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2010 / 12 — December Issue of American Cinematographer
2010 / 12 — December Issue of American Cinematographer

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The December 2010 issue of American Cinematographer magazine, has a special focus on awards-season releases and an update on the activities of the ASC Technology Committee. (All articles are tentative and subject to change.)

Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
Matthew Libatique, ASC and director Darren Aronofsky reestablished their intriguing collaboration (which also includes the films Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) on this stylish but deeply disturbing drama that revolves around Nina (Natalie Portman), a New York ballet dancer who goes into a psychological spiral after landing the lead role in a bold interpretation of Swan Lake. Nina's stress mounts as she contends with a demanding director (Vincent Cassel), a new rival (Mila Kunis) and her obsessive, domineering mother (Barbara Hershey); to reflect the dancer's inner torment, Libatique employs handheld cameras, a modern-Gothic visual style and phantasmagorical visions that become increasingly surreal.

127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
Two top cinematographers — Anthony Dod Mantle, BSC, DFF and Enrique Chediak — help director Danny Boyle tell the harrowing true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), who was forced to sever his own arm after becoming trapped under a boulder while canyoneering near Moab, Utah. During his five-day ordeal, Ralston reflects on friends, lovers and his own fate; Dod Mantle and Chediak discusses how they created different looks for the film by blending 35mm and footage captured with the Silicon Imaging 2.0 digital camera.

Burlesque (Sony Pictures)
Bojan Bazelli, ASC helped choreograph the excitement for this musical extravaganza about a small-time girl (Christina Aguilera) who travels to Los Angeles, where she finds her place at a foundering burlesque club and revives its fortunes with an improbable rise toward stardom. Bazelli explains the techniques he used to lend the production its glitzy, glamorous look.

Love and Other Drugs (20th Century Fox)
Steven Fierberg, ASC discusses his first collaboration with director Edward Zwick on this romantic drama about a free-spirited woman (Anne Hathaway) battling an illness who finds herself drawn to a charming but roguish pharmaceuticals salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal). Fierberg calls the movie "a comedy that we lit like a drama," and he analyzes how he and gaffer Steve Mathis accentuated and highlighted the stars' features to emphasize their facial expressions and reactions to one another. He also explains his approach to a huge loft-apartment set built on a stage in Pittsburgh, where most of the story takes place.

The December issue's departments also offers illuminating insights:

  • Short Takes offers cinematographer Craig Kief a forum to discuss his recent work on an effects-driven music video for the Ben Lovett song "Eye of the Storm." Kief explains how he used "blacklights and fluorescent dyes, tapes and paints to create live keys on the actors and props that could then be composited via CG into trippy, surrealistic animation."
  • Production Slate offers insights from Danny Cohen, BSC about his work on the acclaimed British drama The King's Speech and Phedon Papamichael, ASC about his cinematography on Alexander Payne's The Descendants.

  • Post Focus presents information on Company 3's 3-D dailies system.
  • Filmmakers' Forum offers a first-person perspective from cinematographer Michael Grady about his work on the CBS Films production Faster.
  • Tomorrow's Technology details the recent activities of the ASC Technology Committee. Key members outlines the biggest challenges facing each of the group's subcommittees and discuss some of the solutions they're pursuing.
  • ASC Close-Up offers a profile of Society member Frank Byers, whose credits include the features Flowers in the Attic, Freeway, Boxing Helena, Return to Two Moon Junction and Shiloh, as well as episodes of the television series Twin Peaks, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Hawthorne.