Posted in Through The Lens

Best Of Oscar-Winning Cinematography


What writing style is to literature, what colours and brush strokes are to painting is what cinematography to cinema. It’s often regarded as the language of cinema, as it is the tool to communicate to the audience without using words. Visuals have the power to manipulate how one feels about the subject, hence making it a commanding tool to convey the essence of a story. 

Each shot of a film is the cinematographer’s conception. The lighting, blocking & framing, colour palette, and much more! Each of these decisions has an impact on how we perceive the image. It requires an acute understanding of the story, to replicate the same visually. 

There are several rules (conventions rather) that have conceived through the years of cinema and have developed what we can call the language of cinema. These are the rules (of framing the character, camera angles, lighting, etc.) that make the image more pleasing and comprehensible. But rules are meant to be broken if you know how to! A lot of skilful cinematographers break these rules when the story demands and come out with visuals that are a class apart.

Cinematography has a very heavy bearing on how the film turns out, it can help a simple story become more engaging. This article explores films that have won the Academy Award for their captivating cinematography. 

  1. 1917 (2019): If 1917 didn’t deserve to win, then none ever did. To undertake such an ambitious project (a war film with only one hard cut!) required all the technical assistance it could gather. To pack so much action in a film like that is an accomplishment in itself. The most remarkable thing is the lighting, natural sources of lighting were used in most shots. It was a restriction they had to go around, and it turned out to be the realistic touch the film required.
  1. Roma (2018): The film is a documentation of Alfonso Curran’s (the director and cinematographer) childhood memories. The film is from a viewpoint of an observer, observing moments (from Curran’s memory) from a distance. Everything in the frame tells a story, the images are all the exposition that the audiences need. It somehow takes the audiences to that place and time and has a sharp sense of realism to it. It’s a brave decision to make a black and white film in the age of colours, giving it a feel of a memory from that time period.
  1. La La Land (2016): Can colours tell a story? The answer will be “yes” after watching La La Land. A film where colour is used in a supreme fashion to stimulate the natural reactions and emotions of a viewer in tandem with what the characters feel. The colour palette used in each scene has a meaning to it and has a psychological impact on the audience. There is a relation between the costumes, background, and the lighting; which visually tells the story.
La La Land
  1. The Revenant (2015): It will be challenging to find visuals as scintillating as in The Revenant. Pause the movie at any frame and it will be picturesque. But it is more than just magnificent landscapes, the visuals represent how indifferent nature is to human emotions. The film achieves visually what most films require exposition for, it let the visuals do all the talking. 
The Revenant
  1. Gravity (2013): Arguably the best shot space film to date, it depicts outer space in the most realistic style. Emptiness can be the most difficult feeling to convey through visuals. There is not a lot to play with for a cinematographer in such a film; no colours, no magnificent landscapes, just the lighting and the earth in the background of plain black. Despite all these restrictions, it is a masterpiece and a visual treat, well deserving of the accolade!
  1. Life Of Pi (2012): An excellent combination of great cinematography with equally appealing VFX, how else would a story of a boy stuck in a boat with a tiger in the middle of the vast ocean come to life? The picturization of the ocean has a dreamy feeling, (which is the point of the film), to muddle reality with imagination. The use of contrasting colour palette in different situations helps us understand the protagonist’s state of mind.
Life Of Pi
  1. Inception (2010): Inception is a unique mix of sci-fi, emotions and action. It is a very ambitious screenplay to bring to life. It’s the cinematography that helps the audience differentiate between the different dreams, due to the treatment given to each dream. And it also let the audience explore the tension on each character. Its cinematography is a testament that dreams can become reality (*winks*). 
  1. There Will Be Blood (2007): Being a character-driven film, the plot relies on the protagonist and his dynamics with the surroundings and other characters. The cinematography helps the audience understand those dynamics. There Will Be Blood is a masterclass for staging and blocking. The lighting brings out the harsh conditions the characters are thriving in. It was shot on film stock, which helps it achieve the feel of the early 1900s.
There Will Be Blood
  1. Saving Private Ryan (1998): An inspiration to a lot of films, the film is full of war scenes and well-crafted conversation. It is as much about the soldiers as it is about war. The war scenes are bordering on reality, it’s the camera work that makes it so engaging. In the middle of all the chaos, there are moments of calm. These moments take us closer to the characters, gives a sense of calm before an impending storm. 
Saving Private Ryan -
  1. Titanic (1997): The impeccable cinematography is what holds the film together. It gives an immersive experience of the journey, social scenario, and finally the collapse. The film has two different moods, one is of luxury and comfort while the other is of fear and panic. This difference is felt visually through the lighting and camera movements. The film constitutes some of the most iconic shot in Hollywood history.

