24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki wins top cinematographers honor

February 13, 2012 | 10:30 am

Emmanuel Lubezski, won the American Society of Cinematographers' outstanding achievement award in feature film for "The Tree of Life"

Emmanuel Lubezski, who has already earned a lion's share of honors this season for his cinematography on Terrence Malick's family epic, "The Tree of Life," added another accolade Sunday evening when he won the American Society of Cinematographers' outstanding achievement award in feature film.

Others nominated were Guillaume Schiffman for "The Artist," Jeff Cronenweth for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," Robert Richardson for "Hugo" and Hoyte van Hoytema for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

It was the second ASC award for Lubezki. He previously won five years ago for "Children of Men."

In the one-hour episodic TV category, Jonathan Freeman won his second ASC award in a row for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," while Michael Weaver was the recipient of the first half-hour TV episodic award for Showtime's "Californication." Martin Ruhe won in the TV movie/miniseries category for PBS' "Page Eight."

Special honors were also handed out at the 26th ASC Awards, presented during a ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland: Harrison Ford received the ASC Board of Governors Award; the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Dante Spinotti ("Manhunter," "L.A. Confidential"); William Wages ("Riders of the Purple Sage") was given the Career Achievement in Television Award; and the ASC Presidents Award was bestowed on Francis Kenny ("Heathers").


It was "all or nothing"

Movie preview: "The Tree of Life"

-- Susan King

Photo: A scene from "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merie Wallace / Fox

'The Artist,' 'The Tree of Life' among ASC cinematography nominees

January 11, 2012 |  8:37 am


Robert Richardson received his 10th nomination Wednesday morning for the American Society of Cinematographers feature film award for "Hugo." Among his previous nominations were 1989's "Born on the Fourth of July" and 1994's "The Aviator."

Jeff Cronenweth, who was nominated last year for the ASC Award for "The Social Network," earned another nod for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." And Emmanuel Lubezki, who has already won numerous critical honors for "The Tree of Life," picked up his third ASC nomination for the Terrence Malick epic. He won the award five years ago for "Children of Men."

Rounding out the nominees are two newcomers: Guillaume Schiffman for "The Artist" and Hoyte van Hoytema for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

The 26th annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards will be given out Feb. 12 at a ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.


'Inception's' Wally Pfister wins the American Society of Cinematographer's Top Film Award

 -- Susan King

Photo: Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox

SXSW 2011: The inside-out world of doc winner 'Dragonslayer'

March 17, 2011 |  1:29 pm


With a mix of footage from Flip cams and a Canon 5D still camera -- moving between home-movie immediacy and more artfully considered portraiture -- the documentary "Dragonslayer" creates a full sense of the interior world of Josh "Screech" Sandoval, a twentysomething skateboarder in Fullerton. In many ways, the film takes its stylistic cues from the wild unpredictability and inexplicable wiggling grace of Sandoval's manic skating style.

"Dragonslayer" was directed by Tristan Patterson and executive-produced by Christine Vachon, who got involved during post-production. It features a soundtrack of alternately roaring and dreamy contemporary rock music mostly from the hip indie labels Mexican Summer and Kemado Records. The film nevertheless came into the South by Southwest film festival for its world premiere with neither a sales agent nor outside publicist, an increasing rarity even at this DIY-oriented event. Playing as part of the documentary competition, "Dragonslayer" won the top prize of Best Documentary Feature as well as Best Cinematography. (Full disclosure: This journalist was a member of the three-person jury that decided those awards.)

The film is the first feature directed by Patterson, a 35-year-old screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles and had its origins on a Friday night in spring 2009 when Patterson went with a friend to a house party in Chino to see a band play. There he met Sandoval and was immediately taken by his reckless energy and relentlessly upbeat disposition. About a week later, Patterson met Sandoval again and began filming just a few days after that.

"I'm a writer, so I wasn't looking for a subject," said Patterson in an interview over Bloody Marys on an Austin, Texas, patio Wednesday afternoon. "And I definitely wasn't looking to make a documentary at all. I was really hungry to film. I'd spent years writing screenplays, all different kinds, and nothing was getting made. This, I thought I was going to make a 15-minute experimental art film that I would show in a gallery if I was really lucky.

"A lot of the things I've liked creatively have always been in the past. So I was so charged up when I thought I'd found something that was happening in the present." 

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'Tree of Life' cinematographer: 'It was like no set I ever worked on'

January 14, 2011 |  7:00 am


It's not many film productions that consult with NASA as they're shooting. But then, not many film productions have Terrence Malick for a director.

As cinematographer Emanuel "Chivo" Lubezki tells it, the shoot for Malick's coming-of-age epic "The Tree of Life," starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, pretty much made up its own rules as it went along. Then it broke those too. "Once you think you got the formula, you realized there is no formula," Chivo told 24 Frames in an interview. "It's like no set I ever worked on."

There are plenty of reasons why that's true. Besides the NASA factor -- Malick consulted with the space agency for footage of the cosmos and other grand imagery he used in the film -- there was the fact that he didn't shoot actors in a conventional way. Or, sometimes, at all.

Though most movies use what's known as "coverage" -- cameras stationed in different places, with the idea of conveying a scene as you might experience it in real life -- "Tree of Life" eschewed those conventions.

"So the actors are performing the dialogue, but Terry isn't interested in dialogue. So they're talking, and we're shooting a reflection or we're shooting the wind or we're shooting the frame of the window, and then we finally pan to them when they finish the dialogue," Chivo recalled.

The movie, which comes out in May, aims to tell of a spiritual journey using a sense of place, a long span of time and a set of striking elemental images -- and, oh yes, also is partly based on Malick's own life. (An exclusive image from the film is above.) The idea, say those who worked on it, was not so much to tell a story but to create a feeling.

"Photography is not used to illustrate dialogue or a performance," Chivo said." "We're using it to capture emotion so that the movie is very experiential. It's meant to trigger tons of memories, like a scent or a perfume." (More from the cinematographer in Sunday's Movie Preview issue.)

And how did the performers react to all this unconventionality -- like, say, the fact that Malick wasn't always interested in what they had to say? "I think they thought we were insane," Chivo said. "Sean is a director, and I'm sure he wondered 'Is this method something I want to learn or is it something I never want to repeat?' For Brad I think it took him a couple of days or a week to get into the spirit."

Dede Gardner, Pitt's producing partner and a producer on the film, said a sense of elastic possibility is essential in making a movie like this as well as watching it. "One of the things you learn when you work with Terry is there isn't one interpretation," she said. "Life's experience is individualized, so why shouldn't a film be?"

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: The latest image from "The Tree of Life." Credit: 20th Century Fox


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