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What’s the best-shot movie of the last decade, according to cinematographers?

What’s the best-shot movie of the last decade, according to cinematographers? (photo)

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The American Society of Cinematographers has issued a poll settling definitively, once and for all (ha!) what the best-shot film of 1998-2008 was.

The non-controversial answer: “Amélie,” shot by Bruno Delbonnel.

It’s a bit of a bizarre choice, but one representative of the list as a whole, which tends to favor artificial color palettes (often computer-tweaked), virtuoso long takes and other strong assertions of of visual personality. Nothing wrong with that, of course — it’s easier to register work like that. Either way, it’s impressive that Roger Deakins placed higher for the relatively unshowy “No Country For Old Men” over the absolutely staggering “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” — but, of course, more people saw the former, and that’s what happens when you let 17,000 people vote in the final, public vote. A clip from the latter:

One could bitch and moan about the exclusion of all the tiny under-budgeted visual triumphs omitted from the list, like Remi Adefarasin’s lyrical work on “The House of Mirth” and Saymobhu Mukdeeprom’s gorgeous forest idyll in “Blissfully Yours,” or the fact that the only black and white work on there is Deakins for “The Man Who Wasn’t There” rather than, say, Patrick de Ranter’s work on “Werckmeister Harmonies” — but that’d be nitpicking. Polls and lists are for fun, not for encyclopedic reference, and you’d have to be an awful churl to go to town on this list, which is about as good as it could be.

I wanted to focus, instead, on one cinematographer who regularly works on studio films and whose omission is genuine cause for mild complaint.

In the real world, Tak Fujimoto isn’t underrated. Best known as Jonathan Demme’s in-house cinematographer more or less from 1974’s “Caged Heat” onwards (his work on “The Silence of the Lambs” is probably his best-known stint), Fujimoto also served as DP on “The Sixth Sense,” which really doesn’t look like any other Hollywood movie:

“In “The Sixth Sense” my approach was, Don’t light the hallways with blue scary lights,” M. Night Shyamalan explained to Time back in 2000. “Nobody’s hallway looks like that, so it’s not going to affect people. Make it look like your hallway when the lights go down.”

Fujimoto took that aesthetic and ran with it to memorable effect. Given the lack of genre fare on the list (unless you want to be a smart-ass and claim “The Passion of the Christ” is the scariest movie of all time), it would’ve been a good choice.

2007’s underrated “Breach,” for that matter, includes something I’ve never seen in another movie. “Breach” is the story of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who was actually a Russian spy. Billy Ray’s dramatization of the subject is far dryer and more factual than you’d expect — it’s a neat little movie, thanks to Chris Cooper’s predictably terrifying turn as Hanssen. There’s a striking moment at the end, when he’s been arrested: the elevator doors open to him in handcuffs, and Cooper’s white-faced glare looks like the world’s angriest kabuki actor, an incredibly unnerving effect accomplished seemingly without tweaking.

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Fujimoto’s specialty is to conjure up striking visual effects like that the old-fashioned way — through lighting and on-set manipulation rather than extensive post-production. It’s distinctive, especially in this day and age. A little more attention to that kind of relatively unflashy approach would’ve been nice.

[Photo: “Amélie,” Miramax Films, 2001; “Breach,” Universal Pictures, 2007]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.