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Looking for bad examples of Cinematography in mainstream cinema

aesthetics

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#1 Jeremy Parsons

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Posted 12 March 2016 - 10:35 PM

I'm putting together a class session on Film Aesthetics and Style. I don't want to just cite GOOD examples. We're so used to seeing it done right, its hard to explain WHY it works.

In contrast to all the invisibly good work, I would like to cite examples of movies with BAD Cinematography, Set design, etc. Where students can actually see where things don't work and discuss why.

I don't want cite cult films because the earnest attempts that fail become an endearing aesthetic of itself. I also don't want to use student films (I may have to).

My instinct is to go to successful filmmakers' early works that aren't quite up to their current standard. Most of what I know of are pretty good (Reservoir Dogs, Croupier, The Duel, El Mariachi)

Can anyone suggest examples that just don't quite work?

 


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 12 March 2016 - 10:46 PM

There are many movies which are lit in dull, unimaginative, or generic ways, but the only movie I can think of that I've 'hated' the photography was American Psycho.


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#3 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 01:54 AM

My instinct is to go to successful filmmakers' early works that aren't quite up to their current standard.

 

That may not be the best approach.  I personally felt the photography in Reservoir Dogs was very subtle & effective compare to many of Tarantino's more recent collaborations with Robert Richardson.  And this is coming from someone who does not care for Tarantino's work in the first place.

 

Furthermore, aren't many filmmakers' earlier works very often not his or her bests?  You're talking about an aesthetic & technical journey that can take decades to reach.  It's an evolution - sometimes the artist is light-years ahead of the technology, sometime the other way around, sometime everything lines up just right.  Also, the first thing you need to do is define what you mean by "bad cinematography."  I can understand a student saying that, but that is far too broad a term for a teacher to be using. 

 

There are many movies which are lit in dull, unimaginative, or generic ways, but the only movie I can think of that I've 'hated' the photography was American Psycho.

 

There are plenty of films which have that kind of 2:1 lighting ratio, but I always thought the lighting design in American Psycho was an aesthetic choice, albeit perhaps not the best one.  Since the film has more of an ironic, almost tongue-in-cheek quality to it (as opposed to a David Fincher kind of atmosphere) I thought it was rather fitting.  The film almost goes out of its way to showcase the lighting like a visual cue - as if to point out the wolf in sheep's clothing to the unassuming public.


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#4 Jeff L'Heureux

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 02:39 AM

Even fans of the actual movie have been known to complain that Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, was a little too dark for its own good in the lighting department in some places.  Case in point:

 


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#5 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 10:18 AM

I actually thought the cinematography of "SPOTLIGHT" was extremely underwhelming.  Pretty bad actually.  Also, the camera operating was a bit shocking as well.

 

G


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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 10:55 AM

 I always thought the lighting design in American Psycho was an aesthetic choice, albeit perhaps not the best one.  

 

I guess you could say it was a choice, given that they hired a DP who was known for lighting in that way.  I was never a fan of his work, and everything I've ever read about him makes me think that his rather dogmatic approach to film stocks forced him into lighting decisions which were not necessarily the best choice.


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#7 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 12:08 AM

I quite like the style of American Psycho. It wasn't at all what I was expecting coming from the book. But the film had a look of its own, and I think it worked for what it was.

 

 

I actually thought the cinematography of "SPOTLIGHT" was extremely underwhelming.  Pretty bad actually.  Also, the camera operating was a bit shocking as well.

 

G

 

Agreed. I felt like I could feel references back to Willis' wonderful work on All The Presidents Men, and other newsroom dramas - but with far less engaging execution.

I'm sure they were going for something along the lines of 'evil lurking in plain sight' with the mundane, documentary-esque aesthetic they applied. But I don't think it really added enough to the film to justify the choice over other options.


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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 05:18 AM

Most of the truly average stuff I can think of is TV.

 

You could look at a number of British TV shows - things like Midsomer Murders - which are just incredibly flat and dull and fire-a-2K-into-the-ceiling. I mean no disrespect to the people who make them - well, not much - and it's mainly a time and money thing. These shows are production-lined into being, but they don't have to frame everything so... front-and-centre.

 

 

...and that's the good stuff. On the upside, the theme tune features a theremin, which is enough to save more or less anything in my estimation.

 

Or early Touch of Frost. It's so grainy you can see it on YouTube, and again, it looks like they blew it off in ten seconds under available light.

 

 

I am not a fan of police procedurals, but sheesh, that's boring to look at. It's also very old, now, but it was never a looker.

 

These may be soft targets, but hey - someone had to decide this was broadcastable.

 

P


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#9 Akos Baranya

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 05:37 AM

I was going to recommend TV stuff too. Something that really caught my eye recently was the first season of Elementary, lighting seems all over the place sometimes.  its a much bigger production than anything I have worked on, really don't mean any disrespect to the people making it.

 

I guess my watching it right after Jessica Jones and Daredevil didn't help.


