Are movies getting uglier?

Color:Everything is brown and dull, or blue and metallic. Sometimes it seems like a whole damn movie which you would think would be filmed in different places has the same color spectrum. Visually unexciting, very rarely serves a stylistic purpose(see The Road).

Cinematography:Less wide shots, everything is filmed close up on the actors. Fewer fancy shots, less use of composition, again it seems like every shot is close up on the actors unless it is a CGI panorama. I’m guessing this might be due to the use of green screens. Greater use of faux-documentary style shakey cam.
Am I going nuts or is this really going on? So many modern movies just seem so visually DULL, from the colors to the sets to the camera work. It seems color composition and beautiful shots are out of style, maybe they are seen as too unrealistic? But while some movies might be served by that, on the whole I don’t go to the movies for dull brown realism.

I don’t know if they’re directly related but the color criticism has been one for a few years now in computer gaming. The typical remark being “the color palette was brown, gray and muzzle flash”.

Apparently you can’t have gritty, realistic and bright colors all at the same time.

I agree, and I’ve complained about it before on this Board. Go look at old Technicolor movies from the 30s and 40s and early 50s – the went out of theior way to get bright vibrant color and contrasts. When color could set you apart from the run-of-the-mill black and white, you optimized your color. Those old films had Techncolor Consultants.

B the mid-1960s, when color was becoming cheap and generally available, people paid less attention, and colors started to look muddy. Cheap films, especially, looked awful. And it’s been going on ever since.

If you’re asking if there’s a deliberate effort to look dull, I think in many cases there is. Certainly the filom O Brother Where Art Thou went out of its way to deaden the color palette, using computer processing to strip down the color to achieve a particular mood. I hated it. I suspect that some directors think bright and vibrant color is not sufficiently Serious or “Adult”.

There’s also a trend toward “Tea and Orange” that many folks have noticed:

This is a related observation:

CalMeacham, those are great links, thanks. The Cracked one made me laugh a few times.

I’m interested to see if Spielberg’s Lincoln will have the same stripped-down look as *Oh Brother… *and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to give the film a “historic” feel.

I doubt it - Spielberg is largely a classicist when it comes to direction and cinematography. Even Saving Private Ryan, which most people remember as being drab, could be quite colorful considering its subject matter.

I definitely agree that there’s a sadly increasing use of close-ups in movies. It seems like you rarely ever see two people conversing together in the same shot any more, particularly in mainstream Hollywood movies. It’s always:

Single shot of person A: “Hi.”
Single shot of person B: “Hi.”
Single shot of person A: “How are you?”
Single shot of person B: “I’m fine, how are you?”

And so on. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s so visually uninteresting. Maybe directors are afraid of their movies being called stagey (as in, not cinematic enough because we’re seeing two people interact on a stage as you would in a live theater) if they just film people talking and doing stuff from a wider angle. But you really get a sense of the relationship between the characters if you can actually see them interacting.

For example, last year in the Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender movie Shame, there was a long, unbroken (I think) scene with two characters having dinner together, and it was so great. You could see their body language and how each one reacted to what the other one is saying, and you could clearly see that these two people were very attracted to each other. It was so much more enlightening than just a back-and-forth series of shots.

That said, I do think there are a lot of movies each year that have great cinematography. This year, Moonrise Kingdom, The Deep Blue Sea, Take this Waltz, and Damsels in Distress have lovely, vivid color pallettes. But they are the results of the directors clearly putting a lot of thought into how the movies are going to look. If only all directors went to that much effort.

Yeah, but Munich looked pretty drab and grungy to me.

I was just looking at some stills from Dances With Wolves and Glory, and both films are very vibrant and have good color balance. *There Will be Blood *was pretty vibrant too. I don’t mind the sepia effect in those other period pieces, but the “orange and teal” combo can’t be unseen for me.

Mike and the Bots riffed on this: “Filmed in Soap Opera-O-Vision

Well, yeah, but that’s there to reinforce the movie’s “Israeli spies are losers” theme.

The Star Wars films were al pretty colorful, as were the Star Trek flicks. Maybe this is one reason people subconsciously think of science fiction as “kiddie stuff” (although 2001 was pretty colorful).
The Pixar films are all pretty colorful, too. In fact, I’m not sure if anyone’s ever pointed it out, but Pixar’s choices for their earliest features all involved subjects with bright, colorful subjects and characteristic textures – Toy Story, with all those plastic toys, A Bug’s Life, with colorful chitinous bugs, Monsters, Inc. with colorful and rubbery or hairy monsters, Cars, with shiny colored metal cars, and The Incredibles, with colorful superhero garb.
Of course, right from gthe get-go Pixar didn’t need this sort of crutch. Even though these seem perfect for the limited capabilities of early computer animation, Pixar always seemed to be state-of-the-art, and capable of much more than such single-colored, simple textures. And they demonstrated it in those very movies. (The individual hairs in Monsters, Inc. were, I understand, a major breakthrough in rendering.)

Super-close-up shots shots are terrible and make me feel claustrophobic–especially when paired with shaky cam, ugh. I *really *hate them. And because I play an MMO that uses mousewheel to zoom, I find myself unconsciously attempting to zoom out when I’m watching a movie on my computer with unnecessary and prolonged super-close-ups.

