Monday, February 20, 2012

Academy Awards Week: Best Cinematography

One of my favorite parts of a film is the cinematography.  Many people do not know what cinematography is, or how it is one of the most essential parts to a film.  Cinematography is the creation of film images.  The cinematographer will of use a movie camera with film or digital imagery to capture what they want to show the audience.

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) define cinematography as "a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process."

At the advent of film history the cinematographer was the director, but as technology advanced these two roles became different.  The director was no longer the camera operator.  New technologies like color, and wide screen necessitated someone who was a specialist and their sole task was to capture the images and operate the camera.

As film has evolved from the silent era to present day the cinematographers continue to create visually beautiful images for the audiences to see.  During the silent era cinematographers had to work extra hard to make sure that without sound the visual created a cohesive element to the story.  As newer technologies present them self (or return) like 3D cinematographers have to work hard attain an image that captures the genuine emotional experience of the scene.

This year there were several films that did a fantastic job utilizing the brilliance of their cinematographer, here are my personal favorites.

1-The Tree of Life-Emmanual Lubezsi (director of photography)


2-Drive-Newton Thomas Sigel (director of photography)


3-Hugo-Robert Richardson


4-Shame-Sean Bobbitt


5-Melancholia-Manuel Alberto Claro


6-The Artist-Guillame Schiffman
7-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2-Eduardo Serra

Image Detail

8-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Jeffrey Cronenwerth

Dragon Tattoo Snowy

9-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Hoyte Van Hoytema

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

10-Take Shelter-Adam Stone


These are just merely the top ten on my list there are many other films like Moneyball, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and many more that could be included amongst this wonderful work.  The cinematographer is one of the hardest working film professionals today.  They have the responsibility to make the film's visual look and feel connect to the emotional aspects of the film.  No, they do not just have to make things look pretty, but in a sense they need to make things look as though each image tells a story.

So who made the cut for the Academy Awards:

The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life 
War Horse 

This is a tough category to predict.  The ASC Guild Award went the the best cinematography of the year, The Tree of Life, but will this line-up at the Academy Awards?  I hope so, but I am not confident.  I think any of these five films could win, but I am pretty sure with little to no passion behind it War Horse is out.  I was a little surprised it made the Best Picture category.  While Dragon Tattoo has some beautiful cinematography it does not have a Best Picture nomination, do the two go hand in hand, not always, but I think the film will go home empty handed.  This leave three films open to three different scenarios come Oscar night.

1) The Artist has a clean sweep.  I do not think it will have a clean sweep, especially since the Academy is catching some flack for rubber stamping this film.  While I do agree the cinematography is one of the best parts of this film because it captures the silence so well, I do not think this film will capture this trophy on Oscar night.

2) Hugo sweeps the technical categories.  Hugo has 11 nominations and a lot of across the board support in the technical categories.  This is a beautiful film, and I would not begrudge the win.  At the moment I am torn between this and The Tree of Life.

3) Justice-The Tree of Life wins because, well it's the best cinematography of the year.  Even those people who did not love, or did not get this film still state the cinematography was amazing.

Will and Should Win: The Tree of Life
Very Close Second: Hugo
Spoiler: The Artist

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