Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

4 Must Watch Director’s Commentaries – Even if You’re Not a Film Geek

4 Must Watch Director's Commentaries - Even if You're Not a Film Geek

4 Director's Commentaries for any sensibility or taste! At least one of these will appeal to you...
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Don't make the mistake of paying more for a lower quality theater experience. Here's a look at what HFR really does to your image straight from a cinematographer's mouth...errr...pen...err...whatever.
Baseball Broadcasts: Behind the Scenes

Broadcasting Baseball

Ever wonder how the game gets from the field to your television set? We're sharing a behind-the-scenes look.

Top 15 Films of 2012

May 30 2013 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

NOTE: Where applicable, films were screened in their 2D theatrical cuts.

In keeping with tradition, I’m releasing my top picks of last year rather late in the calendar. The rush of films released in December means I like to take some time to catch up and produce a list that’s more comprehensive. Just how it goes if you want an accurate list.

Most of my top 15 are films I hadn’t yet seen on Jan 1st.

On Featured Presentations, we made our top 10 picks til March (click here if you’d prefer to here these in audio/podcast form – #11-15 not included).

So enjoy! I hope you discover an awesome film you wouldn’t have otherwise seen from this list. Obviously, I recommend them all.

15. Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly has dialogue and a story arc that is somewhat hard to follow. My two most positive takeaways are the beauty of the slow motion sequence midway thru the film and the dialogue between two major character in the final scene.

They essentially flat out tell you the message here (usually, a big no-no), but they set it up so well that I didn’t really take objection to this error in methodology.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen the real point of the film until this final scene, but it flipped my opinion pretty quick simply because of the witty comeback dialogue that Brad Pitt so quickly retorts at the very end. It was refreshing to see a character written with such a unique and extreme take on the world – all while still seeming to be the most moral man in the room.

14. Life of Pi

Life of Pi (2012)

The one thing about Life of Pi that will strike most viewers is the beauty of its imagery. Claudio Miranda is an expert cinematographer, once better know for the 3D work in Tron: Legacy (2010).

But it’s not just cinematography. Life of Pi also excels in the visual effects arena. They put a tiger in a lifeboat with a main character for the majority of the film – and the assumption by all visual cues while watching is that it’s a real tiger. Yet 99% of the time, it’s not.

If anything, the film suffers from length – although this is primarily to give you the feeling of being trapped at sea with the main characters. Life if Pi tries to play with big themes of proving the existence of a god, to which many critics credit it with only a limited success – partly due to weaker acting in the “present day” sequences.

13. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012)

I hate it when pop culture items get too much hype, and Collins’s The Hunger Games definitely crosses this line. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by how this film asks some deep tough questions all without forcing any message whatsoever.

If you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, this is basically the film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 that I always wanted to see, but which was never made.

12. Prometheus

Prometheus (2012)

There’s a disproportionate amount of sci-fi on this year’s list. In part because of Prometheus which I never dreamed would be making my top ten.

There’s a solid performance from the VFX team on this one. Sci-fi is the one place where you can sometimes get away with the ‘less isn’t more’ approach – but only if you can back that up with the quality of the effects. Despite the plethora of effects, you never seem to notice them.

Of course, all that work is pointless without a stellar (pun not intended…) foundation. Prometheus gains this foundation, as do most things, thru great story and directorial achievement.

I say “story” somewhat improperly here as the thriller/suspense aspect of Prometheus is really what makes it such a strong piece. That is, we really don’t even know what the story is (beyond the surface level) until the very end – but the suspense keeps us with it the whole way.

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Shot in Pittsburgh, PA, and directed by local Stephen Chbosky (also the writer of the original novel), The Perks of Being a Wallflower has an authentic local flavor unrivaled by any other Hollywood production (compare to Warrior [2011], for instance).

That point aside, this is a solidly executed film all-around – and no one particular aspect stands out as better-than-the-rest.

The story takes some interesting and unexpected turns, making its way into my #11 slot thru a couple lines of wise but clever dialogue that interweave themselves inseparably from the larger fabric of the film.

10. Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina (2012)

Cinematography and production design are paramount and in perfect tandem in this historical epic. Based on Tolstoy’s novel, this is a crowd-pleaser for niché audiences only, specifically those who are fans of artsy films, SteadiCams, or Russian culture – that is, people who’ve sat thru Russian Ark (2002).

I felt transported to the classic Russia of yesteryear while being drawn in by the complicated, yet flawlessly executed, choreography of dance, costumes, and sweeping camera movement. Lots of SteadiCam and crane movement here – think Russian Ark or Black Swan (2010).

A must see for a select audience, Anna Karenina is a film I won’t soon forget.

9. Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

An excellent directorial effort from Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom takes many risks – and they all turned out to be wise ones. It’s one of, if not the best, screenplay of the year.

The film star two young protagonists, which is a traditional no-no as working with child actors is one of the hardest and riskiest moves you can make as a filmmaker. Wes Anderson not only produced a script that revolves around two young protagonists, but an entire scout troop. Thru either stellar casting, directing, or most likely both, Anderson pulled of the risk.

The utter unrealistic nature of this film seems to work perfectly within Anderson’s universe, to the extent where you don’t question the reality of the ridiculous events occurring onscreen.

8. Ted

Ted (2012)

I’m not typically one to put a comedy on my top ten, let alone the directorial debut of – I’m now obligated to add “Oscar-nominated” here – Seth MacFarlane. However, Ted is simply the most brilliant romantic comedy about a grown man owning a living teddy bear you’ll ever see.

What makes this different from other comedies is there’s actually a heart to the story and performances. It becomes more than something you watch for a laugh. You sense the true weight of the plot – even if it’s thru something as seemingly cheesy as a jib moving high above a CGI teddy bear crying in the rain.

I’d also like to give MacFarlane mad props for contacting Neil DeGrasse Tyson ahead of time to make sure he got the star-fields correct in the backgrounds of the night exteriors. This makes him the only person to have received a perfect “star rating” from Tyson. I truly wish more filmmakers would pay this close attention to the details.

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Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.


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