Posted in Through The Lens

Best of oscar winning editing

It’s often said that editing either makes or breaks the film. Metaphorically speaking, it’s like carving an idol from a block of stone. Hours of raw footage has to be trimmed down into minutes of the final film, with the basic goal of making the film intelligible. Moreover, thousands of creative decisions have to be made while editing to bring out the essence of the story, its emotional appeal, and the desired audience reaction. Editing is often the difference between an average film and a great one. 

The craft of editing is as artistic as it is technical; the answer lies in using the techniques artistically. A single frame here or there changes the whole ambience of the scene. Thus, an editor has to keep in mind the impact they want the scene to have on the viewer and then use the tools at their disposal in the best way to land that impact. 

The tools used for editing may have come a long way, highly capable editing software has replaced the mechanical cutters on which editors used to cut films (film strips). But, the irreplaceable tool is instinct. Editing is referred to by many as an invisible art, the art which gives a film its flow. And for it to be invisible, it should have an organic flow to it, and concurrently have an emotional impact on the audiences. This can only be achieved through the instinct of an editor.

In this article, we will explore the films which have been Oscar acclaimed for editing, through the years.

  1. Ford v Ferrari (2019): The latest recipient of the honour, the film is not just another action movie about racing, rather it’s about the passion which drives an individual. For the audience to feel that passion, they must feel and relate to each character’s motivation, which has been achieved through captivating editing. The buildup in each sequence has a befitting reward to it, the rising tensions have equivalent relief to it, which gives this movie its unique flow. 
Ford v Ferrari
  1. Dunkirk (2017): It’s an accomplishment for a film with such minimal dialogue to communicate emotions so effectively. It takes skilful editing to mesh three different timelines, in a way that the tension in each timeline is continuously rising. (Taking away nothing from the scintillating sound design and cinematography). The editing gives each sequence a sense of urgency, anticipation and tension, which are the essential elements to a story of evacuating soldiers from the clinches of the enemy.
  1. Whiplash (2014): Whiplash is one of the few films which are so dominantly controlled by editing. The editor Tom Cross has edited the conversation sequences in such a brilliant way that it silently makes us feel what the characters are going through. The same can be said about the drumming sequences which are so crisp and engaging, they don’t let your eyes off the screen even for the briefest of moments. The editing gives the character the authority they should have with the context of the story.
  1. The Girl With The Golden Tattoo (2009): The Girl With The Golden Tattoo is an outstanding illustration of how one should edit conversation scenes. For a non-action film to win for its editing speaks a ton about its craft! The other notable thing is the way they have edited the background score with the visuals. The editing of a scene determines what the power dynamics are between characters and what the audience should focus on. Picking up shots lifts the appeal of the scene requires masterful visual storytelling!
The Girl With The Golden Tattoo
  1. The Aviator – (2004): The Aviator encompasses a lot of aspects of the protagonist’s life, there are a lot of layers to the story. Be it his slow descending to critical OCD, personal life or professional life. Thelma Schoonmaker (the editor) is an expert when it comes to editing technique, her 3 Oscars for editing is a testament to it. Though some techniques may drift away from realistic cinema,  it does deliver the impact; for example, the scenes when the OCD and germaphobia struck. 
The Aviator
  1. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Unlike what most war films highlight, Saving Private Ryan focuses on the vulnerabilities of the soldiers in a hostile war environment. The film takes you so dreadingly close to the battle and gives the viewer a first-hand experience of what the soldiers in war have to face. It explores human emotions so well because of its editing. The edit of the film as a whole and for individual sequences complement each other. Each battle scene has tension and the film as a whole has peaks of tensions and equivalent relief. 
Saving Private Ryan
  1. The Matrix (1999): To fit so much information in under 150 minutes requires masterful editing. The Matrix is a very rare combination of sci-fi with extraordinary storytelling. The transition between the two scenes is noteworthy! It keeps the audience puzzled as to what is real and what is a dream. The challenge for the editors in such a concept heavy film is to keep the film crisp and also convey the concept to the audience. The Matrix is not only crisp overall, but also the individual scenes.  
The Matrix
  1. Apollo 13 (1995): A film about a journey to the moon has to be one with a lot of tension and suspense. Apollo 13 was not just about the journey and what goes into it, it was about the emotions that people around the mammoth task goes through. Through its brilliant intercutting we understand the emotions of each involved party. The extent to which the emotions are conveyed is subjective to each viewer, but most will agree that Apollo 13 is one of the most impactful space movies. 
Apollo 13
  1. Schindler’s List (1993): A movie on a topic such as the holocaust needs to be treated with the utmost sensitivity. Schindler’s List explores the human emotions of people involved in such a horrific tragedy. Be it Schindler’s character journey (transition from a profit-hungry businessman to a saviour of numerous lives) or the horrors of the holocaust, the edit does justice to it. It’s the invisible craft of editing which is working on an audience who empathize with what’s going on the screen.
Schindler’s List
  1. Raging Bull (1980): A classic, whose editing technique still inspires filmmakers. The stand out editing for this film has to be the boxing sequences. Just through the editing (of course other aspects too), the audience can perceive the mental state in which the protagonist is. The transition between his personal life and his life in the ring gives us a clear picture as to how both those lives are intricately woven. The editing helps Raging Bull stick out of all the other boxing films. 
Raging Bull
Posted in Through The Lens, Uncategorized

