PGCMAs: Best Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Editing (2013)

Posted: January 24, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson PGCMA 2013*The above image represents 2012’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture Winner; Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

Best Visual Effects

This award looks at both CGI as well as practical effects.

ElysiumNeil Blomkamp is quickly earning a name for himself as someone with a firm grasp on special effects. He did wonders on a relatively low budget with District 9 and his work here is even more impressive. Blomkamp seamlessly blends CGI with practical effects and it’s often hard to tell which one is being used. Its greatness isn’t too obvious, but in a way that makes it more impressive.

GravityI’m well aware most of Gravity was likely shot on a green screen, but you can’t tell from watching it. Alfonso Cuarón avoids falling into the typical limitations that come from extensive green screen use to the point where you’d belief it was shot on location if it weren’t set in space.

Man of SteelThe film does a good job rendering space ships and giant laser things, but what really impressed me are the fight scenes. These are really large scale battles that feel really unique from other superhero films. In fact the only comparison I can really make is the final fight in The Matrix Revolutions. Not every CGI shot is 100% convincing, but it’s a lot harder to render organic beings as oppose to mechanical ones.

OblivionThough not as obviously effects driven as Joseph Kosinski’s previous effort Tron Legacy, Oblivion makes extensive use of special effects as well. Between futuristic ships flying around, robots, and sci-fi weaponry, there is a lot of effects work going on. After a while though, you stop to really think about them as effects.

Pacific RimWhat elevates Pacific Rim from something like a Transformers or a Real Steel is that here, the robots actually feel authentic. There’s a weight to them and their movements as well as a tremendous sense of scale. The giant creatures also look consistently good throughout.

And The Winner Is…

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Gravity

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All of these films had great effects, but the effects in Gravity are damn-near perfect. This is a landmark film which perfectly incorporates CGI environments with live-action actors.

Best Cinematography

Cinematography refers to how a film is actually shot, both what constitutes the image as well as camera movement. This award is for the artists who best utilize the technique.

Roger Deakins, PrisonersIf there’s one thing Prisoners fans and I can agree on it’s that the movie looks great. Roger Deakins, who won this award last year for Skyfall, shows his mastery here. The movie has a really dark look and the way Deakins’ plays with lighting and silhouettes is great. It’s very moody cinematography which really elevates the film.

Benoît Debie, Spring BreakersOften hypnotic, the cinematography to Spring Breakers is one of the film’s biggest strengths. There are a lot of interesting shots and the colours pop a lot. I also love the way the film weaves from being a dream like fantasy to being harsh and ugly.

Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn DavisBeing a period piece depicting a beloved era in music, it’s easy to imagine the Coens wanting to glamorize the setting visually. However this is not the case. Bruno Delbonnel’s photography uses minimal colour and instead emphasizes on shades instead. This darker look perfectly matches the tone of the film and the lighting is also noteworthy.

Emmanuel Lubezki, GravityI almost hesitated in nominating Gravity given how much of it was likely shot on green screens. However then I considred the fluid camera movements, the many long takes, and the beauty Lubezki often captured and I realized it be a crime to leave it off the list.

Amir Mokri, Man of SteelMaking a film about a God-like alien who comes to Earth and battles another God-like alien feel grounded is no easy task. One of the best ways Snyder overcame this limitation is through the cinematography. The film uses a lot of earthy colour tones and a small amount of shaky cam gives the film a sense of authenticity. The film may never be realistic in the strict sense of the word, but I believed in it all the same.

And The Winner Is…

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Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

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I really struggled with this award since all of these films look great for one reason or another. I eventually narrowed my choice down to either Prisoners or Inside Llewyn Davis (matching the long-time collaborators against each other was not done on purpose). I admired both for having gorgeous cinematography which didn’t dominate the film, but instead compliments the material. Eventually, I had to side with Delbonnel’s work. Somehow his cinematography is both obviously excellent while simultaneously being subtle. I don’t know how he and the Coens did it, but they did.

Best Editing

One of the most essential elements to cinema is the editing process, where all the shot footage is put together to form something cohesive and engaging. These nominees honour the best in that field.

Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, GravityGravity is an intense affair. From the moment the debris begins to crash around the leads, the film is constantly tense and gripping. Much of this is a result of the editing which not only keeps things moving at a great pace, but also gives the characters, and the audience, time to breathe when necessary.

Paul Machliss, The World’s EndEdgar Wright uses editing as a means of communicating humour more than any other comedy director working today. Not only does he pace his films so that both the jokes and the story have their moments, but the editing itself becomes crucial in the delivery of many of the jokes.

Christopher Rouse, Captain PhillipsWhen you boil down Captain Phillips, much of it is just a bunch of guys waiting things out on a boat in a story where the audience knows the ending. Yet Greengrass and Rouse keep things very tense and specific set-pieces, such as the Best Chase winner, are perfectly edited.

Thelma Schoonmaker, The Wolf of Wall StreetOver thirty years of collaborating, and still Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker continue to impress. When your movie covers a ten year story with no specific plot over a three hour runtime, it’s hard to keep things engaging. However Schoonmaker proves up to the challenge as she keeps the film constantly engaging while providing a fast pace.

Joe Wright, 12 Years a SlaveWhat I love most about Wright’s work is how often he chooses not to cut. Take for example a scene where Solomon is hanging from a tree, desperately trying to keep his footing in mud while others go about their business. Or a shot of Solomon looking off and contemplating. Many would cut as soon as the point is made, but Wright is smart enough to hold back and let the scenes work their magic.

And The Winner Is…

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Thelma Schoonmaker, The Wolf of Wall Street

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Many will criticize this choice and cite the movie’s excessive runtime as ground for why it shouldn’t win. Personally, I found those three hours to fly by, thanks in large part to Schoonmaker’s work. Individual scenes are put together brilliantly and the editing really helps the humour pop. On top of that, for a story with a pretty loose plot over a ten year period, The Wolf of Wall Street flows very naturally. In other hands, it wouldn’t, but Schoonmaker makes it work.

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