Paul Thomas Anderson is definitely at the top of my list of best filmmakers but I feel like this video belittles and ruins all of those close ups by deconstructing them. Paul always has a great deal of reasoning for using specific shots and by removing the context it makes most of these shots meaningless and much more dull.
So the reason the raw image looks flat is because it was designed to give the filmmaker as neutral a picture profile as possible. This allows for the greatest level of manipulation in post-production to the image.
On a set the art director and production designer work together with the director and cinematographer to place objects and design wardrobes in the way that tells the story most effectively. Generally they create color palettes for each character which is reflected in their wardrobe and sometimes in the environment surrounding them.
It is always important to begin thinking about color and composition during pre-production because once the image has been captured there are always limiting factors that make it difficult to alter the image in order to be more align with the director's vision.
For example, if it is desired that a character is to wear purple jeans, it is much easier for them to wear purple jeans on set rather than altering the color of their jeans from blue to purple in post-production.
I agree with several of your comments and declarations that The Hobbit decides to emphasize style over substance. However, I think we should remember the original content that Peter Jackson and his team is pulling from. They aren’t working from source material with hundreds upon hundreds of pages of character driven adventures.
They are working from a children’s book. Because of this, The Hobbit takes on a childish and unpolished form. One that would be much more suited to a younger audience, rather than the intellectual critics who lauded The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Which to me, is some of the best work ever done in cinema.
My purpose in restating the context here is for us not to compare these two trilogies, despite their similar structure and authors. Each one was designed for a different audience and in turn utilized a unique language to reach those audiences. We should be able to enjoy them for what they are, not what they aren’t.
And for the dude who said “The medium is the message”.
Yes, the format is important but it is not any where important enough to be considered the message. It’s as important as the types of lights they used, the sets they designed, or the color of Bilbo’s hair. Just another important element that helps a filmmaker tell a story.