In appreciation for 5 great female DPs working today

I’d been wanting to do this post for a while, but somehow haven’t got around to it. Well, thanks to last week’s Thursday Movie Picks on favorite cinematography, which I had actually missed, I thought I should make up for it this week.

The awesome topic came from Brittani who went with films highlighting female cinematographers on her post, so for this list I’m picking five female DPs whose work I admire, and it’s safe to say they’re some of the best DPs working today.

Before I get to that, I must say that perhaps more so than other key players in filmmaking like directors/writers/producers, DPs are still very much a man’s world. Based on WomenAndHollywood.com, of the top 300 films from 2016 to 2018, 97% were male and 3% were female were credited as the director of photography (DP) across the top live action films, which translates into 33 male lensers for every 1 female lenser. Well, let’s hope this grim stats will continue to improve, I mean, there’s only one way but up!

So let’s get to the list, shall we? Here they are in random order:

1. Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Though the Danish cinematographer had been working since 2004 in a bunch of short films, I first noticed her work in Thomas Vinterberg’s 2012 Danish thriller The Hunt. It’s such a beautiful, atmospheric film, shot in her native Denmark.

A few years later she collaborated again with Vinterberg in Far from the Madding Crowd. I distinctly remember being in awe of the lush visuals of that movie, shot mostly in the UK. The forest scene is simply breathtaking. Behold:

She also did impressive work in the underrated music-themed drama Hunky Dory, The Girl on the Train, and A Quiet Place.

2. Rachel Morrison

You can’t have a list of female DPs and not mention Rachel Morrison. Though her most famous work is no doubt The Black Panther, she actually earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Mudbound, the film she shot before the huge Marvel film. She had the distinction of being the first woman ever recognized by the Academy in the cinematography category.

I actually still need to see MUDBOUND, which also made history for DeeRees for being the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Black Panther is one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to pick which scene is the most beautiful, but I LOVE the visuals of the night car chase scene in Busan. It’s probably one of the most beautifully-shot car chases ever!

3. Maryse Alberti

The French-born DP has quite a career spanning 3+ decades, starting in the mid 80s with shorts, TV work and documentaries. Some of her films I remember well are Velvet Goldmine in the late 90s set in the world of 1970s glam-rock, The Wrestler, and Creed. The last two consist of plenty intense action scenes, given the nature of such contact sport, which I’d imagine are tough to shoot.

I love the realism in Alberti’s visual style… the scenes are dramatic and beautiful to look at, but not glamorized. There’s a realness and grit to it that also helps you as the audience to really get in on the action and also relate more to the characters.

4. Mandy Walker

The Victoria, Australia native had her start as a DP in Australian movies. The first movie I saw that she shot was Shattered Glass, about American journalist Stephen Glass. But the one movie that made me take notice of her work was in Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA, which of course was shot on location. The movie is practically a promo video for Australia, and for one of its hunkiest export Hugh Jackman in one of his most glorious form.

She also shot the stunning Chanel No. 5 perfume advert, collaborating again with Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman. She also worked on Hollywood films Red Riding Hood, Tracks, Truth and one of my favorites, Hidden Figures. I have yet to see MULAN yet, but she’s also the DP for that Disney live-action movie, so I hope to see that during the holidays!

5. Ellen Kuras

The New Jersey is known not just for her cinematography work, but also for directing documentaries. In fact, she nominated for an Oscar for her first directorial debut documentary The Betrayal in 2009. She continues to juggle both narratives and documentaries as a DP, such as JANE about Jane Goodall, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, and David Byrne’s American Utopia directed by Spike Lee.

One of her most well-known narrative work includes Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Ballad of Jack and Rose and the period drama A Little Chaos which was all shot in the UK despite being set at Versailles, France. I quite enjoyed the romantic period drama, starring some of my all time favorite actors, especially Kate Winslet + Alan Rickman (reunited after Sense & Sensibility!) and there are plenty of beautiful shots to admire in it.


