la la land

The Academy Awards: Our Favorite Cinematography Wins of Last 10 Years

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

While the acting and Best Picture awards typically dominate the buzz and conversation leading up to the Academy Awards, the cinematography category often has — quite literally — the showiest nominees. While typically the director has a say in how a film will look, as well as how specific shots will be laid out, their director of photography is usually the one tasked with creating this look.

Lighting, camera angles, camera movement, focus, and depth of field are just some of the choices a film’s cinematographer will make, with or without the director’s input. They will also have a say in the types of film stock and camera equipment used on set. All of these decisions culminate in a film’s final look, which is why it’s the director of photographer who will take home the Oscar when a film wins the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

While all of the nominees made the short list because of their unique, harrowing, complex, or gorgeous looks, here are just some of our favorite wins from the past decade:

Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda

Ang Lee adapted the novel Life of Pi and perfectly captured its otherworldly tale of a young man trapped in the middle of an ocean with a tiger. The movie is bright, colorful, and larger than life. In addition to taking place mostly on water, it incorporates magical islands and neon-infused skies, making it one of those films that should be illegal to watch on your phone. This deserves the 4K widescreen TV treatment at the least. No wonder it managed to beat out cinematography legend Roger Deakins’s outstanding work on the James Bond smash hit, Skyfall, as well as the other nominees in 2013.

Check out Life of Pi co-star and New York Film Academy alum Vibish Sivakumar here

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

La La Land – Linus Sandgren

Another colorful entry in this list is 2016’s La La Land, though the backdrop was less ocean fantasy and more theatrically artificial Los Angeles. But by combining traditional filmmaking techniques with modern sensibilities, Sandgren managed to put the audience in the world of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s making. La La Land earned multiple nominations and was a certified hit that left smiles on lots of faces.

La La Land

La La Land

Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

With nearly the entire action thriller taking place in space, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to shoot outside of star Sandra Bullock in an astronaut suit — but that’s partly why Lubezki’s work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is so impressive. By using outer space as negative space, Lubezki was able to capture a loneliness and isolation on levels rarely seen in cinema. Conversely, by using the bright blue Earth as a massive, larger-than-life backdrop in certain shots, the film never lost its sense of place, even as Bullock drifted aimlessly into a black nothingness.

Gravity

Gravity


Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki 

Lubezki won a second consecutive Oscar for his work on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, a film comprised of several long, complicated takes edited together to look like a single, continuous shot. This technique was used to some extent in Lubezki’s previous film Gravity, as well as Children of Men, but it was here where he really mastered the technique, transforming it from a mere gimmick into a statement about acting, theatre, and filmmaking in itself.

Birdman

Birdman

The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki

Emmanuel Lubezki appears frequently on this list because he became the first person to ever win three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography in a row, a distinction that shows just how brilliant he is behind the camera. His third win came for The Revenant, again directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and again filled with seemingly endless one-shots. Even more impressive was that The Revenant used only natural lighting and was shot nearly entirely outside in the wilderness on very cold days. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, The Revenant manages to be one of the most gorgeous looking films of the last decade.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Who will win this year’s award? Could it be Roger Deakins for his expansive work in Blade Runner 2049? Or Dan Laustsen’s grimy fairy tale noir look for The Shape of Water? Or maybe Rachel Morrison, the Black Panther cinematographer and first ever woman nominated in the category for her work on Mudbound? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Interested in studying cinematography and taking home an Oscar or three yourself in the future? Check out New York Film Academy’s cinematography programs here.

 

Movie Musical Icons and Why They Continue to Inspire Us

What is a movie musical icon?

In the performing arts world, musical theatre is timeless and classic. No wonder movie musical icons continue to inspire us!

Movie musicals combine acting with singing and dancing in order to give life to a masterpiece. A good musical can withstand the test of time, regardless of what time period the musical itself is encapsulating.

The same applies to the stars that play leading roles. Performers like Judy Garland are essentially immortal in the grand scheme of our cultural memory. Plotlines needn’t be complex for a musical to be entertaining or successful. Performers get to show off all aspects of their talent, which is what makes them so inspiring!

