When Janusz Kaminski isn’t lensing his often Oscar-nominated work on a batch of Steven Spielberg’s finest films, including “Schindler’s List," “Saving Private Ryan" and most recently “Lincoln," the cinematographer also occasionally settles into the director’s chair. Three films (including the underwhelming Winona Ryder horror “Lost Souls”) and a TV episode of “The Event” have allowed Kaminski full cinematic reign so far, and just as Canon performed with their own short film campaign this month that found actors at the helm, the NY Times have created their own—and allowed Kaminski 11 unique vignettes within which to work.
“Most of the vignettes are a little bit whimsical, slightly off-center. So we’ve worked with thrillers, a little bit of comedy, French New Wave, as well as some very conventional stuff,” Kaminski says in a behind-the-scenes video on his varied, roughly minute-long films, which bring together a host of awards season hopefuls and standouts from this year of cinema, including: Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Greta Gerwig, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Redford, Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. The shorts pair an actor performing solo and a scripted punchline for them delivered by a series of writers: witness Michael B. Jordan accompanied by the words of Spike Jonze, Chiwetel Ejiofor with Jeff Nichols, Oscar Isaac with Lake Bell, or Greta Gerwig with the “Before Midnight” team.
All are quite surreal and of course immaculately lit, designed as playful genre experiments for Kaminski to work his magic. Some work better than others—Robert Redford cutting bread has never been so suspenseful, while the combination of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicole Holofcener works wonderfully—but it’s fun to see these actors let loose and be absurd for a bit.
Check out all 11 shorts below along with behind-the-scenes footage, and let us know which vignette catches your fancy the most.