(James Cameron, 1991; DP Adam Greenberg)
“Hasta la vista, baby!”
No kidding. Bold use of two color temperatures (cold and hot).
Crucial point: Cameron didn’t just rack focus to the gun — he also tilted down to exclude the eyes, to make the audience focus on the gun. Humans tend to keep looking at eyes even when they are out of focus, and filmmaking genius James Cameron is clearly aware of this.
Tip: for truly effective rack focus shots in which focus is shifted from an actor’s eyes to an object, some tilting is required to put the eyes out of frame, or the audience will just keep looking at the eyes and the intended focus-shifting effect will fail.
(Steven Spielberg, 1993; DP Janusz Kaminski)
Perhaps my favorite shot ever — but must I really choose?
Truly exceptional lighting by Janusz Kaminski in his first collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
The camera tracks right while maintaining framing on Schindler with a longish lens — my eyes estimate the focal length at around 100-135mm.
Tip: The backlight hits Schindler from a low angle (it was placed low down and it points upwards). This was of course done deliberately by cinematographic genius Janusz Kaminski. If he had pointed the backlight downwards on Schindler — as most other DPs would have done — his cheek would have been flooded with light, spoiling the effect.
Instead, the hot backlight is made all the more effective by the fact that it is bright, but occupies a limited area. Sometimes less really is more!
(James Cameron, 1989; DP Mikael Solomon)
Lindsey sees the undersea aliens for the first time.
An unusual and every effective color scheme in this shot: pink, yellow and dark blue. Very marine.
The sharp edges of the helmet make her turning all the more dramatic (due to total internal reflection).
With “The Abyss,” James Cameron set out to make the marine equivalent of “2001” A Space Odyssey,” and he delivered.
(Ridley Scott, 2001; DP John Mathieson)
“The power on that battery is low, Clarice. I would’ve changed it, but I didn’t want to wake you.”
The framing in this shot is so pleasing I can’t get my eyes off it.
The ceiling fan is a classic Ridley Scott touch.
The color scheme is also noteworthy: Clarice’s red hair is a good match for the otherwise cold hue of the shot, providing good chromatic contrast.
Beautiful bokeh at the beginning of the tilt shot.
“Romeo and Juliet”
(Franco Zeffirelli, 1968; DP Pasqualino De Santis)
“I gave thee mine before thou didst request it.”
It doesn’t get better than this: the most mesmerizing Juliet in the history of cinema addresses you directly, directed with characteristic sensitivity by Franco Zeffirelli.
It is normally very dangerous to let actors look into the camera directly, because it tends to break the voyeuristic cinematic illusion, but in this shot director Franco Zeffirelli really pulled it off. In that shot we are Romeo, and Juliet is gazing into our eyes. I can say no more!
(Steven Spielberg, 2002; DP Janusz Kaminski)
A most instructive example of Spielberg’s mastery with uncut shots.
Dr Hineman walks towards the camera as she speaks, and ends up in a close-up just as she says “But sometimes, they do disagree.”
Impeccable camera-actor choreography, and with razor-sharp timing.
She then walks out of shot to reveal John Anderton’s reaction behind her, perfectly framed in between two branches of a plant.
The delivery of the most important line in the film, with varied compositions and a powerful reaction — all in one uncut shot.
For me this is the gold standard of film direction!
I hope you enjoyed this cinematic eye candy as much as I did 🙂