Most Heartwarming Children’s Roles in Cinema

Most Heartwarming Children’s Roles in Cinema


Most Heartwarming Children’s Roles in Cinema

Posted on  by wordsofdz

An actor’s job is simply to convince the viewers that they are the character they are playing. But it’s not as simple as it sounds, in order to convince viewers one must convenience themselves first. The only way of doing that is by “being” the character and not “acting” out the character. One has to think, feel and react like the character would; which is a tough thing to achieve. Especially when one has experienced a whole different life, which builds certain blocks in their head; making them the person they are, breaking from which can be quite a task.

So, inexperience can sometimes be favorable for an actor; a clear head is always an actor’s aid. This is where a child artist has an upper hand, their emotions are pure. Eyes express a lot of what a person is and that is why people find children’s eyes innocent. Still, it’s not a child’s play to get a child to play (a role) . The innocence has to be used in a tactful manner in order to get the most out of a child. That’s why there are only a few gems of film where a child’s role moves you and you associate with that character. 

Here is a list of films which have some of the most heartwarming children’s role

The Children Of Heaven

Directed by one of Iran’s most prominent director Majid Majidi, The Children Of Heaven is amongst the most sincere portrayals of children. The film successfully captures the purity and innocence of a child’s mind through the simple obstacles that they face in order to make their parents’ life easier, the latter being preoccupied providing for the family. The amplitude of trouble both the siblings go through just so that their parents do not have to burden themselves with a new pair of shoes authenticates the film’s title. It takes us back to when simple things used to mean a world to us. 

The Children Of Heaven

Taare Zameen Par

Finding another film which shows a child’s emotion in a more proficient way will be fruitless undertaking. Backed by solid performances and remarkable understanding of a child’s psyche, the film is a tale of a child overcoming the pressure and expectations of the society and making his own place. It’s stirring to witness the child coping with all that his surrounding throws at him, and then watching him evolve under correct nurturing. It is a mirror to the highly competitive society where there is no allowance for wonder and leisure. 

