Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Michael Ballhaus and The Fabulous Baker Boys

It's Pfeiffer Week

Ten (semi-randomly selected) reasons why the cinematography of The Fabulous Baker Boys (one of the best films of its decade) should've won Michael Ballhaus the Oscar. [click to enlarge]

10. It understoods how to introduce Susie Diamond and (re)Introduce Michelle Pfeiffer

09. It has gorgeous but subtle recurrent motifs...

08. ...that also serve to reveal character. These shots nail Jack Baker's relationship to women (as often as Jack nails women).

07. It understands how cold and lonely Jack Baker really is.

06. The camera movement has a sense of humor (This right to left pan has a funny punchline)

05. "Making Whoopee"
Michelle is exquisite. So is the choreography of the camera and lights.

04. The production's consistent color palette is superbly served through the soft lighting. Speaking of soft... you never get the sense that Baker Boys is lit with anything less than full purpose and yet it never strains for grandeur or effect.

03. ...see what I mean?

02. The cinematography consistently fires on all cylinders: composition, lighting, movement all serving the emotion, the characters, the very soul of each scene

01. Michelle Pfeiffer's beauty is properly mythologized.


Anonymous said...

yes, it was a beautifully shot movie, and it captured the mood and setting of Seattle back then perfectly. He also should have won for The Age Of Innocence, hell, he wasn't even nominated that year, what a joke!

Carl Joseph Papa said...

i so love this movie!

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Michael Ballhaus is one of the great DOP's, no doubt. But most of the reasons you mentioned for the cinematography's greatness relate to framing/movement/composition/mise-en-scene, all of which are really the director's department more than the DOP's. That's why individual awards for things like editing and cinematography (although, of course, great fun to hand out) are essentially really quite silly and beside the point. DOP's (obviously) have great input into a film's cinematography, but they are essentially there to work off what they're told and put the camera and lense the shot exactly where and how the director decides. This is why Michael Ballhaus' cinematograhy in things like The Departed and The Marriage of Maria Braun is spectacular, while in things like Air Force One and Sleepers it's rather generic (I haven't seen The Baker Boys as yet). So I'd argue, all of those cinematgoraphy awards should be shared between a DOP and a director.


well under the auteurist theory... really even acting awards should be shared by the director.

and maybe the editor too.

i'd argue if you're going to divvy up awards to collaborators you assume that they had input into their respective categories as well.


or in Baker Boys parlance, are you saying that Ballhaus is "parsley"?

but you're right i should've talked about the lighting more

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I wasn't really referring to the auteurist theory (which has its wonderful aspects as well as its groundless, indulgent aspects), more from experience on film sets (and mine is maybe a bit limited, but so far it's taught me the above).

And I'm not saying your post wasn't interesting - it was and plenty, I hope there's more like it. And I hope the next bit of cinematography you analyse will be something I've actually seen so my input might be a bit more productive.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I just rewatched The Fabulous Baker Boys a week ago as a personal tribute to you and Michelle while I unpacked boxes in my new apartment. After the first 10 minutes, I stopped unpacking. That movie is completely great, for all the reasons you've been chronicling in these posts, chiefly Jeff Bridges, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Ballhaus. Beau Bridges is great, too.

That Dead Poets Society scooped Baker Boys for Actor and Screenplay nods is so insanely grotesque. (I understand that no one at the time was predicting otherwise, and somehow Jeff Bridges never had any traction as an Actor contender in that admittedly strong year, but still...)


oh please don't get me started. I've seen FBB several times (duh) and there is just no way it wasn't deserving of plenty more nominations than it got.

best cinematography of its year
best actress
best actor nom (yes, a competitive year but jeff bridges performance strengthens on almost every viewing. it's insane how good that performance is getting 18 years later)
director, screenplay, picture, etcetera.

Hedwig said...

Hey! I finally got around to watching this film after you recommended it so often and so fanatically...and well, you weren't lying. It's amazing. Although, being a bit younger, it WAS strange for me to realize that man, the Dude is, well, sexy.

Thanks for pointing me to this great movie, I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise!


i'm so glad you said that. i love writing about films but it's more satisfying when i know the writing is leading to the watching of... ;)