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Worst-Photographed Film Ever Made?

 
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:17 am    Post subject: Worst-Photographed Film Ever Made? Reply with quote

1983's Easy Money (with Rodney Dangerfield)

Others?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's the cutoff in terms of how much general competence should be expected?
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say that's pretty much open-ended. I'm talking about photography that's so quintessentially cruddy it blatantly sticks out like there's no tomorrow.
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brianorndorf
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bamboozled. Pieces of April.

The DV craze was a rough period.
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David Cornelius
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

brianorndorf wrote:
The DV craze was a rough period.


...and it led to David Lynch's "but it's supposed to look shitty!" period. Inland Empire. Yeesh.
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ain't that the truth, David. Sadly, Lynch has gone on record averring he'll never use film stock again, only digital video. Even Lynch films I don't like are still scrumptuously photographed. As for Island Empire, I've twice attempted to get through it, have failed, and don't plan another effort anytime soon.

Oh, and I remember Pauline Kael's knock on the abysmal look of 9 to 5 -- that she didn't wonder who the cinematographer was in asmuch as she wondered if it even had a cinematographer.
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So many potential candidates for this. But you know me, I prefer old films, so there are many more reasons for a bad-looking film than just the cinematographer's ineptitude.

For instance, you definitely didn't want to be told, in the early fifties: "We're going all out on this project, so we'll make it in color. In glorious Eastmancolor." The more obscure the film, the worse it usually stands, because the available prints have usually been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that, at best, you can just try to imagine what the film used to look like when it was released. Can't really blame the cinematographer here. Apparently, it's the same problem that plagues so many Technicolor films made in the seventies, in which everything looks muddy for no apparent reason.

It's a different matter when it's being done for "artistic" reasons, like that old tendency to film everything in shades of blue (I remember "The Insider" as a particularly unrepentant culprit).

Also, is your question framed (no pun intended) exclusively in terms of photography? What about art direction? In some cases, it's so blatantly made exclusively for visual appearance that it loses any sense of verisimilitude. Worst offender: M-G-M musicals/period films from the forties and fifties.

Digital video doesn't really bother me. Yes, the difference is perceptible, and no, I don't particularly like to see high-budget productions make use of it, but if it can lower costs for independent filmmakers, I can hardly object to this. 3D, on the other hand (and, mind you, I haven't seen a single film in the new format -- I just don't want to), annoys me to no end. It's a gimmick, it's expensive, and its suddenly rediscovered popularity just proves the wheel takes 30 years to rotate. If the lessons of the fifties and eighties mean anything, give 3D a few years, and back into obscurity it will have receded. Or maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part.
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2010 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's just limit it to cinematography. And I have another pick:

Transporter 2

It's got this over-glittering green-and-gold visual schema that's simply unwatchable.
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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The look of James L. Brooks movies have always bothered me. The guy can't frame a shot to save his life.

"As Good As It Gets" is a film that has just lousy compositions from beginning to end. Every shot is either too high, too low, the closeups are WAY too tight or his camera pans don't exactly go how they should. It's such a claustrophobic movie and that wasn't even the intention of the picture.

He's made some great movies (Terms of Endearment, which also suffers from bad framing), don't get me wrong, but I can't stand to look at them!

Another poorly shot film is "Chasing Amy". Despite being one of my favorite films, it has painfully bad cinematography. Granted, it was shot in Super 16 on a low budget, but Kevin Smith forgot about framing for 1.85 theatrical projection, so you get quasi-framing and signs/heads/bodies lopped off on all four sides of the screen. And of course his legendary two-shots, but they are usually too close and cramped.

One shot in particular is a head-scratcher. In the first scene with Hooper X, Holden (Ben Affleck) jokingly heckles Hooper. It cuts to a shot of Hooper standing up in the crowd...problem is, the audience is still in center of frame and Holden is speaking is in the extreme top left of the frame, and his head is STILL cut off. Just simply MOVING the camera upwards seemed to be too difficult a task for Smith.

The worst photographed film ever, however? "The Room". Smile
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is also the 1959 adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank", a.k.a. "A story like this definitely begs to be filmed in CinemaScope". But what the hell do I know? It won the Oscar for best black and white (more sense was displayed here) cinematography...
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Which is really interesting, Jason, in that every Brooks film nevertheless has a great cinematographer. The only film of his that I like visually is Broadcast News, which had better staging and timing and was photographed by the superb Michael Ballhaus. And nothing to spit on: Brooks has only directed 5 films but 3 of them have been Oscar-nominated for Best Picture. That's not a bad average, I have to admit! Then again, his material is always "safe"; it's not like he's out taking chances with risky screenplays.
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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I am a fan of his. "Terms of Endearment" (shot by Andrej Bartkowiak who went on to be a director) is one of my favorite films of the 80's and I am a big fan of "As Good As It Gets" (which was shot by John Bailey, one of the best cinematographers of all time) as well as "Broadcast News." Solid films, no argument there.

