Frame & Reference is a conversation between Cinematographers hosted by Kenny McMillan of OWL BOT. Each episode dives into the respective DP’s current and past work, as well as what influences and inspires them. These discussions are an entertaining and informative look into the world making films through the lens of the people who shoot them.
In this episode, Kenny talks with legendary cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC about the Oscar Nominated film “Being the Ricardos.” You likely know Jeff from his work on films such as “Fight Club“, “Gone Girl“, “The Social Network” & “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
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Join your Season 2 hosts, Mario Sikora and TJ Dawe, as well as their special guest hosts throughout the season, as they discuss how the themes of the Enneagram are reflected in the work of great film directors such as Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Michael Mann, and others.
Mario and TJ analyze the films of David Fincher in two episodes to explore Enneagram Type 5, “Striving to Feel Detached.” They discuss “Seven”, “Fight Club”, The Social Network” and “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.”
Directors who have worked with Jeff Cronenweth, ASC observe that he is quiet, centered, and possesses a very dry sense of humor. Working in an eclectic mix of genres and styles, he quickly zeroes in on central concepts, often exceeding expectations with the results. His career as a feature cinematographer began auspiciously with David Fincher’s eye-popping Fight Club (AC Nov. ’99), and his filmography since then includes The Social Network (AC Oct. ’10), Gone Girl (AC Nov. ’14), One Hour Photo (AC Aug. ’02) and the Amazon miniseries Tales From the Loop (AC April ’20). Cronenweth has also shot stylistically bold, groundbreaking music videos for David Bowie, Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Nine Inch Nails and many other top artists.
Jeff with his father, Jordan Cronenweth, ASC.
It wouldn’t be at all hyperbolic to say Cronenweth was born into filmmaking. His great-grandfather owned and operated a photographic-equipment store in Wilkinsburg, Pa.; his grandfather Edward worked as a portrait photographer for Hollywood studios during the peak of that unique specialty, earning an Academy Award for his work; his grandmother Rosita was a Busby Berkeley dancer; and his father, renowned ASC member Jordan Cronenweth, served as director of photography on Blade Runner (AC July ’82), Peggy Sue Got Married (AC April ’87), Altered States (AC March ’81), Gardens of Stone (AC May ’87), and many classic music videos for leading artists of the 1980s and ’90s.
Taking this lineage a step further, Jeff Cronenweth has also collaborated with his brother Tim, a successful commercial director, on more than 500 spots.
“A storyteller doesn’t want to tell the same story over and over, and I don’t want to, either. I always want to find something new and challenging to work on.” — Jeff Cronenweth, ASC
On History of the 90’s we’ll travel back in time through the stories that defined a decade. The last 10 years of the 20th century was a time like no other, from Columbine to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Seinfeld, Air Jordan, and the Spice Girls… if it happened in the 90’s you’ll hear about it on this podcast. Join Kathy Kenzora as we journey through the History of the 90’s every other Wednesday.
In the 1990’s director David Fincher brought us classic movies like Seven and Fight Club, making his mark on the industry as one the best film makers of his generation. But Fincher’s impact on the decade stretches beyond movies. Through dozens of TV commercials and music videos Fincher helped style the 90s.
David Fincher’s films are full of doubles, puzzles, and tantalizing glimpses of the director himself. As Adam Nayman writes in his new book about Fincher’s films, Mind Games, “Fincher imposes his presence through the actions and psychologies of thinly veiled proxies: Clockmakers and safecrackers; hackers and terrorists; detectives and serial killers.” These are films that are, like their director, obsessed with procedure and appearance—and intent on puncturing both.
