Cinematography is tough to judge on its own merits, because it can be hard to extract it from the other powers of great visual storytelling. At the same time, every beautiful movie shows the signature of a talented director of photography as much as a filmmaker. In the process of considering the finest cinematographic achievements of this decade, this list includes on gorgeous films that — in some cases — achieve more on the level of cinematography than anything else. The past two decades have found the craft of cinematography making extraordinary advances on the level of digital technologies and other innovations, but at the end of the day, these particulars matter less than the sheer impression left by the images and movements captured by cinematographers operating at the peak of their abilities.
The Best Cinematography of the 21st Century
It’s a great time to be a Wong Kar Wai fan. Not only is the Hong Kong auteur at work on a new directorial project (“Blossoms,” see more information about the dramatic series here) and planning a mysterious sequel to his 1994 classic “Chungking Express,” but seven of Wong’s best films have gotten brand new 4K restorations courtesy of The Criterion Collection and L’immagine Rtrovata. Janus Films will be rolling out the restorations later this year in a package titled “The World of Wong Kar Wai.”
The first reactions for David Fincher’s “Mank” are in from film critics and journalists and they’re strong, although the script’s dense storytelling sounds like it won’t appeal to everyone. Netflix scored 10 Oscar nominations for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” earlier this year across above- and below-the-line categories, and it seems like “Mank” could be heading toward double-digit noms as critics are raving about its cinematography, production design, costumes, and acting, notably Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.