RIP Michael Ballhaus (1935-2017) - German cinematographer best known for his collaborations with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Martin Scorsese and Mike Nichols passed away yesterday at age 81. The three-time Oscar nominated director of photography began his career in 1959 with a TV movie. In Germany, it was his association with Fassbinder that brought him acclaim and public perception with 15 films together, including Whitty (1971), Beware a Holy Whore (1971), The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972), World on a Wire (1973), Martha (1974), Fox and his Friends (1975),
Mother Küsters’ Trip to Heaven
(1975), Satan’s Brew (1976), Despair (1978), Chinese Roulette (1978),
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) and Lili Marleen (1981).
His career in America started with Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982) and Baby It’s You (1983) but it was with the partnership with Scorsese that made him a more recognisable and important name in photography, beginning in After Hours (1985). They also worked in The Color of Money (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), the elaborated shots of Goodfellas (1990) going through hallways without cuts, The Age of Innocence (1993), Gangs of New York (2002) and The Departed (2006), which was Ballhaus final major film work. Other works include: Under the Cherry Moon (1986) - to which he directed a few sequences without credit, Broadcast News (1987) - his first Oscar nomination; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Working Girl (1988), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) - 2nd Oscar nod; Postcards from the Edge (1990), Guilty by Suspicion (1991), The Mambo Kings (1992), the exuberance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Quiz Show (1994), Outbreak (1995), Sleepers (1996), Air Force One (1997), Primary Colors (1998), Wild Wild West (1998), The Legend of Beggar Vance (2000), Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and 3096 (2013), his last work. He’s father of cinemaographer/camera operator Florian Ballhaus and assistant director Jan Sebastian Ballhaus, and nephew of actor Carl Ballhaus who appeared in M (1931).
A genius of speed, movement and light, Ballhaus was a true versatile cinematographer during his day, embracing several genres and styles. One who’ll be missed.
I was at one of my first networking lunches, with lots of important filmmakers in attendance. During a break I happened to strike up a conversation with the first woman who was able to join the cinematographer’s guild. She said that she’d had all the qualifications for years, and had applied long before she got in, but that the man in charge of membership refused to let her join, telling her, “Over my dead body!” “Oh my god,” I asked her, “How did you ever get in?“
“James Wong Howe was a Chinese American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s he was one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood.
He worked on Fantasia‘s Philadelphia Orchestra sequences, notably 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’, featuring 'eye-searing Technicolor cinematography’. He was uncredited for this contribution.
Howe earned the nickname ’Low-Key' because of his penchant for dramatic lighting and deep shadows, a technique that came to be associated with film noir. Howe also was known for his use of unusual lenses, film stocks, and shooting techniques. In the 1920s, he was an early adopter of the crab dolly, a form of camera dolly with four independent wheels and a movable arm to which the camera is attached. For the boxing scenes of Body and Soul, in 1947, he entered the boxing ring on roller-skates, carrying an early hand-held camera. Picnic (1955) features a very early example of the helicopter shot.
Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Taishan, China in 1899. His father Wong Howe moved to America that year to work on the Northern Pacific Railway and in 1904 sent for his family. A Brownie camera, said to have been bought at Pasco Drug when he was a child, sparked an early interest in photography.
After a chance encounter with a former boxing colleague who was photographing, Howe approached cinematographer Alvin Wyckoff and landed a low-level job in the film lab at Famous Players-Lasky Studios. Soon thereafter he was called to the set of The Little American to act as an extra clapper boy, which brought him into contact with silent film director Cecil B. DeMille. Amused by the sight of the diminutive Asian holding the slate with a large cigar in his mouth, DeMille kept Howe on and launched his career as a camera assistant. To earn additional money, Howe took publicity stills for Hollywood stars.
Howe met his wife, Sanora Babb (novelist + poet), before World War II. They traveled to Paris in 1937 to marry, but their marriage was not recognized by California until 1948, after the law banning racial intermarriage was abolished.
He was nominated for ten Academy Awards for cinematography, winning twice for The Rose Tattoo and Hud. Howe was judged to be one of history’s ten most influential cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild.”
“What appears on those screens was not computer-generated. Carpenter
wanted high-tech computer graphics which were very expensive at the
time, even for such a simple animation. To get the animation he wanted,
the effects crew filmed the miniature model set of New York City they
used for other scenes under black light
with reflective tape placed along every edge of the model buildings.
Only the tape is visible and appears to be a 3D wireframe animation.”
BRUJOS IS A QUEER-OF-COLOR, RADICALLY POLITICIZED WEB SERIES FOLLOWING FOUR GAY LATINO DOCTORAL CANDIDATES–THAT ARE ALSO WITCHES. THEY NAVIGATE MAGIC, SEXUALITY, AND SURVIVING A WITCH-HUNT LED BY A SECRET SOCIETY OF WHITE HETERONORMATIVE MALE DESCENDENTS OF THE FIRST NEW WORLD COLONIZERS.
Installment 1: The Devil
Episode 1: Aries
Episode 2: Taurus
Episode 3: Gemini
Episode 4: Cancer
TV can be art. TV can be revolutionary. TV can be popular entertainment AND incite critical dialogue. Audiences are hungry and intelligent enough for challenging work. This describes the philosophy behind BRUJOS, a counter-hegehmonic web series. Produced by Open TV (beta), conceived, written and directed by Ricardo Gamboa and to be shot by cinematographer Ben Kolak, BRUJOS is a queer-of-color web series.
BRUJOS blends the Latin American soap opera, American sitcom, and critical theory as it follows a coven of four queer Latino doctoral candidates as they learn magic, indulge in nightlife, navigate intimate relationships, and write seminar papers all while trying to survive a witch-hunt. These young protagonists confront histories and realities of racial and gendered inequality as they battle the secret society of white, heteronormative male descendants of the first New World colonizers behind the witch-hunt. Twelve, seven-minute episodes corresponding to signs of the zodiac cycle have been developed through queer men of color testimony; interviews with actual practitioners of divination and magic, i.e. psychics, santeras, tarot readers, etc.; and with academics of cultural studies, performance studies, and queer theory.
BRUJOS addresses the current the landscape of television: Gay men and people of color are more apparent than ever in mainstream television. Sitcoms like “Blackish” and “Fresh Off The Boat” depict families of color attaining the American dream. Programs such as “Looking” and “Modern Family” feature middle and upper class white gay men searching for love or functioning as an all-American family. While these shows are representational achievements, they are not revolutionary ones.
In these cases, ethnic, racial and sexual minorities are portrayed in ways that support dominant culture, narratives, values and relationality. Commercial television studios and networks preoccupied with “scale” and “big data” seldom produce aesthetically or politically challenging work to secure mass viewership. This only further marginalizes non-normative people who’s lives, realities, and stories do not fit within their depictions and who devise new ways of being under the pressures of inequality that are never affirmed.
Moreover, Chicago has become a hotbed for television production. However, series such as Chicago P.D. reiterate stereotypes of people of color as criminals. Mega-hit EMPIRE provides more complex portrayals but it’s get-rich-or-die-trying messaging is consistent with popular culture. Too often work that offers alternative images, narratives, and values is not seen as viable by mainstream producers.
For such reasons, Stephanie Jeter moved from big budget television producing to assume a critical and creative approach to television production. Jeter’s commitment to working with independent artists led her to BRUJOS. BRUJOS was conceived by Ricardo Gamboa, an award-winning “artivist” committed to creating work outside institutional frameworks. Gamboa began development for BRUJOS in 2014 through informal interviews with queer Latino men and healers and psychics.