Why, by continuing my annual tradition of analyzing the various Oscar races in 'One Category at a Time', the very first article series I began back in 2008 when 'The Awards Nazi' (nee 'The Oscar Nazi') was just a baby blog. I suppose six years old still seems kinda babyish, but relative to the age of the Internet, I guess that makes this site now more of a disrespectful teenager that wishes it could be more like the grownup websites. That's an appropriate description, I think.
Thanks to his ground-breaking innovations in Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki finally won the Academy Award he was owed for such a long time. But guess what: He's not done yet! His dazzling "one-take" shot of Birdman (albeit enabled by some invisible editing, just like Gravity was last year) is allowing him to sweep through the season untouched... just like last year. His only possible competition is another Best Picture nominee with photography that is indeed distinguished, but not nearly as showy... just like last year. Chivo will become the first DP to go back-to-back since John Toll won consecutive Oscars for Legends of the Fall and Braveheart in 95/96. It may have annoyed me if it were happening to anyone but him, who should already have three of these things!
Well, there is one other person it could happen to that wouldn't annoy me...
Anybody who visits this space regularly knows that I'm a huge fan of Roger Deakins. Like, a HUGE fan. I was rooting for him last year, I'm rooting for him this year, and I'll be rooting for him every year in the future, even though no, he will never win an Academy Award. That said, even if he were to pull off a miraculous win for Unbroken at the last minute, it would be like Al Pacino winning for Scent of a Woman. Unbroken may have a bunch of painterly compositions littered throughout, but most of the work in the film seems a tad more utilitarian than we're used to seeing for Deakins. Don't get me wrong: Seeing him win would make my night/month/year/life, but this is far from his best work, and doesn't feel like a threat to upset Birdman.
Anderson's quirky comedy isn't the only contender here to make interesting use of square framing. One of the more inspired nominations to come out of last Thursday's announcement was the inclusion of the Polish drama Ida in this category. Directors of photography Łukasz Źal and Ryszard Lenczewski certainly deserve it for the stark black-and-white beauty they brought to the project. There's a lot of precedent for the cinematography branch digging deep and finding a worthy foreign film to recognize, but wins are harder to come by unless it's really widely seen, with many nominations to go with it. Granted, the fact that the Academy now sends screeners of all the Best Foreign Language Film nominees to the membership will help attract more eyeballs, but a win is still unlikely.
Will win: Birdman
Runner-up: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: Birdman
Should have been nominated: Nightcrawler