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Is your favorite film the one with the best cinematography?


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#1 Mei Lewis

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 03:34 PM

There are many threads here asking about the best (your favorite) cinematography in a film, but I was wondering if that goes hand in hand with the best film.
Is how a film looks the most important thing?

Does anyone here have a favorite film that looks bad?

This was prompted by listening to a podcast about screenwriting where story was said to be the most important thing, and if the story isn't good nor is the film. I disagree. I think story is just one elemnt and other things can make up for a bad story.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:52 PM

I'd not say it looks bad, but my favorite was Jurassic Park, because I saw it when I was 10, and man, was that a damned impressive and amazing thing to see which had me clamoring to be a paleontologist for a long while, before I realized I was much happier shooting photos.
Such a fantastic film and honestly, I know every line of it front to back.

Another would be Wrath of Khan. Again, not the best looking of films, but not shabby either. And again something I just thoroughly enjoyed.

Story isn't everything-- but it's a big thing and a big starting point. I'd say the better the story the more likely everything else will align and produce a great film. In the case of my two things, well Jurassic Park was just mind-blowing to my 10 year old head, and I admit, I am still blown away by it's FXs and the overall idea of the film-- and how much I wish it were true.

For Wrath of Khan, there's some big logic problems which when I think about them bother the hell out of me. But, when watching it, i'm so enjoying it that I don't notice.
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#3 Freya Black

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:22 AM

Does anyone here have a favorite film that looks bad?

This was prompted by listening to a podcast about screenwriting where story was said to be the most important thing, and if the story isn't good nor is the film. I disagree. I think story is just one elemnt and other things can make up for a bad story.



It's a popular meme that it is all about the story, and really that's just nonsense.
Alice in Wonderland for instance is a completely rubbish story which ends "I woke up and it was all a dream" or more or less, (sorry to ruin the ending if you didn't know!) but it's also a really wonderful book because it's not about the story at all but about the world and about building a world and the characters within it.

Another example, and this may really upset people, but "Game Of Thrones" is also not really about the story so much either I would argue. I mean what exactly is the story? It may come across better in the books but mostly there doesn't seem that much to the story except a bunch of people vying for the throne. It's got bits of story like most other soap operas do, but it's essentially about the characters. I'm convinced that people love the series because they can relate to the characters either personally or as the kind of people that they run into in real life. Make of that what you will.

As to my favourite film, it's still Todd Brownings "Freaks". (No surprises there then) which does look great visually but isn't my favourite film visually which might be something like The Color of Pomegranates / Sayat Nova or Lucifer Rising or Inauguration of the pleasure dome or Eraserhead which are all towards the very top of my list.

There are films that have no real narrative at all but are really beautiful and I love these films a lot.


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#4 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:54 AM

It's a popular meme that it is all about the story, and really that's just nonsense.
Alice in Wonderland for instance is a completely rubbish story which ends "I woke up and it was all a dream" or more or less, (sorry to ruin the ending if you didn't know!) but it's also a really wonderful book because it's not about the story at all but about the world and about building a world and the characters within it.

Another example, and this may really upset people, but "Game Of Thrones" is also not really about the story so much either I would argue. I mean what exactly is the story? It may come across better in the books but mostly there doesn't seem that much to the story except a bunch of people vying for the throne. It's got bits of story like most other soap operas do, but it's essentially about the characters. I'm convinced that people love the series because they can relate to the characters either personally or as the kind of people that they run into in real life. Make of that what you will.

As to my favourite film, it's still Todd Brownings "Freaks". (No surprises there then) which does look great visually but isn't my favourite film visually which might be something like The Color of Pomegranates / Sayat Nova or Lucifer Rising or Inauguration of the pleasure dome or Eraserhead which are all towards the very top of my list.

There are films that have no real narrative at all but are really beautiful and I love these films a lot.


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I agree that there are films without story that are worth watching, but they do have something that'll hook you in. At least with Game of Thrones, they've created this epic world, it's so vast and rules are constantly being set. One of the biggest things with that series is right at the beginning they show those White Walkers and until I think around 2 seasons later, you just barely get this glimpse of them. It's that whole element of mystery that's placed so well.

I've made a short without a story and although I don't mind how it looked and sounded, the story was a letdown cause there was none and there was no script either. It was more or less just technical practise for me, but it taught me a lot about what draws people into watching a movie and that plot/story has very little to do with that. I think you're right with the characters being given some interesting value to relate to them or make them watchable, but there's also elements of storytelling that can be used without a plot, like drama and mystery. Plot doesn't always mean that much to me.

The last and perhaps the most important thing of all in a movie, is emotion. The emotions of what's going on, how it plays as a whole. When you see people's reactions to their favourite movies, they look back on how it makes them feel and the ones that are most successful tap into very universal feelings. Titanic is a prime example.

I'm gonna think about the question though and see if I like any films that have pretty boring or mundane cinematography, but I think with most all-round good movies, the cinematography tends to be pretty decent to watch so I can't really complain.
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#5 Tom Jensen

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:00 AM

Story is probably one of the most important elements in a film. The cinematography supplements the story. I liked She's Gotta Have from Spike Lee. Technically the movie has many flaws associated with low budget film making. Once a story goes south for me, I start to look at all the other flaws and lose interest. But, if the story is good, I become more involved and try not imagine 50 people running around behind the camera trying to be quiet. With a bad story and great cinematography, you have very little. Ever notice how Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards is usually a movie with a great story?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 11:55 AM

There are some good movies where the cinematography is nothing special... "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" comes to mind, decent movie but one of the weakest photographically compared to other John Ford movies, mainly because of its small budget.

I was just scouting in a van this morning when everyone suddenly was quoting big chunks of "Spinal Tap", a movie where the photography was completely appropriate but not something I'm going to study in depth.

I can't think of a great movie with bad photography but there are plenty with average photography.
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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:03 PM

Ever notice how Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards is usually a movie with a great story?


But not always... Didn't Avatar win not too long ago... a movie with neither great cinematography or a great story. What can you say really? Don't think the Academy Awards stand up to too much scrutiny.

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#8 Tom Jensen

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:55 PM

But not always... Didn't Avatar win not too long ago... a movie with neither great cinematography or a great story. What can you say really? Don't think the Academy Awards stand up to too much scrutiny.

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AHA! remember my stance on using words like always and never? Either way, it was nominated for nine academy awards and that was my point. There were better shot movies and I think it won for the novelty aspect. I wouldn't call it a bad movie. I'm just saying bad movies don't usually get the nod for best cinematography. But a great movie with ok cinematography can get nominated for other things like best screenplay and best picture and best director. (Looking back I did say great story and surprised even myself with such a superlative as "great." I should have said good and left myself the out.)

Edited by Tom Jensen, 11 July 2012 - 04:57 PM.

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#9 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:10 PM

I started reading this epic collection of every Stanley Kubrick article and interview published and Kubrick often mentions Chaplin movies being all substance and no style and he talks about them being remembered a lot longer than most other movies.

http://kubrickfilms....d.com/id89.html

He talks a lot about story as well, a lot about things that are interesting to watch. I've heard that he would just rehearse a scene for a week before shooting a single thing, it would be one hell of a tiring life to be an assistant on one of his movies.
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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:44 PM

The best movie with the worst photography I can think of is "Christmas on Mars"(2008) followed closely by "Dark Star"(1974) although "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!"(1965) and "The Little Shop of Horrors"(1960) are RIGHT THERE. I'll post more as I remember them. Ultra low budgets tend to breed bad cinematography but not necessarily bad movies. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 July 2012 - 11:46 PM.

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