Surely there are more female DPs working today who do excellent work, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. So, with that in mind, 

Who are some of your favorite female DPs? Feel free to include links to photos or videos.

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 20 Best Shots of the 2010s

Happy first weekend of the New Year, folks!

Everyone loves lists right, and since we’re entering a new decade, it’s a great excuse to make loads and loads of lists 😀 I’ll be working on various Best of the Decade throughout the year, and I thought I’d start with cinematography since Brittani just listed her 10 top best of 2018 over at Rambling Film blog (hey it’s also her blog 10th anniversary so head over and wish her a blog anniversary!)

I chose these images based on instinct… the one I think is the most indelible and leaves a lasting impression, as a film likely has a bunch of beautiful visuals (esp. those shot by the legend Roger Deakins!) Most of these films have the best cinematography of the decade, but I consider these images iconic in that people would likely know right away where it’s from. Now, it’s tough to whittle it down to just 10 and as we’re entering the [roaring] 20s, there’ll be plenty of Top 20s list this year.

So without further ado, here are my picks in the order of the film’s year of release:

Inception (2010) 

DoP: Wally Pfister

Life of Pi (2012)

DoP: Claudio Miranda

Skyfall (2012)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Gravity (2013)

DoP: Emmanuel Lubezki

Ex Machina (2014) – dance

DoP: Rob Hardy

The Assassin (2015)

DoP: Mark Lee Ping-bing

Sicario (2015)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

DoP: Robert Elswit

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

DoP: John Seale

La La Land (2016)

DoP: Linus Sandgren

Moonlight (2016) 

DoP: James Laxton

Rogue One (2016)

DoP: Greig Fraser

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Dunkirk (2017)

DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema

Shape of Water (2017)

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Cold War (2018)

DoP: Łukasz Żal

Black Panther (2018) 

DoP: Rachel Morrison

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Hidden Life (2019)

DoP: Jörg Widmer

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) 

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Hope you enjoy my list. Now it’s your turn, what’s some of your favorite shots of the past decade?

FlixChatter Review: Black Panther (2018)

I had been looking forward to write a review of this film since I saw it a week ago. By now practically everyone has seen this film, as it broke all kinds of box office records. Normally I don’t really care for numbers for a big tentpole films like this one, but I am thrilled for the success of Black Panther because simply it’s a terrific film that deserved to be seen on the big screen.

The film’s storyline is set just right after the events in Captain America: Civil War (a film I also admired a lot) where T’Challa, the then heir of a fictional African country Wakanda, lost his father. The young King of Wakanda returns his technologically-advanced and supremely wealthy home. It isn’t easy to be king however, as his ascend to the throne faced many challenges. Unlike many superhero films where the villains are mostly maniacal figure hell-bent to rule/destroy the world, T’Challa’s advisory turns out to be a personal one.

I won’t go into too much details about the plot as it’s best to go into this blindly as I did. The story takes place mostly in Wakanda, but it started off in a familiar urban setting in Oakland, California. I love how relatable the story is, and you truly feel for the dilemma of the characters involved. Rich in vibranium, the indestructible metal that’s used to make Captain America’s shield, Wakanda isolated themselves from other African nations and posed as a Third World country. Run by the King’s sister Shuri, her state-of-the-art tech lab would make even Tony Stark and Bond’s Q envious! This is a country that truly can stand alone in the universe and would never need any other nation’s help in any way. Therein lies the dilemma. Why doesn’t it help other nations and fellow Africans in need? The themes of refugees and the role (and responsibility) of a powerful nation is so fitting given the current global refugee crisis.

There is even a mid-credit scene that seems to directly address the current administration with its message about building bridges instead of barriers in times of crisis. The film doesn’t shy away from the current political climate, yet somehow it isn’t preachy and the story is still organic within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s admirable in and of itself the fact that the plot fits perfectly within MCU but yet manages stands alone and in many ways, be ahead of the pack. Because the conflicts are so personal to our hero, even when the action sequences are huge and bombastic, it never overpowered the story and there are real human lives at stake.