How does a musical theatre icon inspire us?

Musical theatre icons inspire us with their fantastic performances. To become an icon, their musical theatre presence has to be so great it makes a lasting impression. All it takes is one strong performance to become elevated to icon status in the public eye.

For instance, Tim Curry is an established actor who has played a lot of roles, yet most people remember him wearing a garter belt. Thanks to playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the most prominent image of him is a lipstick-toting transvestite from space.

But a role doesn’t need to be outrageous to stand out. For example, Ryan Gosling is also a well-established actor, who this year showed a new side as a jazz pianist in the award-winning “La La Land.” Will his performance join the iconic musical theatre performer hall of fame? Only time will tell, but we already know his performance is part of what has brought movie musicals back into the spotlight.

How do icons become icons?

Musicals require multidimensional talent. Acting talent alone does not suffice in musical theatre, or musical films. Performers must also be able to sing and dance in order to bring the musical to life. Being talented in one of these fields is enough to wow audiences. Excelling at all of them, all at once is absolutely exceptional!

How can someone not fall in love with Emma Stone when watching her sing, dance, and act as Mia Dolan in “La La Land”? Many of us can relate to Mia Dolan, a barista who aspires to be a successful actress. Stone brings that relatable character to life in the most spectacular way, which may propel her to icon status as well. That’s why the New York Film Academy aims to sculpt students into “triple threat performers” that are bound to impress critics.

How can you become a serious musical theater performer?

If you want to follow your dreams to become a serious musical theatre performer and inspire others, why not make it happen? The only way become successful is to get out there and perform musical theatre roles. Come to NYFA to learn the skills you’ll need to pursue your dreams.

The New York Film Academy trains students in fully-produced movie musicals to showcase their talents and prepare them for the rigors of delivering a stellar performance both on stage and on screen. Students also gain experience by working with industry professionals such as casting directors, agents, producers, experienced teachers, and more. Joining the 2-year program will give students tons of filmed, on-screen experience for auditions and later reference. 

Learn more about musical theatre and film performance at New York Film Academy. Who are your favorite musical theatre icons? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Exciting Things About the 2017 BAFTA Awards

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The start of each year is a thrilling time to be a fan of film. In January, we always kick off with the Golden Globe awards that honors the best films and American shows of the year prior. At the end of February we also see which movies and talented individuals get to take home their own shy Oscar that night.

Right in the middle of those two shows you have the biggest film awards show outside of the United States: the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. The following are only a few of the many reasons why we’re excited about the upcoming 70th BAFTA Awards.

Gosling finally makes it.

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Gosling is one of those Hollywood stars that needs no introduction today. But before becoming one of the biggest in the business, he got his start much like other notable celebrities: “The Mickey Mouse Club.” His success as a child actor landed him a leading role in “The Notebook,” which helped catapult his career into what it is today.

So far, the Canadian actor has been nominated by the Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Academy Awards. But 2017 will mark the first time Gosling receives an invitation to the most recognized non-American film awards in the world. His part in “La La Land” will see him competing for the Best Actor BAFTA Award against Viggo Mortensen, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The rising stars.

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Much like any other film awards show, at the BAFTAs most of our attention will be on the big names in the business. We’ll have our fingers crossed as we find out if our favorite actors win the award/s they deserve. With so much talent in the run for each category, there’s no telling who will win or what surprises might be in store for us.

Of course, it’s also fantastic to see an award that puts the spotlight on the future. The Rising Star category is a chance for a number of fresh faces to gain the recognition that will make them the next big A-lister. This year there are several promising names in the running, including Laia Costa, Tom Holland, Lucas Hedges, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ruth Negga.

A musical might be the big winner.

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As if making history by earning 14 nominations at the Academy Awards weren’t enough, “La La Land” can also leave the BAFTAs as the biggest winner this year. Damien Chazelle’s film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling received the most nominations this year with 11. As the world’s only school offering musical theatre students the opportunity to perform in movie musicals, NYFA will be watching with high interest.