He just can't frame a shot in the five films he's directed.
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even though I quite enjoy some of his films (Broadcast News especially), Brooks always seemed to me a rather straightforward director, no frills about it, and the cinematography of his films reflects that. Competent, but unremarkable; and I would think that bad cinematography (as with its opposite) is something you would remark.

Example of an ordinary film where the cinematography stands out: "The Professionals", directed by another Brooks, Richard. Entertaining in a way, but strictly by the numbers (Lee Marvin in a cavalry hat, etc.), and compared by Pauline Kael to an old whore: plenty of experience, but no heart in it. But the cinematography, by a certain Conrad Hall, you notice immediately.

Perhaps that is why I can't really come up with a film with exceedingly bad cinematography: I tend to notice good cinematography in bad films (just look at some of the Cardiff stuff), but where the cinematography is bad, usually everything is. Example: "The 13th Warrior". Nearly everything in that film is wrong. The costumes (too pristine), the hairdressing/makeup (too clean), the screenplay (not too concerned over having an American-sounding "dammit" in the same film as thous and thees), and, indeed, the cinematography. Perhaps the problem is that all the supposedly picturesque scenes looked flat and artificial, but how can you isolate the cinematography from the rest and study it on its own?
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to notice good cinematography in bad films

Me, too.

Vilmos Zsigmond's in "Heaven's Gate"; Robert Richardson's in "Natural Born Killers"; Harry Stradling Jr.'s in "A Fine Mess"; Alex Thomson's in "The Keep"; Freddie Francis's in "Dune", to cite just a few.

In fact, I've been known to re-watch a bad movie solely because of stalwart lighting. And I'm one of the few who digs "The 13th Warrior" -- have never understood the massive backlash over it.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Insider had gorgeous cinematography. At least it preceded the "everything is blue" that has choked Paul Greengrass and such. It fits the film. Tell me the scene in the golf course isn't stunning.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ever since Oliver Stone and Robert Richardson made it hip to shoot a film without a tripod or a steadicam device in Born on the Fourth of July and JFK, everybody has been trying to imitate them with sometimes good an sometimes piss poor results.

Enemy of the STate for example, sometimes that film is irritating to watch since the damn camera can't stay steady on certain parts of the action scene where I honestly can't see why the use of the "shaky cam". There's a scene where Barry Pepper is running down the stairs, the camera guy obviously follows him running and the camera is all over the place. Good lord, was unable to see what the hell was happening; terribly annoying. Really piss poor stuff from Tony Scott and Daniel Mindel.

Michael Bay does the same damn thing with his cinematographers in almost every single movie, every action scene is done lagely with handheld cameras, and you can't see jackshit what's going on.

My goodness, sometimes I want these people to rent a copy of "Raising Arizona", and watch how the Coens and Barry Sonnenfeld shoot a perfectly exciting chase scene involving Nic Cage and the cops when Cage's character steals a diaper bag, and no shaky cam involved. For me, this is one of the best photographed action scenes I've seen.

Paul Greengrass is someone else that overdoes it too. His documentary style approach is good, but come on, does he need to do everything in one shot with one handheld camera all the time? That's what one of my problems was when watching Bloody Sunday.
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's why I find Moulin Rouge! an absolute hell to sit through. Add Woody Allen's Hubands and Wives to this infamous list, too.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

brianorndorf wrote:
The DV craze was a rough period.


The way I've heard it explained is that a lot of filmmakers were taken in by the ease-of-use aspect of DV. Because DV is far more light-sensitive than film, it was commonly believed that you no longer had to worry so much about getting correct exposure, thus saving time and expense. But it's not true; lighting is always an issue. Back when I was hitting film festivals left and right, I sat through more than a couple DV disasters where I spent half the running time watching silhouettes walk around a screen.

As for examples of bad cinematography, this thing looks like hell, trust me:

http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6062


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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ebert definitely agrees with you...

http://bventertainment.go.com/tv/buenavista/atm/reviews.html?sec=6&subsec=year+of+the+horse

...calling the look of the thing "muddy".
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm all for DV when it's clear you don't have the budget for something better, but not when it becomes an artistic statement; so I'd agree with Ebert on this. Unfortunately, he has become quite the middlebrow reactionary of late; for instance, he's the last one to seriously cling to the notion that video games are not and cannot be art. (I respect his stance, and, were it better formulated, I might actually agree with him, but I get the vibe that he just doesn't understand video games.)

Ebert's critical decline in recent years has become quite painful to watch.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nearly dying made him soft and old-biddy-like. But he's still a fantastic read and wit.
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PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Transporter 2 for this.
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, Lucio Fulci's medieval tale Conquest is so fuzzy with all this ever-present smoke it looks like it was photographed through a gauze pad. Take a gander!


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