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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:08 AM

I am not a fan of police procedurals, but sheesh, that's boring to look at. It's also very old, now, but it was never a looker.

 

These may be soft targets, but hey - someone had to decide this was broadcastable.

 

P

 

Someone had to decide this was broadcastable week after week after week!

 

I'm more forgiving of a touch of frost because it was made a long time ago when standards were even lower in British TV and it was even more of a closed shop than it is these days but that midsommer murders thing is beyond the beyond scary and it's recent! As for framing too much front and centre, you are being unbelievably kind. What the F**8 is going on with that framing?!! It's rare that one of the characters isn't cut off awkwardly at the edge of the screen throughout this. I saw about two nice shots but then I didn't watch it all as it appears to be 4 hours long. It's a mess. You would get more interesting results with that robot that Lars-Von Trier used to shoot a movie. You know when the U.S. TV series "Mr Robot" comes to the UK nobody is going to understand what all the fuss is about the non-conventional framing because everyone must be used to watching random sh**!

 

I now feel horrified I have said all that bad stuff about "Wolf Hall". Now I understand why it won all those awards here. Honestly top work chaps. I thought it looked quite crap but honestly I could tell you were making an effort and trying out some things that didn't work out so well. You know, apart from the DVD extras, which could have been shot better by the average 16 year old you tube celeb but yeah, mostly, I see how I was being unfair now.

 

I shouldn't have to point this out to you Phil but Midsommer murders was made by all3media the largest indie in the UK for the largest commercial broadcaster in the UK who these days have national coverage. They should and can do better than this. Maybe they just need to stop hiring their staff based on...


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#11 Freya Black

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:11 AM

Framing for midsommer murders:

 

"Do you have the actors sort of in the frame then?"

"Yeah we are good to go..."


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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:24 AM

A worthwhile and thoughtful contribution from the department of boiling vitriol, there.

 

And I thought I was a griper!

 

P


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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:32 AM

A worthwhile and thoughtful contribution from the department of boiling vitriol, there.

 

And I thought I was a griper!

 

P

 

 

It's not griping. It's anger.

There are huge numbers of people trying to get by on about $10 a day in the UK.


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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:39 AM

...and what is going on with the eclipse. It's already well on it's way and people are still putting up signs about the eclipse.

Talk about leaving things to the last minute! By the time they have their signs up it will have reached totality and they will need to think about taking them all down again!


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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 08:03 AM

Having looked at it again, I think it's probably more poor directing than just the cinematography.

This would be very much in keeping with what I have seen on BBC sets in the past.

Might explain the centre framing somewhat too.

Anyway I have to rush out now...


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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 09:41 AM

angry-monster-17885490.jpg

 

I couldn't agree more.

 

But to be fair, these problems are a result of someone saying "we need ninety minutes of television and you've got a week and a quid."


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#17 Mark Dunn

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 09:41 AM

...and what is going on with the eclipse. It's already well on it's way and people are still putting up signs about the eclipse.

Talk about leaving things to the last minute! By the time they have their signs up it will have reached totality and they will need to think about taking them all down again!

Eh?


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#18 John E Clark

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 11:44 AM

Most of the truly average stuff I can think of is TV.

 

You could look at a number of British TV shows - things like Midsomer Murders - which are just incredibly flat and dull and fire-a-2K-into-the-ceiling. I mean no disrespect to the people who make them - well, not much - and it's mainly a time and money thing. These shows are production-lined into being, but they don't have to frame everything so... front-and-centre.

 

 

...and that's the good stuff. On the upside, the theme tune features a theremin, which is enough to save more or less anything in my estimation.

 

Or early Touch of Frost. It's so grainy you can see it on YouTube, and again, it looks like they blew it off in ten seconds under available light.

 

 

I am not a fan of police procedurals, but sheesh, that's boring to look at. It's also very old, now, but it was never a looker.

 

These may be soft targets, but hey - someone had to decide this was broadcastable.

 

P

 

I've watched the entire set of seasons for "Poirot" recently, and one can see the camera work change over the years... early on, a 'night' scene looked like daylight... but the actors were saying it was night... by the end of the series, like season 13... lighting was much better... I think the series started in 1989 or so, and ended in 2013 so one can see almost a 'generation' worth of lighting change...


Edited by John E Clark, 14 March 2016 - 11:44 AM.

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#19 Peter Bitic

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 11:44 AM

 

Or early Touch of Frost. It's so grainy you can see it on YouTube, and again, it looks like they blew it off in ten seconds under available light.

 

 

I am not a fan of police procedurals, but sheesh, that's boring to look at. It's also very old, now, but it was never a looker.

 

These may be soft targets, but hey - someone had to decide this was broadcastable.

 

P

I don't mind that look. It's better than most current movies that are shown at cinemas.


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#20 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 01:00 PM

I actually thought the cinematography of "SPOTLIGHT" was extremely underwhelming.  Pretty bad actually.  Also, the camera operating was a bit shocking as well.

 

G

 

 

Disappointing, too, because I enjoyed the way "Black Mass" was shot. 


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