Monday, January 23, 2012

LeapBackBlog 2011 Film Awards – Part 1: Technical Achievements

Film in 2011 saw many very good films. Deciding what made the lists and what did not was very difficult this year, and there are more than a few great films, performances and technical achievements that I had to leave off. The LeapBackBlog Film Awards are comprised of what I think were the best and most interesting films, the strongest performances (taking into consideration who the actor is and what else they have done, and 2011 again features a lot of amazing breakthrough performances), the narrative style that drew me in (best directing), and exquisite craftsmanship (best technical achievements). But really, these are lists of my favorites from the year.

Technical Achievements:

Manuel Alberto Claro – Cinematography – Melancholia
Melancholia is probably the most visually interesting and striking film of 2011. Every image that director Lars von Trier and cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro create has an impact on the viewer. Claro’s work, exploring the end of the world, has both such a grand scale to it and still captures the intimate character moments. The color and framing of many of the set pieces – almost like a series of moving paintings – are mesmerizing. There is so much energy, yet they are somewhat peaceful as well. It is my favorite aesthetic work of the year.

Stuart Craig’s production design across the entire Harry Potter film series has been incredible (as he has designed all eight films). With the Deathly Hallow: Part 2, he not only had huge action set pieces including the destruction of Hogwarts but also he need to be sure to reinforce the emotional journey of the characters (captured beautifully in his set for the seaside cottage – it is spares and a little bleak, but there is ever hope present). The series would not have been anywhere near as special without his work throughout.

John Williams’s wrote such an iconic piece of music for the series’ first film (Hedwig’s Theme) that it has been hard for new composers to measure up (though I did really like Nicholas Hooper’s Half-Blood Prince score especially When Harry Kisses Ginny). Alexandre Desplat, having scored both Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2, takes bits of Williams and Hooper’s scores and melds them with his own original work creating music that captures the tone of the film perfectly while living up to what came before (particularly his piece called Severus and Lily; it is tragic and beautiful).

Maria Djurkovic – Production Design – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy very easily could have been straight forward when it came to the 1970s Cold War Era design, but Maria Djurkovic decided to make it phenomenally compelling – both on a design level and in how it worked within the story. Her sets within MI6 in particular are wonderful, commenting on the paranoia and terror of the times. I love the executive offices and conference room being stand-alone soundproof bungalows within the greater room. The personal spaces of each character also entirely fit their personas and reinforce them to the audience. It is unique and exceptional work.

Sarah Greenwood – Production Design – Hanna
As good as Djurkovic’s work is Sarah Greenwood’s might be even better. Hanna is a fairytale action film taking place over many locals giving Greenwood a broad canvas – and she uses it beautifully. Her set for the CIA’s Moroccan base is aesthetically interesting, as is the CIA headquarters building in Germany. But her use of the rundown Brothers Grimm’s theme park is the best part. It encompasses the fairytale aspect of the film perfectly, while also being visually compelling.

Emmanuel Lubezki – Cinematography – The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki work incredibly well together, as evidenced by the sheer beauty and power of their films together (The New World and The Tree of Life). With The Tree of Life, Lubezki uses light and nature to tell a story, illuminating the characters and shrouding them as the emotional journey dictates. His photography is beautiful and truthful. While Claro’s work on Melancholia has more of an artistic impact, Lubezki is able to speak to the wonder, sadness and innocence within us all. It is brilliant work. 

My favorite score of the year, Dario Marianelli’s compositions for Jane Eyre are aligned with the tone and motifs of the story – that of a tragic life and romance (that to a degree is happy in its end, but also sad). The score is also cliché free, something many romance genre pieces cannot attest to. Marianelli has many beautiful pieces of music (here are three: Wandering Jane, A Game of Badminton and Yes!) within the score, but as an overall piece of music it speaks to the emotional core of the film and its characters, working with the visuals and performances to tell one of the great love stories.

Chris Seagers – Production Design – X-Men: First Class
Something fantastic about X-Men: First Class was it taking place in the 1960s while accommodating multiple locals. This gave production designer Chris Seagers the ability to not only work in the world of superheroes, but also in an iconic stylish period. His sets pop – from Sebastian Shaw’s Nazi office/lab to The Atomic Club and Shaw’s submarine. Seagers captures the tone of the film completely, having fun with the era and genre while creating cool and aesthetically interesting spaces for the characters to occupy.

The only artist to make this list last year, Eduardo Serra returns once again with stunning photography. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has such a grand scale to it, as the battle against Voldemort in many ways is the battle to save the World. Part 1 was very gloomy and bleak for the characters, and that visual pallet returns for Part 2. However, the film has much more kinetic and confined energy versus Harry and friends essentially being on their own in Part 1. Serra’s photography gives the film the needed sense of dread, and he captures the final struggle between Harry and Voldemort magnificently.

In their first film score, The Chemical Brothers have given the fairytale actioner Hanna one of the year’s most memorable. It is so good, in fact, that it could stand alone as one of the group’s albums. Container Park in particular is incredible. But aside from the music being great, it also fits the style of the film very well, capturing both a child-like tone for the innocence of Hanna and still being menacing and dark playing into the narrative. I also really like Hanna’s Theme, Escape 700 and The Devil in the Beats

No comments:

Post a Comment