you can name before the credits roll at the four minutes and fifty second mark.
Most film buffs will expect well-known names like Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men), John Toll (Cloud Atlas), Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) and Chris Doyle (2046) to be up there, and indeed they are, though some of their best work is excluded.
The clip starts with Emmanuel Luzbecki’s beaut space images from Gravity, but his excellent work on Tree of Life (watch it in full) is absent. Delbonnel gets several glowing moments from Amelie, but none of his gorgeously chilly shots from Inside Llewyn Davis make the cut. There’s also a disappointing lack of black and white imagery, a rare format these days but one worth celebrating on occasion. Witness Phedon Papamichael’s crisp work on Nebraska.
Still, at least some of the exclusions are explained by the fact that Lee only used movies shot in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, which as he points out, meant leaving out what he considered some of the best photographed films of the last 14 years, including Children of Men (Lubezki), Prisoners (Roger Deakins), Hugo (Robert Richardson) and Only God Forgives (Larry Smith). Others notable omissions, such as Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda), might be a victim of the increasing overlap of cinematography, digital colour grading and computer generated imagery. This creates confusion, at least to audience, over who did exactly what.
Still, what’s there amounts to a rich array of imagery that draws attention to some of the impressive cinematographers working, including some not so widely known - at least outside of industry circles. It also serves as a reminder that some films with low box office or critical profiles can nonetheless be ravishing to gaze upon.