Visual Candy: Sicario

I'm posting for 60 days straight, leading up to my early December birthday, and I'm making the time to write on behalf of slain UCC Professor and aspiring novelist, Larry Levine. And now we have CSU Long Beach design student Nohemi Gonzalezgunned down in Paris.

First of all, I missed a post last night. Between attempting to get caught up after being sick and my mildly tumultuous personal life, I crashed without posting. Since starting these daily musings on October 4, I've missed two nights, which makes me respect the diligence and discipline of the daily blogging Queen over at Catching Days even more.

They say we need to create time for our creative pursuits - writing, painting, photography, music, underwater ukulele - on a daily, regular schedule. This (almost) daily posting practice is a small step in that direction.

After spending the entire day hunched behind screens, working to craft a visual story for a tech client and an audio story for the next Story Geometry podcast episode, I needed both a change of scenery and the stimulus of my fellow human. So I, of course, choose to go out in public, eat dinner with surrounded by the masses, and then stare at a movie theater screen.

And YOWZA, am I glad I did. I didn't know much about Sicario going in, other than it starred Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin. I was pleasantly surprised to see the film also starred the incredible Benicio del Toro and featured Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan.

Cutting to my point before I fall asleep in mid sentence, which has happened several times btw, Sicario is a harsh, violent view of US - Mexico relations on the border and profiles an attempt to make headway in the War on Drugs and find some redemption. But what struck with me most was the cinematography. We've seen many of these scenes before - tense macho / law enforcement kind've conversations in a moving car, airplanes taking off and flying, or our protagonist contemplating new information on his / her own before taking decisive action. 

In each case, the Sicario cinematographer (also called the Director of Photography or DP) created unique angles, treatments, ideas to visually layer a complex story with gorgeous, rich textures, including:

  • a camera mounted on the bottom of a moving jet, so that all we see is the jet's shadow below, racing across the arid Arizona desert.
  • a car conversation between a character in the passenger seat and two others in the back seats. The camera frames the front seat actor in a slight profile, almost OTS - over the shoulder - so we barely see his face as he talks, adding to the mood of subversive covert ops between US agents.
  • vast landscape shots of the various US and Mexican cities where the action takes place. And they weren't used in TV style, like the establishing exterior shots of The Brady Bunch, All in the Family, or more recently Friends and Modern Family. Instead they were used as transitions to sometimes remind the viewer of a violent city's scope before zooming in and isolating the particular violence our heroes were addressing.

I'm probably more attuned to this kind've thing than most but I noticed shot and shot, sequence after sequence, and I'm wondering, who directed this? And more importantly in this case, who shot this? So I stuck around for the credits, as I often do, and I almost LOL'd.

The cinematographer is 11 time Academy Award Nominee and multiple BAFTA award winner Roger Deakins. And based on what I saw, he's due for a 12th Oscar Nomination - and just might win this time.

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