Let’s talk about the fantastically-diverse ensemble cast that made this film so great. From its intro in Captain America: Civil War, I already loved Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, but here we get to see his dramatic chops. The charismatic actor’s got an effortless regal vibe about him, plus he looks just as spectacular as a monarch as he is a superhero! He’s surrounded by a phenomenal cast, from veteran actors like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, to relatively-new-but-accomplished young stars like Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, current Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira. I have to admit I had a gleeful smile watching two of the Tolkien white guys, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman, reunited in this movie. The latter had more to do here and he provided some of the comic relief along with Wright’s Shuri.

Kudos to writers Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole for writing a villain who is multi-dimensional and someone we actually empathize with. Jordan displayed a layered performance as well as a towering physical magnetism as Erik Killmonger. Both he and Boseman are such strapping [read: hot] lads that their fight scenes are quite breathtaking to behold, but the action actually mean something instead of just a gratuitous display of destructive force [*cough* Man of Steel *cough*]. The filmmakers also created a conflict that has political/cultural significance that raises the stakes, yet keeping it grounded with human emotion.

I’d say the film might pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, considering the number of female characters with a real arc instead of used merely as accessories. The real MVPs are Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest and a Wakandan spy, and Danai Gurira as Okoye, a Wakandan general of the all-female special forces. Gurira’s army of bad-ass women easily give Wonder Woman‘s Amazonians a run for their money. So gratifying to see SO many heroic women of color on screen who are strong in terms of physical strength as in their intellect and resolve. Nakia is an especially inspiring character worthy of the King’s love and admiration, and Nyong’o has an amazing screen presence. Forget Black Widow, I’d love to see a spinoff with Nakia and Okoye in their own standalone Marvel movie!

This is what I called ‘fun with substance’ kind of movie, which is what Marvel has excelled at by hiring indie filmmakers to helm their blockbusters. The film showed off the huge $200 mil budget in terms of visuals and action set pieces, but the best part of it is still the story and its characters. But man, what a feast for the eyes it truly is! Apparently Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spent more $$$ on this film to get the wealthy-beyond-measure world of Wakanda just right (according to Vulture). The towering skyscrapers, the hi-tech trains/spaceships, not to mention the incredibly rich costumes that would hopefully earn Ruth E. Carter some Costume Design nominations. They look stylishly-futuristic while still honoring its tribal African roots.

I love that Black Panther has a ton of girl power both in front and behind the camera. Its cinematographer Rachel Morrison has just broke new ground as the first female DP ever to be nominated for an Oscar (for Mudbound)! Her stunning visual work here is quite Oscar-worthy as well. There’s such colorful vibrancy in this film that’s complemented by the lively score by Coogler’s longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this film. The stakes felt real and there were moments of genuine sadness, but it also didn’t forget to have fun because hey, it’s still a superhero movie. I LOVE the exhilarating car chases that shows off Black Panther’s prowess. Basically the entire scene in Busan, South Korea is just so freaking cool! I mentioned Shuri reminds me a bit of Bond’s Q, well, some of the action scenes here at times feels like a Bond film but thankfully without the male chauvinism aspect.

Now, it’s not a perfect film as there are some pacing issues and some parts seemed to go on longer than necessary. But really, those are really small quibbles in a largely masterful work by director Ryan Coogler. He’s joined a growing number of indie filmmakers like the Russo Brothers and Taika Waititi who’ve stepped up to the task of making such quality superhero films for Marvel. I’m glad that they now have a fruitful career ahead of them, as I want to see more of their work.

Diverse representation alone doesn’t make a film automatically good. But Black Panther did the diverse cast justice by giving them something worthy to do in a well-written, thought provoking film. And THAT is definitely something worth praising about. I hope Hollywood would finally realize that racial diversity and inclusion does pay at the movies! It may not be the first black comic-book-based movie, but it certainly the biggest and best one to date.

A friend from work put it best, ‘Forget about Marvel universe, give me a Wakanda universe!’ Hey I’m down with that! #WakandaForever


So have you seen ‘Black Panther’? Well, what did you think?