On the flip side, at least crappy camera techniques contribute to hilarious reviews like this.

There has been a shift in filming style that is notable for coming hand in hand with the live action 3D movies.
I don’t know if it has offered too much distraction from a narrative, or contributed more to it visually. I guess it depends on each film individually, as with anything else.
That said, I don’t enjoy live action films in 3D, I find it largely pointless, and will side with Christopher Nolan. Who did not make Batman in 3D, quite delibatly. (ahah. Ahahahah - sigh)

The influence it has is noticable in the deliberate framing of objects/people at foreground, and midground, (anything in the distance might as well be on a flat card, for all the ineffectuality that it offers, 3D wise)

There are up-angles and down-angles to offer “variants” on the depth plane, and shots that are taken with the camera nearly at ground level, or looking “just over” the surface of things, to eke out as much dynamism as possible. Of course, the “in your face” effect is one that is most obvious, and has been around since much earlier attempts at 3D filmery. Yes, I am STABBING YOU WITH A GIANT HARPOON. OOOOOO. Now I shoot you with ARROWS. IN YOUR FACE, viewer!!!

Does that break the 4th wall in a good way or a bad way? Do you think “wow, really cool effect”, or is your immersion still intact?

I have found the majority of 3D film experiences to annoy me (light reflectivity on lenses, or smaller cinema setups), not to mention that the effect seems to dull after minutes. Hey, I LIVE in a 3D world. Trust me, it’s almost un-noticable, it’s so commonplace! Our eyes adapt pretty darn fast.
Edit: AND when it’s done badly, it really disrupts my viewing pleasure.

But it’s still kinda fun in a trainspotting way, to go "ah. This has been filmed specifically to make a 3D scene ‘pop’, when I watch the film in 2D. And in some way the dynamic angle might help the film visually? I don’t know. Fully digital films are better suited to 3D, over the live ones. Even so. I’ll watch them just as happily in 2D thankyouverymuch.

Ironically, I am a stereophotographer as a hobbyist, and my day job is in CGI for film and television! But I think that filming live action for 3D is a waste of time. Yeah. (And it’s an absolute pig for visual effects artists to have to work with, for many geeky reasons.)

Also. Shakey cam - DO HATE.
No, it does not make me feel part of the action, because you try shaking your head about without habitually trying to focus in at least one direction. It’s human nature.

It’s not just the close-ups, it’s also the editing: the only thing that editors seem to know how to do anymore is the fast cut. Long takes (where the actors can actually act) are rare to nonexistant.

In action scenes, I find the fast-cutting distracting and confusing. My candidate for worst example was the last James Bond movie, QUANTUM OF SOLACE. I don’t think there was a single take, in the entire movie, that lasted more than five or ten seconds (I could be exaggerating for emphasis, but only slightly.) In the fight scenes, I had no idea who was doing what. In the conversations, I got a headache from the very fast cutting.

And then when a director like Alfonso Cuaron or Joe Wright (see the excellent fight scene in the parking garage in Hanna) and his editing team decides to do one or more scenes with long takes, a certain section of the moviegoing audience will immediately scorn them for “showing off.” :rolleyes:

Tony Scott used these effects to the extreme during later part of his career. I find them nearly unwatchable.

This reminds me of a review I read comparing the original True Grit with the Coen brothers version. The critic was actually griping that the original was too colorful. The review went on and on about how awful it was that Kim Darby wore a red dress in several scenes. Didn’t seem real enough, I gathered. That is how warped Hollywood community’s perspective on color has become.

I’d just like to point out that I think audiences prefer brighter colors, and they convey a more optimistic tone. Please take note of two animated films – The Little Mermaid and The Corpse Bride. Both movies open in the “Real” World, which is drab, with dull or at leastr muted colors. When we’re plunged into the “other” world of the chief unearthly femkale character, the colors are brighter and more vibrant. Ariel’s undersea world is incomparably brighter and mnore colorful than the garyish scenes on the shipboard opening svcenes (although later scenes of the surface world are general less drab), while the scenes in the Underworld in Corpse Bride are extremely colorful.

The Matrix movies played the same tricks, with the added touch that the Real World isn’t merely colorless and dull, it’s downright depressing in other ways, while the world in the Matric is frequently colorful (even when it’s depressing and “distressed”).
I’ve see n the same trick used more subtly in other films. It’s pretty clear that, from this “bright colors = optimistic and maybe childlike”, directors are equatying drab, washed-out, and colorless with “serious”, “adult”, maybe even “intellectual”. Which is too bad, because I likes me some colors, even in serious adult fare. So do other people, or the Expressionists and the Carl Faberge firm wouldn’t have been so successful.

The world inside the Matrix was extremely green as I recall; I wouldn’t exactly call it colorful.

My favorite recent movie for color is Hero with Jet Li. It amazes me that it’s ten years old already. Bold colors are a theme in the whole film, but the whole thing is shot like a series of carefully composed paintings.

One of the articles I linked to said “the Matrix is the Greenest movie ever”, but it’s not completely true. Remember the Lasdy in the Red Dress? (A simulation, not the Matrix, but still not the Rreal World)Or many of the exterior views, especially the mountains and the Highway.

The recent Total Recall remake is certainly uglier than the original. Half the time you can’t even tell what’s going on thanks to the shaky cam fast cam bad angles everything is too dark etc.