The Devours the Oscars: Best Cinematography

by Rachel · January 30, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 4 Comments
Editor’s note: Welcome to the sixth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Ryan of Lord of the Films

As a lover of films with interesting visuals, Best Achievement in Cinematography has always been one of my favorite categories at the Academy Awards. In this category, we are supposed to see five films that display gorgeous outdoor scenery, a picturesque use of lighting and original uses of camera movement. I think we get a pretty good representation of that with this year’s set of nominees.
The first of this year’s honored cinematographers is Guillaume Schiffman for his work on The Artist. Schiffman is a first time nominee and since he is a French cinematographer, The Artist is his big breakthrough in the United States. Despite his lack of recognition in America, he shows real talent with his work in The Artist. The film is able to completely recreate the style of silent films of old, and this is in large part do to the cinematography. Schiffman is able to find the right use of light to make the black and white style of filmmaking realistic and does the right thing by focusing the camera on the faces of the actors (letting them steal the show).
The second of this year’s nominees is Jeff Cronenweth for his work on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This is Cronenweth’s second overall (and second consecutive) nomination at the Oscars. He was nominated last year for his work on The Social Network which was another collaboration with David Fincher. Cronenweth seems to really understand Fincher’s style and that contributes to the film immensely. The fact that he is a leader in shooting film with digital cameras is another reason why Cronenweth’s work is so beloved. While I thought Cronenweth’s contributions to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo were a little more constrained than I thought they would be, the cinematography is still unique enough to warrant consideration here. He really does captures the setting well.
Frequent Oscar-goer Robert Richardson is our next nominee. Richardson was nominated for his work on Hugo. Richardson is now a seven time nominee for Best Cinematography. His first nomination came for his work on Best Picture winner Platoon for the 1987 ceremony. He was also nominated for Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Aviator and Inglourious Basterds. Richardson actually won for his work on JFK and his last nominated collaboration with Martin Scorsese, The Aviator. Richardson’s work on Hugo may be his most ambitious to date as he uses some jaw dropping tracking shots. However, what really makes the cinematography on Hugo work is how it is actually able to incorporate the use of 3D into the storyline.
The next nominee might be one of the most underrated artists around. Emmanuel Lubezki may only be a cinematographer but it is hard to deny that what he creates with every one of his films is a work of art. Lubezki is a five-time nominee at the Academy Awards. He was first nominated for the 1996 ceremony for A Little Princess and has since garnered nominations for Sleepy Hollow, A New World, and Children of Men. This year he is nominated for his work on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Lubezki is somehow able to bring Malick’s ambitious storytelling into break-taking visual upon break-taking visual. It would be such a shame if Lubezki failed again to get the Oscar for this immense achievement after being snubbed for the now famous tracking shots from Children of Men.
The final nominee in the category is frequent Spielberg collaborator, Janusz Kaminski. This time Kaminski is nominated for his work on War Horse. He has previously been nominated for Schindler’s List (which he won the Oscar for), Amistad, Saving Private Ryan (which he won his second Oscar for), and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This is far from Kaminski’s best work as he actually overdoes it in certain scenes (such as the final scene where the lighting is obnoxious), but it is hard to deny there are things to like in his contributions. Kaminski makes it look easy to recreate the visual style from the days of Ford and Lean.
I hope the Emmanuel Lubezki is finally able to win the Oscar this year, but the competition seems fierce. Robert Richardson has received raves for his work on Hugo, and considering Hugo seems to be a better play to the Academy at large (and the entire Academy votes on the winners in all categories), Richardson has to be considered the favorite. Then again Guillaume Schiffman could get the win on the coattails of a sweep from The Artist. This is definitely a category where the winner won’t be known until the winner is read from the envelope.

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4 Responses to The Devours the Oscars: Best Cinematography

  1. Great article Ryan! It’s been a great year for visuals and any of the nominees would be worthy. But like you, I’m hoping for Lubezki!

  2. this was indeed a great year of visuals. as much as i hated tree of life, the visuals were STUNNING. but i also liked the look and feel of The Artist too

  3. Kevyn Knox says:

    Great piece on the ways of cinematography. All five are very worthy candidates, even though one of them lacks in other departments.

    I think this might be the so-called token prize given to The Tree of Life – a film that, in my not-so-humble opinion, should be named Best Picture as well.

  4. EFC says:

    Like Ryan, I also want to see Lubezki take home the statuette, but yeah, The Artist might sweep it up. Still, there is a kind of glee I’d take in seeing a movie shot in the now pretty-much outdated 1.37:1 box-shaped aspect ratio win an Oscar for Best Cinematography in the year 2012. It would definitely show that it’s about what you do with the images that ultimately counts, not what format you shoot it in (which goes double for those complaining about The Avengers being shot in 1.85).

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