The only other films that came close to “La La Land” in terms of the amount of nominations were “Nocturnal Animals” and “Arrival,” which both received nine nominations. Categories for “La La Land” nominations include for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film, and Best Director. Soon we’ll find out if the highly-acclaimed musical can pull off what it did at the 74th Golden Globe Awards — win every category for which it was nominated.

Mel Brooks receives the highest accolade.

MelBrooksApr10

Each year, only one person receives arguably the most important prize given at the BAFTA awards. The BAFTA Fellowship is a lifetime achievement award commemorating individuals who have helped shape and transform the entertainment industry. Past recipients include filmmaking icons like Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, acting legends like Elizabeth Taylor, and even famed game developers like Shigeru Miyamoto.

A 90-year-old Mel Brooks will receive this high honor this year, as he receives his own BAFTA Fellowship. As one of the most multi-talented people to ever grace the industry, with a career spanning decades of success, it’s easy to see why Brooks will be presented with the award. The legendary comedian is also one of few people to ever win a Tony, Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy.

Will you be watching the BAFTA Awards this year? Let us know in the comments below!

“La La Land”: NYFA Examines What Makes a Movie Musical Work

The New York Film Academy is the only school currently offering students the opportunity to perform in an original, fully produced movie musical (check out the write-up on our movie musicals in The Huffington Post). And as reported recently by Broadwayworld.com, NYFA’s movie musicals frequently feature collaborations with Broadway and industry professionals. Which is why we find it both exciting and important to help our community better understand the success of recent Award-season darling “La La Land.” What makes a movie musical so successful, and what can our students learn from this moment?

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash,” was the dark horse of 2016 films. It started off as a limited release, yet by Christmas it was in theaters nationwide. Despite its quiet start, the movie musical has gained traction quickly in the industry.

The jazz-themed musical, featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, took the industry by surprise when it secured seven Golden Globes at the beginning of January. With the Oscars a little less than a month away, Chazelle’s sophomore debut has received 14 Oscar nominations, with two songs from “La La Land” taking spots for original songs:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role
  • Actress in a Leading Role
  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Directing
  • Film Editing
  • Music
  • Music (Original Song)
  • Production Design
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)

Prior to “La La Land,” only two movies in history have secured 14 Oscar nominations – “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997).  “Mary Poppins” (1964), a beloved classic movie musical, received 13 Oscar nominations but it didn’t win Best Picture.

So, to the question burning on all of our minds:

What makes this movie musical successful?

Compared to its fellow Oscar contenders, “La La Land” isn’t a hearty drama nor does it touch on serious issues. Chazelle’s romantic musical, set in Los Angeles, doesn’t immerse its audience into bouts of depression or isolation. Instead, “La La Land” revolves around two attractive people chasing their dreams and at its core exists a romantic comedy — the type of movie that rarely wins Oscars, but that tells a very human story in a directly relatable (if somewhat more glamorous) way.

For a movie musical to succeed, the performances must rivet and move the audience. “La La Land” succeeds at this, unconventionally — for while both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are strong actors, neither are experienced in singing and dancing. Nevertheless, audiences and critics alike have agreed that their performances do what matters most: captivate. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote in her review of “La La Land”: “They have the unforced grace of natural performers, lending an offhand rakishness to every step they take.”

So how can students build their own captivating performances in movie musicals? Here at the New York Film Academy, we believe it’s important that every student in our Musical Theater program receives the highest level of training in professional skills as triple threat performers under the guidance of Broadway-level faculty. In the quest to build a powerful performance, professionals must have a full arsenal of tools to draw upon. NYFA musical theatre instructors have toured in various Broadway and touring productions, regional theaters, opera, movie musicals and television shows. They can offer students real-world training that will prepare students to offer their best possible performance.

What makes “La La Land” different than other romantic comedies?

