The LAMB Devours the Oscar 2020 – Best Cinematography

by Rob · February 2, 2020 · LAMB Devours the Oscars, Periodic Features · 1 Comment

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, David Brook of Blueprint: Review is here to look at the nominees for Best Cinematography.

Thanks David!


A lot of average Oscars viewers aren’t too fussed about the technical awards, but if they’re interested in any, it’s often the Best Cinematography category.  It’s one of the easier ones to judge on surface value and cinema began life as a purely visual medium so the look of a film has long been front and foremost (though I’d argue sound is equally as important in modern cinema).  A small handful of ‘stars’ have even appeared in this area of the industry over the years too, so it’s definitely the ‘cooler’ of the technical categories.  It’s a category I’ve always been interested in as I do some camerawork for my day job (though I tend to do more editing these days).  I’ve covered sound these last couple of years at the LAMB, but I hadn’t seen all the nominees for those categories, so thought I’d give this a shot instead.

Below are my thoughts on all the nominees:

The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto

I liked The Irishman a lot and it’s nicely shot, but the cinematography doesn’t stand out enough for me to deem it worthy of being nominated.  It looks classy and there are some nice long shots that are effectively used, but it didn’t leap out at me and I can think of a couple of films that better deserve this spot (see below).

Joker – Lawrence Sher

Although I had a few problems with the film, I can’t deny Joker is beautifully shot.  Blending a 70’s texture and palette with more modern cinematographic techniques, it looks gorgeous, even in its murkier moments.  My only gripe might be that the shallow focus style it largely relies on, as beautiful as it looks, is starting to become over-used in films, in my opinion.  Still, it works nicely here and I won’t be disappointed if this takes home the award.

The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke

The dark horse in the pack, as the film hasn’t been nominated for anything else, The Lighthouse would be my personal pick from the bunch.  It’s nice to see the Academy occasionally nominate an outsider film that deserves to be in a particular category rather than just shove the Best Film nominees all over the place like they usually do (see all the other nominees).  The Lighthouse relies heavily on its style to deliver a highly atmospheric experience rather than tell a particularly engaging story, and the cinematography is key to this.  Black and white always stands out and looks nice, as it’s going against the norm, but Jarin Blaschke’s work here is fantastic.  Using low-key, high contrast lighting and making the most of the textures of the surroundings and blinding light from the titular lighthouse, crafting disturbing and frightening imagery throughout, it’s a strikingly well shot film.

1917 – Roger Deakins

It took a long time for Roger Deakins to finally win a much-deserved Oscar, when he bagged one a couple of years ago for Blade Runner 2049.  As he won the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) award at the end of January (The Lighthouse won a special award too), it seems he’s likely to win another Oscar with his exceptional work on 1917.  The Academy have given a few awards out to films famous for long takes recently (Birdman, Gravity, The Revenant) so it won’t surprise me if they do again.  Personally I appreciate the hard work that goes into planning and lighting such an ambitious production, where it’s made to look like one long take, so I don’t mind if it wins.  I was a little non-plussed by the look of the film for the first third or so, but there are some utterly gorgeous sequences later on, particularly as night draws in and the flares start falling.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Robert Richardson

Like with The Irishman, the cinematography in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is very good, with some lovely work on display, but I feel it could have been swapped out for something a little more unique or exciting.  It doesn’t help that I wasn’t a big fan of the film in general.

Who I think will win: 1917

Who I want to win: The Lighthouse

Films I think should have also got nominated:
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
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