Taare Zameen Par

As the title suggests, the film is all about the intriguing mess that Mumbai is, not concerning its riches, but the rags. Set in the streets, it profoundly captures the essence of the city. Now, the streets are a harsh habitat, more so for a child. The children in this movie are our eyes to the rugged life on the street, where there is no place for innocence. Mira Nair has extracted performances so natural from her actors that the movie couldn’t be more close to reality. It’s very rare that we get to see this range of emotions in children. 

Salaam Bombay

Salaam Bombay

The 400 Blows

François Truffaut’s first, The 400 Blows is a revolutionary film for the French cinema. It’s an unconventional story of a neglected adolescent boy, who has matured beyond his years and has become a rebel causing trouble everywhere around him. The film is a testament to what children can become when all they have seen is neglect. His life experiences have toughened him and turned him into a rogue. It’s a semi-autobiography of the director himself and his journey to his independence, which gives the character of Antoine Doinel a realistic touch. 

The 400 Blows

Life Is Beautiful

One wouldn’t expect a film based on one of the most tragic incidents in human history to be named as this. While showing the vicious side of the holocaust, the film also shows how a father shields his son and also people around him from hatred of the fascists. It’s through the child (as a result of his father’s attitude) that the story tells us that no matter what situation one is in, life still can be beautiful. Children are the emblem of hope, and the same is preserved in the end of the film when our child-hero survives the tragedy. 

The Boy Who Harnessed Wind

It’s astonishing how much humans have to work to fulfill just their basic necessities, especially when the conditions around are hostile. The film is about the hardship the African population has to face to fill their bellies and a teenager who hopes to help that cause using all the resources available to him. With no one by his side, he keeps working on his vision in the harshest of conditions. And through his persistence and adamancy, achieved it finally, becoming an inspiration and also a saviour for the whole village.

The Boy Who Harnessed Wind

Bicycle Thieves

Set in post war Italy, the film highlights the hardships that a family faces for basic survival. The livelihood of the family depended on a job which requires a cycle, which gets stolen. It’s when the father and kid sets off to find the thief in the city, that we see the heart warming commitment the kid has towards his dad and finding the cycle. The kid at such an early age knows the criticality of the cycle which they had bought after selling articles from their home. The kid is a constant support to his father, even after constant negligence from the latter. 

Bicycle Thieves

Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali is a realistic film set in a rural village of Bengal. It is about the hardships of a family without any fixed source of income and how the financial condition and social structure affect a girl child. The character of Durga (the girl child) is  beautifully knotty, and has a realistic touch to it. She gets her way through all the restraints and now and again does what gives her joy. She is plenty responsible and also has child-like wishes. The film is a perfect description of life in rural India.

Pather Panchali

Pursuit Of Happyness

I can add this film just due to how adorable the kid is, but that is not the criteria. The kid deepens the emotional appeal of the film, adding an extra layer of subtext to it. The child was in some ways, asking out loud what his father felt but didn’t have an outlet to speak out. Being with the kid represented the happiness that the father was pursuing. The loss and hardship they faced was amplified due to the presence of the child, and so was the happiness. The undying trust that children have in their parents sometimes becomes the support the parents require.   

Pursuit Of Happyness

Keep the child in you alive! Happy Children’s day.

Posted in Through The Lens, Uncategorized

Breaking The Fourth Wall

Breaking The Wall


Breaking The Fourth Wall

Posted on  by wordsofdz

NO NO! Calm down! Put your sledgehammers away, it’s not what it sounds like. But it is sure as exciting as breaking a physical wall for a film director. A director (I mean an exceptional one) always works to make their film more captivating for the audiences. Cinematic techniques, sound design, art direction, editing, and other such tools are at a filmmaker’s disposal to play with for achieving the same.

‘Breaking the fourth wall’ is one of the cards in a director’s kitty to grab audience attention. It is a dramatic technique wherein the character/s of a fictional world display an awareness of the fact that they are in such a world. To put it briefly, it’s when the characters of the fictional world directly address the audience, hence breaking the illusion of the wall between them. 

