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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.


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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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