Best Cinematography of 2014

     December 24, 2014

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert D. Yeoman


The partnership between Wes Anderson and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman goes all the way back to Anderson’s feature debut, Bottle Rocket, and with their latest collaboration they may have turned out their most immaculately crafted film yet.  The movie’s Russian nesting doll structure is mirrored in its cinematography, as Anderson and Yeoman present the film in three different aspect ratios, each with a distinct color palette.  The results are simply exquisite, and I’m left wondering how the two can possibly top themselves. 

4. Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth


As the debate over film versus digital rages on, David Fincher continues to master the latter format.  He and Jeff Cronenweth have been working together on and off for years, but Gone Girl marks their third collaboration in a row and the photography is absolutely stunning.  Shot entirely in 6K, the film is masterfully crafted using all of the best tools available for digital without ever feeling cheap or video-esque.  The picture’s twisted structure is mirrored in the cinematography, as the early scenes between Nick and Amy are light and airy in contrast with the moody, foreboding present day-set sequences, giving the former an almost unrealistic feeling.  And then the scenes with Nick himself, alone in their big house, are shot as if the character is imprisoned, echoing his isolation.  Never have the Missouri suburbs felt so dark and treacherous. 

3. Selma – Bradford Young


Between Selma and A Most Violent Year, cinematographer Bradford Young is having a banner year.  The films couldn’t be more different from each other, and Young shows off his versatility with both while also maintaining a distinct voice.  The cinematography in each film is incredible, but it’s Selma where Young’s talents coalesce into something immensely powerful.  In concert with director Ava DuVernay, he paints the Civil Rights march in a modern context, opting not to shoot the film like a biopic and instead make it feel somewhat timeless.  The use of handheld and the frequent framing of Dr. King from behind turn the film into a visceral experience, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge sequence is a brilliantly crafted, unforgettable piece of filmmaking.

2. Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki


When Emmanuel Lubzeki shoots a movie, you know it’s going to be a ride.  He’s right up there with Roger Deakins as one of the Greats, and he’s always game for a challenge.  While we thought his work in last year’s Gravity was spectacular, “Chivo” somehow found a way to make his job even more arduous with the comedy Birdman.  The idea: to make the film look as if it’s all one long take.  That’s no easy task in and of itself, and while Lubezki found ways to hide cuts in pans across a wall or towards a door, his toughest and most impressive task came in lighting the various locations.  Lighting one shot is hard enough, but Chivo is able to weave his camera around 360 degrees and maintain a consistent visual tone.  This is incredibly tough to pull off, and he does so with grace—not to mention the rhythm with which he carries the movie from one scene to the next.  It’s yet another towering accomplishment from the cinematographer.

1. Inherent Vice – Robert Elswit


And yet, for all of Birdman’s bells and whistles, I found myself most transfixed this year by Robert Elswit’s work in Inherent Vice.  It almost feels somewhat overlooked, as we all expect Elswit to capture incredible images in a Paul Thomas Anderson film.  But given the movie’s aim to suck viewers into a hypnotic daze for 2+ hours, Elswit’s cinematography is absolutely crucial to pulling the magic trick off.  And he does so exceptionally.  He offers a unique look at the world of 1970 Los Angeles, a city stuck between two incredibly different times/cultures/generations, trying to find its footing.  There are, of course, a number of memorable long takes, but it’s mostly the atmosphere that Elswit conjures that leaves the biggest impression.  It’s like a noir, but not quite.  Inherent Vice is its own special breed of…thing, Doc Sportello is our guide, and Elswit’s cinematography gently lowers us into the haze.

Honorable Mentions: Fury (Roman Vasyanov), Wild (Yves Bélanger), Calvary (Larry Smith)

For more of our Best of 2014 coverage, peruse the links below:



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