The fourth wall is essentially the imaginary wall that separates the fictional world and the audience. The term comes from the world of drama where the performers on the stage are to be unaware of the audience’s presence as if they are separated by a wall. The term is also relevant in cinema, where the screen acts like the imaginary wall.

The earliest instances of breaking the fourth wall in cinema can be dated back to the early 1900s. It’s considered to be a convention to never break the fourth wall, but breaking the rules is what art is all about, isn’t it? Mastering the art though is a different thing altogether. In this article, we try to list the movies that have broken the fourth wall quite effectively, and also the impact that it creates on the audience.

There are a wide variety of views on how to break the fourth wall, or whether to break it at all. Some prefer to use it in a subtler way whereas many just go all out for it. At the end of it, all that matters is how it adds to the experience of the film. Does it enhance the storytelling? Does it bring out the quirky characteristics of a character? Does it improve the viewer’s understanding of the situation better? Or simply, does it add to the comic value of the film?

Here is a list of movies which answering at least one of the above questions positively, break the fourth wall in a rather insightful way : 

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

Think about “psychological thriller”, and Fight Club will definitely cross your mind. The storytelling should be very tight for psychological thrillers to have any kind of impact on the audience. Fincher breaks the fourth wall to convey a very important emotion of ‘admiration’ that the narrator had for Tyler Durden and his reckless lifestyle. We understand the importance of that emotion only at the tail end of the movie; where I can’t tread without giving out spoilers. 

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

For a film to have an organic flow, it shouldn’t let the audience drift elsewhere even for the minutest of moments. As the people in the audience aren’t themselves the wolves of wall street, they may feel clueless when talking about the technicalities of a stock exchange. This is where he breaks the fourth wall in the film so as to not lose its grasp. It also helps in the character development of the protagonist and builds up the environment of his workspace. 

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016)

Deadpool has taken up the concept BTFW and sprayed it all over the wall. There are hardly a few films that have taken the concept to that extreme, and what better way to show that the character doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the rules. It works perfectly for the character and enhances it. In fact, the essence of the movie is in BTFW.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes, 1986)

The movie is famous for BTFW. It gives us a feeling that we are too a part of the plan and deceptions of the protagonist. Through these conversations, we register the confidence, ego, and arrogance of the character with whom we are on an epic adventure of missing school by deceiving the parents.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes, 1986)

House Of Cards (2013)

House of cards is considered one of the best modern political dramas. It uses BTFW in an exceptional way. We get a piece of the protagonist’s mind all throughout the show, giving the viewer a closer angle to the politics and ploys. It helps bring out the ruthlessness of the protagonist at moments.

House Of Cards (2013)

Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

Not your average rom-com, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall won the 50th academy award for best picture and director. Breaking the fourth wall almost comes organically to film. The film starts with a BTFW scene, giving us an insight into the puzzled mind of Alvy Singer, the protagonist. By breaking the wall, Allen conveys to the audience the quirky thoughts and reactions of his protagonist, which adds comic value to the film.

Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)

Kiss Kiss bang bang is one of those movies that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a parody of detective novels and is packed with wicked humour. Hence, BTFW really helps the movie to achieve the objectives it sets. The most noticeable BTFW scene comes at the end of the movie, adding another element of humour and audience interaction to the film. 

Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987)

It probably has one of the smartest and in the face wall-breaks in a movie, where they play the DVD of the movie in the movie itself. It’s not often that we see the characters of a film watching themselves in that film itself. It builds up the film’s absurdity and lack of seriousness, which is what the film stands for.  

Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987)

In this French rom-com, BTFW again helps in building a connection with the protagonist and understand her better. She is a reserved character who doesn’t interact with people of her world very much, but does so with the audience with ease, hence strengthening the bond with them.  

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Another one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces, Goodfellas is one of the highly-rated crime dramas of all time. This is a fitting example of the impact BTWF can create. It happens only once in the film and therefore the impact also amplifies. The scene is the point from where everything flips 180 degrees, and the wall-break certainly uplifts the experience.

Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

The list certainly doesn’t encompass all the great examples of breaking the fourth wall. But we tried to cover examples that illustrate the concept and its application in the best possible way! 

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