PGCMAs: Best Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Editing (2014)

Posted: February 4, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson PGCMA 2014*The above image represents 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I would hesitate to call the effects in Rise of the Planet of the Apes ground-breaking, but everyone was pretty shocked by how good the CGI looked. Dawn lacks that same sense of surprise, but the effects are just as great here. The filmmakers are also pushing the limits of the tech with a lot more mo-cap performances and outdoor shooting.

Godzilla:  Godzilla himself is obviously a prime example of special effects and the King of the Monsters looks great. The CGI rendering is pretty good, what is even more impressive is the sense of scale given to the monster. The other monsters look great as well, and the city destruction is pretty well-realized.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The fact that a CGI racoon and tree spend the entire movie walking around normal people and it doesn’t look stupid is a testament to the film’s strong effects. There are also a lot of spaceships and high caliber battles which make use of some very strong digital effects.

Interstellar: Christopher Nolan has been known for using minimal CGI and even in a film involving space exploration, many of the visuals are still accomplished through miniatures, camera techniques, and actual sets. The effects are crisp, clean, and perfectly augmented by digital effects when necessary.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: From practically build designs for the Sentinels, to a CGI army of the aforementioned robots attacking the X-Men, to Magneto lifting a stadium through the sky, Days of Future Past is full of excellent effects of both the large scale and the small. And then there’s the Quicksilver scene, which is highly unique and awesome.

And the winner is…

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Interstellarinterstellar-teaserposter-full

Some of the other films may have had more effects…but then again maybe they didn’t. See, what really impresses about Interstellar’s effects is how perfectly integrated they are with the rest of the film. There comes a point in the film where you stop thinking about the effects as visual effects, they’re just part of the story. This is true even in the third act when the film enters some effects heavy moments.

Best Cinematography

Jeff Cronenweth, Gone Girl: Cronenweth isn’t really experimenting with style as this looks pretty similar to past collaborations with David Fincher. But be that as it may, this still looks excellent. The smooth camera movements, the cool colour pallet, the striking imagery; it all looks awesome. One day I may get tired of Cronenweth’s standard style, but that isn’t today.

Robert Elswit, Nightcrawler: This year saw the return of Elswit working with long-time collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson in Inherent Vice, and while that film looks good, I actually found Elswit’s work on Nightcrawler a lot slicker. The film uses artificial light sources to great effect and Elswit’s ability to move a camera comes through strong.

Darius Khondji, The Immigrant: What sticks out about Khondji’s work on The Immigrant is the excellent use of lighting, which serves to give the film an absolutely gorgeous golden brown look. Perhaps the nicest thing I can say about it is that it’s reminiscent of The Godfather Part Two and if you’re going to emulate a cinematographer, you can’t go wrong with Gordon Willis.

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman: Lubezki has been doing a lot of high profile work in the last few years, and Birdman might be the peak of his work. The fact that the film is composed of mostly a series of unbroken long-takes is highly impressive in and of itself, and even beyond that the film’s visual aesthetic is excellent.

Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida: A lot of films have been playing with aspect ratios lately, but I don’t know of any film to do this as effectively as Ida. The aspect ratio, along with the excellent black and white really gives this the feeling of a European film from the 1960s recently rediscovered. The film also makes some great compositions and the imagery is often beautiful.

And the winner is…

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Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdmanbirdman-click

In many ways, the long-take format helped clinch this award for Lubezki. However it’s not just the technical accomplishment that impresses me, it’s why it was used. The long-takes really place the viewer in Riggan’s head space and the never ending series of problems he has to deal with. It also perfectly situates the viewer within the physical setting. This stylistic choice isn’t a gimmick, but a cinematic technique that enhances the effect of the film.

Best Editing

Sandra Adair, Boyhood: The greatest testament to Adair’s editing is the fact that Boyhood is technically a series of twelve short films, but they all flow together as one. Conventional editing would suggest each section be broken up by fade-outs or “one year later” subtitles, but instead Adair edits it all as one whole, which also ties into the film’s theme of life as essentially being one picture made up of several similar pictures.

Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone, Birdman: Much has been made of the fact that Birdman appears to be shot in one flowing take, and the editors deserve just as much credit for this as the cinematographer. Crise and Mirrone seamlessly move between each shot to give the film a consistent flow, which is especially impressive given how this isn’t mean to be playing out in real time.

Tom Cross, Whiplash: Must of Whiplash is edited in an effective, albeit conventional manner, but the film really excels during the performance scenes. These are put together with a lot of intense energy and the cutting matches the music perfectly. There are also some well put together non-musical moments like a scene where Andrew forgets his drum sticks and need to rush back and retrieve them.

James Herbert and Laura Jennings, Edge of Tomorrow: Large-scale, effects heavy action films usually require skillful editing just to say coherent, and Edge of Tomorrow has the added high concept of reliving the same day again and again to consider. Thankfully, editors Herbert and Jennings prove up to the task and cut this thing in a way that is understandable while keeping viewers on their toes.

John Ottman, X-Men: Days of Future Past: Ottman puled double duty on Days of Future Past as both composer and editor. The music is great, but Ottman’s editing is what really shines, cutting some excellent action scenes and balances content between the two timelines very well. Much has also been made about the Rogue subplot, and the fact that it was cut speaks to the filmmakers ability to see the bigger picture.

And the winner is…

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James Herbert and Laura Jennings, Edge of Tomorrowedge-of-tomorrow-international-poster-600x888

What ultimately won the day for Edge of Tomorrow wasn’t so much the “reliving the same day” angle so much as it was the sheer multitude of things the film needed to accomplish through its editing. From the epic battles, to the machinations of the plot, to comedic beats, to an undercurrent of hopelessness, much of this is accomplished through Herbert and Jennings work. Their choices of cutting are very intelligent and are a big reason Edge of Tomorrow works as well as it does.

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