Great Cinematographers, Part 1: Wally Pfister

After writing my last post, in which I talked a little about my appreciation for the famed cinematographer Gregg Toland, I thought I would do a series of posts on ten great DPs whose work inspires me. I figured I would start with Wally Pfister (b. 1961) since today’s his birthday.

The Dark Knight (2008, dir. Christopher Nolan) – Pfister’s work with Christopher Nolan is his best thus far. I can’t remember a single other IMAX experience more thrilling than when The Dark Knight began with that shot taking us through Gotham, almost like flying through the skyscrapers, to the building where the Joker’s goons are about to make their descent. (The second video continues where the first leaves off, starting around 0:35.)

Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan) – Here we have the famous zero-gravity hallway fight scene, which is happening at the same time as the van crashing in another layer of the dream that the characters are in. Wally Pfister deservedly won an Oscar for his work in the film. I love the light captured in each part of the dream: shades of blue and grey in the van sequence versus the orange-brown hues of the hallway.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, dir. Christopher Nolan) – It’s hard to believe that the last film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy didn’t get a single Oscar nomination but it’s particularly weird that Pfister wasn’t nominated for his cinematography, which is stellar (as usual). This opening scene is especially impressive. I love all the exterior shots of the planes. The thing I love most about Wally Pfister’s cinematography is that it makes everyone, even those of us (like me) who don’t actually know too much about the ins and outs of photography, a fan of how he accomplishes his craft.

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