Monsters – One of the cheapest films of the year is also one of the most beautiful. Using remarkable resourcefulness, Gareth Edwards was able to create an alien-infested world that felt authentic and impressive. Towards the end of the film, a hurricane-ravaged Galveston subbed in for a town that had been devastated by alien attack. The results are sublime, and proof that a beautiful film need not have a $100 million budget.
Legend of the Guardians – Zack Snyder’s latest outing tries to do too much with disappointing results. But Legend of the Guardians was still one of the best-looking films of the year, with unforgettable flying scenes and a distinct, intricate look for each of its owl tribes.
Shutter Island – Cinematographer Robert Richardson and production designer Dante Ferretti craft an island that is equal parts welcoming and menacing. Some people may not appreciate Laeta Kalogridis’ exposition-heavy script but I hope we can all agree that Scorsese nails the look of the film completely. I was transfixed, trying to soak up all the luscious detail, while fearful of what was to come next.
Let Me In – Aside from some (intentionally?) rough CGI, Let Me In’s saturated colors and yellowish glow feed in perfectly to the time period of the film. Director Matt Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser create a world that is cold and lonely, which is why it’s so effective when Abby (Chloe Moretz) shows up to pierce that loneliness. Truly, one of the more underrated and underwatched films of the year.