These films are, perhaps because of their complexity or their (at least outward) coldness—or perhaps because of Fincher’s own past as a director of music videos and advertisements—misunderstood or even dismissed. In the past decade alone, Fincher’s The Social Network and, especially, Gone Girl have received radical reappraisals, while Zodiac has been seen by many as one of the best films of the twenty-first century. Mind Games is particularly valuable in its willingness to critically engage with much of Fincher’s less-appreciated output—from his work in advertising to films like Benjamin Button and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But Nayman, the author of similar studies of the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, also deepens the understanding of films by situating them in an oeuvre that has been obsessively looking at many of the same themes for decades.
In 1985, aspiring director David Fincher was tapped by the American Cancer Society to make a PSA. Riffing off Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001,” Fincher put forth one of the most provocative and memorable commercials ever featuring an in-utero fetus smoking a cigarette to demonstrate the dangers of pregnant smoking.
This PSA was just the beginning of Fincher’s ability to utilize the shared language and visuals of film to express a point. He would move next to directing music videos where he famously invoked Fritz Lang‘s “Metropolis” while directing Madonna’s 1989 video for “Express Yourself.”
Film critic Adam Nayman told WPR‘s “BETA” that Fincher’s cinematic ambition was present in all of this early work before he became a household name directing transcendent films like “Fight Club,” “Se7en,” “Zodiac” and “The Social Network.”
“I think that he was part of a cycle of music video directors who were drawing on movies for the music videos. So, by the time they ended up making feature films, the visual language and the ambition were already there,” Nayman said.
This video essay examines the innovative use of sound recording and mixing in David Fincher’s Mank (2020). Whilst Mank received a limited theatrical release, the film is most widely available via the Netflix streaming platform. The essay takes as a starting point the rerecording and spatialisation of the soundtrack, with a focus on the home viewing experience. Donnelly argues that the re-recording process used on Mank’s soundtrack could potentially suggest a method by which films released into the domestic market could retain the reverberant sonic signature of cinematic exhibition. The published screenwork draws upon interviews with Fincher’s sound designer Ren Klyce, as well as the work of experimental composer, Alvin Lucier in order to better understand the experience of listening to Mank in our own rooms.
This week’s conversation focuses in on David Fincher—a director whose decade-spanning body of gritty Americana—from the grim moral drama of Se7en to the revisionist Hollywood tale of the recent Mank—has inspired both obsessive fandom and derisive dismissal.
A new book by Adam Nayman, David Fincher: Mind Games (out November 23 from Abrams Books), offers a canny and timely appraisal of the director’s filmography. Adam writes that, “Over the past thirty years, Fincher has cultivated and maintained a reputation that precedes him of formal rigor and technocratic exactitude, of moviemaking as a game of inches.” Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute invited Adam and critic, filmmaker, and former NYFF director, Kent Jones—who’s written about Fincher many times over the years in FC—for an illuminating deep-dive into the Fincherverse.
Few film books in recent memory made waves like Adam Nayman’s Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, a too-rare melange of authorial talent, topical interest, and opulent presentation. Last year Nayman and I spoke at length about the tome that no doubt you’ve seen in bookstores (big and small alike) since.
Nayman has returned with David Fincher: Mind Games, another Abrams-published doorstop on another double-capital-A American Auteur, lined again with essays that surprise in their capacity to find new perspectives and provocative readings on films for which there seemed no more room. Finally able to talk in person—thus, you’ll (please) read, at greater length—we sat down for a talk on writing thousands of words on someone for whom a consistent critical standing is tougher than meets the eye.
Adam Nyman is a fellow film critic and the author of several books about films and filmmakers, including but not limited to The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together (2018) and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (2020). (Though we’ve never crossed paths in person, he also teaches in the department where I did my Master’s program.) He opens Mind Games with a dedicated discussion of the decade or so before Fincher ever made his narrative feature debut with ALIEN³ (1992), but then continues to come back to his commercial and music video work for the remainder of it, wisely treating his adman past as, well, more of an adman present. A few weeks back, Adam and I chatted for an hour about Fincher’s short-form oeuvre, but also his features because—again—the two aren’t as discrete as a lot of people believe. Our conversation has been edited for clarity, but not really so much for length.