Thursday Movie Picks – Oscar Winners Edition: Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects

We’re thinking about the Academy Awards again for this week’s Thursday Movie Picks, run by Wandering through the Shelves. We’ve been asked to list three to five films where the film took home either the Oscar for Best Cinematography or Best Visual Effects. As usual, I’ve made my selection from films I have seen.

Best Cinematography

Robert Burks for To Catch a Thief (1955) – One thing that blew me away while watching this – apart from Grace Kelly’s chic wardrobe – was the vibrancy of the colour. The beautiful scenery of the French Riviera is really done justice.

Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – There are so many things to enjoy in this film. Visually it looks fantastic. It carefully balances and complements the activities taking place in the real world with the events within the labyrinth.

Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant (2015) While watching The Revenant you feel cold, even if you’re sitting in your warm home in comfortable clothing. You don’t envy the bleak, tough terrain that our protagonist, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass, works in. To capture such physical responses in your viewer is very impressive.

Best Visual Effects

Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett and Hamilton Luske for Mary Poppins (1964)Mary Poppins is one of the most charming, enjoyable children’s films, in my opinion. The visual effects perfectly add to the wonder and complement the singing and choreography.

John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack for Star Wars (1977) – It is no exaggeration to say that Star Wars changed cinema forever. Simply put, it made the impossible, possible. There are a myriad elements that impress me in this film but one of the biggest is the sense of scale that the effects deliver.

H. R. Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder and Dennis Ayling for Alien (1979) – On its release contemporary audiences were blown away by Alien‘s visual effects. Decades later and that still rings true. The creature effects are so incredibly realistic and lifelike.

Ken Ralston, Richard Williams, Edward Jones and George Gibbs for Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – This is a very fun film – combining live-action and animation – but without such strong visual effects it would not have had such an impact.

Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Michael Lantieri for Jurassic Park (1993) – Nearly 30 years after its release and the visual effects still deliver. The dinosaurs are the most crucial part of the film and so very lifelike that you truly believe they are there. Animatronics are married with CGI with great effect.


5 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks – Oscar Winners Edition: Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects

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  1. To Catch a Thief is a good Hitchcock even though it’s not among my favorites of his work, I like it just don’t love it like Rear Window or Saboteur, but it is a very beautiful looking film.

    Pan’s Labyrinth is the title of the week and it deserves to be, it’s visually dazzling.

    I agree The Revenant was excellent at imparting that feeling of bone deep cold. I hated the film and that feeling was one of the reasons but that was an inherent need of the script so it was excellently done.

    What an absolute charmer Mary Poppins is!! I saw it when I was just a wee bit of a thing in the theatre, I’d be lying if I said I remember much of that initial viewing other than the sequence inside the sidewalk, but I’ve watched it many times since and always enjoy it. Favorite part is probably the chimney sweep dance but I love it all.

    I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. I used to hate them but when I went to see the trilogy upon re-release (I didn’t see them when they came out, just on TV which is a very different experience) in a remastered version I admired the skill of them but I never rewatch.

    I prefer Aliens to the original Alien but there is no denying that it has great effects.

    I’m not much for animation but Roger Rabbit is so fun and inventive I had a great time when I saw it in a packed theatre.

    Jurassic Park is another I don’t revisit but its special effects are fantastic and have aged very well.

    I stay strictly with cinematography winners for my three but all three have looks that pop off the screen.

    The Black Swan (1942)-Florid swashbuckler with Tyrone Power as reformed privateer Jamie Waring. Commissioned by the newly pardoned master pirate Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) now governor of Jamaica to offer amnesty to the other bandits of the sea he sets off on the task along with his trusty sidekick Tommy Blue (Thomas Mitchell) but runs afoul of renegade picaroon Billy Leech (George Sanders-buried under a red wig and beard) and his henchman Wogan (Anthony Quinn) who refuse to give up their thieving ways. Much swordplay ensues. All the while Waring romances the fiery beauty Lady Margaret Denby (Maureen O’Hara). This all unfurls in lush sumptuously rich Technicolor provided by Leon Shamroy who won the Best Color Cinematography Oscar, at the time the category was divided between color and black and white.

    A River Runs Through It (1992)-Mediative drama of two Montana brothers Norman and Paul Maclean (Paul Sheffer and Brad Pitt) and the divergent paths their lives take with their shared love of fly-fishing serving as a metaphor for the vagaries of life. While the story is solid and the acting by the entire cast superior it’s the breathtaking vistas as well as the more intimate scenes shot by Oscar winner Phillipe Rousselot that truly dazzle the eye.

    Legends of the Fall (1994)-Brothers Tristan, Alfred and Samuel Ludlow (Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas) all love the same woman, Susannah Fincannon (Julia Ormond) in the wide-open spaces of their father William’s (Anthony Hopkins) sprawling ranch leading to sorrow for all. Sweeping family melodrama once again set in Montana but a quite different one than A River Runs Through It. This is the Montana of vast spaces and operatic happenings and emotions. Venturing farther afield to other continents and the majesty of the ocean cinematographer John Toll earned his award by using his keen eye to lend a strong chiaroscuro element to the picture.

  2. I’m yet to see To Catch a Thief, but the others are stunning. I wasn’t crazy about Mary Poppins but the effects were great and they do really make the film feel magical.

  3. To Catch a Thief is a good choice especially the scenes at the ball. Pan’s Labyrinth is popular this week and with good reason because it is so rich visually. The Revenant is a really good film even though I don’t think I will rewatch it any time soon. We match with Star Wars which is another winner this week and with good reason. I am not a huge fan of this film and recall seeing it in the theatre and, at that time, not being overwhelmed by the special effects. I was a jaded 14 yr old movie buff. Mary Poppins is a great choice and it makes me think of the animation sequence. Alien still scares the hell out of me so I still have not seen it. I love Roger Rabbit which was so inventive. We match with Jurassic Park that holds up so well and scared me as well but I saw it, more than once. Love Jeff Goldblum.

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