Thursday, July 1, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #364: Best Cinematography (Oscar Edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. Being the first Thursday of the month, we're getting another Academy Awards-themed week. This time, the awards in question are Cinematography and Visual Effects. So it's easy enough to look up a list of winners and pick from among them.

I decided to go with just Cinematography. For about 25 years, from 1939 through 1966, there were actually two awards, one for color cinematography and one for black-and-white cinematography. Indeed, it was the Academy's getting rid of the separate categories in cinematography, costume design (wich only started in 1948), and art direction (started in 1940) that led to the end of Hollywood producing films in black and white. In the end, I only selected one movie from the era of two awards:

The Garden of Allah (1936). Winners: W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson. Marlene Dietrich plays a woman in French Algeria who remembers her relationship with a monk (Charles Boyer) who renounced his vows until she learned that he was the last person to know the secret of the monks' liqueur and that his leaving the monastery would lead that to die out. The movie was in color, and received a special award for its color cinematography; this was the first of three special awards for color cinematography before it was made an official category. The plot may be somewhat eyeroll-inducing, especially if you're not into romances. But the color cinematography is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954). Winner: Milton Krasner As I said when I blogged about this a few months back, somebody must have seen Roman Holiday and decided that what audiences needed was to see Rome in Cinemascope and Technicolor. Maggie McNamara plays an American who moves to Rome and moves in with Jean Peters and Dorothy McGuire. All three of them have romances: McNamara with prince Louis Jourdan; Peters with co-worker Rossano Brazzi; and McGuire with terminally ill American author Clifton Webb. The romance storylines are about as bad as The Garden of Allah, but the cinematography on the Italian locations is lovely.

Cries and Whispers (1973). Winner: Sven Nykvist. Harriet Andersson plays a woman in circa-1900 Sweden who's dying of cancer. Her two sisters (Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin) come to visit, and all sorts of family conflicts come back to the surface as everybody has flashbacks to why they are the way they are. While movies of today seem to be dominated by color palettes of orange and teal, Cries and Whispers has a color palette of red, red, and red. And if you don't like that red, there will be a lot more in the next scene.


Ronyell (a.k.a. Rabbitearsblog) said...

Hmmm...I haven't heard of these movies, but they sound interesting! Great list!

Here’s my Thursday Movie Picks!

Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

Brittani Burnham said...

I just blogged about Roman Holiday the other day and my only complaint was that I wish I could see it in color lol. I'll have to check that second pick out.

joel65913 said...

The Garden of Allah really does have a large amount of "Oh Come On!" moments but if you like this period Marlene you're use to her films asking that of you. It is a magnificent looking picture.

I never got all the love Three Coins received but the theme song is nice and the cinematography incredible. The script though is absurd. The cast does what it can but it's a mighty piece of cheese to put across.

As with almost all Ingmar Bergman you have to be prepared for a heavy dose misery and Cries and Whispers delivers that with a very distinctive look. I must admit I'd spent an hour and a half inside a tomato when it was over but it was visually striking.

I also stuck to cinematography.

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.

Birgit said...

I still have to see The Garden of Allah but am I surprised that the plot leaves you in disbelief? Nope, this is Marlene after all. Ughh, 3 Coins best scenes are with Clifton Webb and Dorothy Maguire with the best scene being when she got drunk. I can stand Maggie McNamara and here, she just needs a slap. The other plot is typical as well. I do love the scenes of Rome and the countryside but I can’t stand the song. I still have to see Cries and Whispers and not sure I will just because it is the strange Bergman. I love his film, “The Seventh Seal” but am not. Lover of Persona at all.