Unlike most romantic comedies to hit the market today, the two main characters don’t get drunk, have a one-night stand and move on with their lives. Instead, Chazelle uses the first act of the movie to establish the main characters’ individual careers and passions. The dynamics between Mia and Sebastian are effortless. Instead of forcing the characters to be dependent on each other to move the film forward, it allows the audience to bond with both characters on a personal level before the characters become fully entwined. These fully fleshed, individualized characters are what propels the story. And it is the attention to the individual details in the characters that allow Stone and Gosling to shine.

Musical theatre students at NYFA get to experience this careful, deliberate level of individual characterization in the most spectacular way: their roles in original movie musicals are specially written for them. Like Stone and Gosling in “La La Land,” NYFA musical theatre students get the benefit of performing in roles that are tailored to their individuality.

Another factor in the success of “La La Land” is the way the film pays loving homage to movie musicals before it, perfectly balancing affection with clever innovation. The movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it gives nods to movie musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Grease,” “Sweet Charity,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Shall We Dance,” achieving an intoxicating blend of freshness and nostalgia for the audience. This knowledge of and ability to build upon the musical theatre canon is a strength one that we firmly believe in teaching at NYFA, where students not only gain training and experience in performing classic musical theatre pieces, but are able to experience Broadway productions from their base in New York City.

Chazelle didn’t set out to deliver a movie focused on serious issues, which would more than likely cloud the plot of the movie. What he set out to do was create two relatable characters reminiscent of earlier movie musicals meant to break the monotony of super heroes and far-fetched action movies dominating today’s film industry. And it worked. Amazingly well.

Start your own movie musical adventure today with the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre School.

Study How to Make Movie Musicals Like “La La Land” at NYFA

As BroadwayWorld.com recently put it: “La La Land isn’t the only vehicle opening the door for a new era of movie musicals. NYFA’s original productions feature Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton, Aladdin), Tony Award nominee Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin, A Chorus Line), Jen Perry (Kinky Boots) and others.” With “La La Land” breaking Oscar-nomination records, movie musicals are in the spotlight. And NYFA is the only school in the world where students can learn to perform in professionally produced original movie musicals. It’s not only an option but an explicit opportunity, and we a write up in The Huffington Post to prove it. 

Mike Olsen, who chairs NYFA’s musical theatre program, stresses that making movie musicals at NYFA is an incomparable experience: “Imagine being a student of musical theatre and having a team of professionals gather to collaborate with you on the creation of an original movie musical,” he says, “Where the character you portray is written for you, the songs are devised around your unique sound and capability, the movement and dance elements reflect your personal wheelhouse, and the whole endeavor is a highly professional journey that culminates in a fully edited, professionally engineered final half-hour movie musical that gets submitted to festivals across the country.

 

 

“No other training academy has our unique capacity to bring filmmaking and musical theatre together to create such a practical and highly professional educational experience,” Olsen continues. “We are on the cutting edge of this and if I were a young musical theatre talent, and while this popularity swells, I would jump at the chance to get this valuable training.”

Today, the critically-acclaimed movie musical everybody’s talking about in Hollywood and beyond is, of course, “La La Land.” The movie made headlines once again after scoring 14 Oscar nominations.

“While this has been percolating recently in our culture, the recent film ‘La La Land’ has tipped the scales,” says Olsen. “Film producers are now putting movie musicals in their top priority file. As America experiences a new renaissance of the movie musical, it is an exceptional piece of good fortune that the musical theatre program at the New York Film Academy is on the cutting edge of training young talent to meet this new demand.”

Olsen isn’t the only one to point out the cultural relevance of movie musicals. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis recently penned a piece about how “La La Land” gives musicals new importance.

At NYFA, students can merge stage talent with the technical training necessary to bring an original musical vision to the big screen.

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“While the primary training focus of the Musical Theater Department remains rooted in the traditional elements of solid stagecraft, NYFA is also uniquely in the lead when it comes to getting movie musical experience,” says Olsen. “Students in the advanced stages of their training enjoy an unprecedented chance to collaborate with the creative process of writing a movie musical, working in a professional studio to lay down vocal tracks, and being on set and on location, acting and performing, in a fully realized movie making experience.”

