The nominees are:
Barry Ackroyd, Captain Phillips
Sean Bobbit, 12 Years a Slave
Roger Deakins, Prisoners
Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Philippe Le Sourd, The Gransmaster
Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Even if you had to take away any two of these to make five, that's a robust lineup right there. Superbly shot films, all of them. Four of my own top five are on this list, and the one of them that I'm most happy to see is Philippe Le Sourd. Even though I didn't care for The Grandmaster on the whole, I've had him chalked up for a space on my own personal ballot ever since I saw the film. If this could translate to a stealth Oscar nod, it would hands down win my "favourite nomination of the year" distinction.
But what does it mean for Oscar nominations? We know Lubezki has one of the slots (and the eventual win) in the bag, but the remaining four feel rather fluid. I had originally thought Papamichael's bleak black-and-white in Nebraska was too subtle to register, but this nod coupled with its BAFTA nod this morning makes a strong case for it. The same goes for Barry Ackroyd, who also scored a BAFTA nod. Captain Phillips isn't "pretty", but if he could get in for The Hurt Locker, why not this?
Loathe as I am to consider it, it may be Delbonnel's muted work on Inside Llewyn Davis that falls out. The film just hasn't been catching on with the guilds. Or perhaps Prisoners hasn't been seen widely enough. Has hard as it is to imagine the cinematography branch not nominating Deakins for such evocative work, there's enough heavy competition this year to justify it.
It's a moot point anyway. Gravity takes it.