Monday, February 13, 2017

One Category at a Time: Best Cinematography

You know how much I love guys like Chivo and Deakins and Richardson,
but I gotta be honest: It's soooooooooooo refreshing to see some new faces in the Best Cinematography race. With only a single previous nomination between the five of them, this year's nominees represent a future full of promise for the art form, and one of them will be nabbing their first Oscar.
The two DPs I'm most happy to see included are Bradford Young and Greig Fraser, for Arrival and Lion respectively. We could label them as the rising stars of the lineup, but that might chafe eagle-eyed cinephiles who've been luxuriating in their fine work for years. Both of these efforts are beautiful to behold, but not quite in a traditional way. Arrival steeps itself in shadow and desaturated light, while Lion -- this year's ASC winner -- carries itself with urgent handheld footage and often dimly lit interiors. It's narratively and tonally astute work on display throughout. That doesn't necessarily equal Oscar success, but I'm sure excellent opportunities await both gentlemen in the future.

Similar compliments aught to be paid to James Laxton for the soulful compositions with which he blesses Moonlight. Every choice behind the camera is made in the spirit of evoking Chiron's headspace, with flourishes of striking colour and juxtaposition carefully embedded, although the relative "smallness" of the movie will probably keep it from gaining much traction in a category where it's often 'go big or go home'.
The Academy prefers colourful, kinetic lensing that dazzles. Just look at the most recent string of winners: Avatar, Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant... every one of them bold of hue and agile of movement. It makes sense that BAFTA and Critics Choice winner Linus Sandgren joins them as an Oscar winner for his unforgettable images in La La Land, the sort of showcase that wears its photographic wizardry on its sleeve (even before the picture starts, we're whetted for its Technicolor Cinemascope).

If any challenger exists by way of "traditional" Best Cinematography standards, it could be Silence. Rodrigo Prieto, whose best work includes Brokeback Mountain, Biutiful and The Homesman, once again captures a deeply intimate story set against a sweeping wilderness backdrop. But minimal exposure could be a problem. Not only is Martin Scorsese's glacial passion project not up for Best Picture, but this is its sole nomination. It's late release didn't help matters.

Will win: La La Land
Could win: Lion

Should win: La La Land
Should be nominated: The Light Between Oceans

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