Picture this: You and your NYFA classmates making the next “La La Land.” It could happen! Apply for our musical theatre program today.

Screen Love: The On-Screen Couples We’re All Rooting For This Fall

Very few among us could have predicted the sad end of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s 12-year relationship, which has left many fans searching for romantic hope on the silver (and small) screen. Here are some on-screen couples who can help you believe in love again this autumn!

“Bridget Jones’s Baby” — Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy

Fans of the Bridget Jones franchise have had to wait some time for the third installment, but we’re happy to report it has been more than worth the wait. What’s not to love about the bumbling Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth locked in a perpetual state of “will they/won’t they”?

This time around, there’s a second guy in the mix and the mystery as to who’s the father of the titular baby drives the plot forward with purpose. We won’t spoil it here, but if you loved “Mamma Mia!” or any of the previous Bridget movies, you’ll relish the time spent back with old friends.

“La La Land” — Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, again

Stone and Gosling have become quite the on-screen duo, having proven very convincing chemistry-wise in the past with “Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011) and “Gangster Squad” (2013).

This time they’re back for the musical flick “La La Land,” which is set for release in December. Thanks to a unanimously praised opening at the Venice Film Festival, it already stands at a near-perfect 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics particularly enamored with the sizzling performances of the leads (with Stone’s already garnishing Oscar buzz).

There should be a rule that dictates if you appear as an on-screen couple three times in a row, you are obligated to get together in real life. After all, the fans have come to believe it.

“Orange is the New Black” – Alex Vause and Piper Chapman

The show that got us out of our post-“Breaking Bad” hangover.

It has been a few months since the Netflix-dump of the entire fourth season, and now that the dust has settled, it’s high time for a re-watch — given the mileage to be had from that emotional roller coaster. The tempestuous relationship between Alex and Piper took something of a backseat compared to previous seasons, but comes back to the fore in the penultimate episode. We’ll have to wait until next June to find out whether they’ll ever stop hitting the self-destruct button on the relationship that has gotten us completely hooked.

As a romantic side note, Samira Wiley — who played Poussey Washington — has just announced her engagement to OITNB writer Lauren Morelli. The latter only realized she was gay during the process of writing the lesbian romance subplots of Poussey’s story. There’s a real off-screen love story to keep romance alive!

“Victoria” – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

One of the finest period dramas to come out of Britain in recent years, Victoria covers the formative years of the country’s most alluring monarchs.

With exquisite attention to detail in the costume department and sets along with a superb performance from Jenna Coleman (who you may recognize as Clara from “Doctor Who”), what really steals the show is Victoria’s endearing relationship with Prince Albert … and particularly how such a love can survive given the power struggles that engulf them at every turn. And better yet, audiences can enjoy the fact that this is all inspired by one of the most famous real-life couples in recent European history.

Outside of online streaming, North American viewers will have to wait until it airs on PBS in January to see why it has become one of this year’s most-watched shows across the pond.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” – Rebecca Bunch and Josh Chan

Paradoxically, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is simultaneously the brightest and darkest comedy to have hit our small screens in the past year. It’s outright hilarious in a wacky way and peppered with delightful musical numbers, but at the same time centers around the (frankly disturbing) topic of obsessive stalking.

If you liked “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Ally McBeal” or “Flight of the Conchords,” you’ll love “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” And this on-screen … couple? couples? dysfunction?… will give you ample time to ponder the meaning of true love. Get caught up if you haven’t already, because season two will be airing in late October. And if the romantic implications of the season one finale are anything to go by, things are going to get very interesting, indeed!

“Me Before You” — Louisa and Will

One of this year’s biggest Hollywood success stories (having grossed $200 million against a budget of just $20 million), the DVD is now out for romance fans who missed it in the theatres. Again, we won’t spoil anything, but this is one of those couples … let’s just say, imagine Nicholas Sparks turned up to 11 — you’ll need a lot of tissues.

We hope these on-screen couples can keep the flames of romance burning for you throughout the fall. What are your favorite on-screen couples coming to TV or film this season? Let us know in the comments below!