A Look at Five Cinematography Frontrunners

Will Roger Deakins (Unbroken) finally win his elusive Oscar after 11 nominations? Or will Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (Birdman) earn two in a row? Will Dick Pope (Mr. Turner) grab his first Academy Award on the 10th film with Mike Leigh, or will Jeff Cronenweth (Gone Girl) finally strike gold with David Fincher? Can the very hot Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar) take home his first prize as the lone film practitioner (primarily using IMAX)? All of the work is extraordinary as cinematography once again signifies the most exciting of the craft races.

1. Deakins, the guru of naturalism, provides his most beautiful work for Angelina Jolie’s powerful Unbroken, the biopic about Olympic runner turned war hero Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). Utilizing Oswald Morris’ work on Sidney Lumet’s 1965 The Hill as a searing benchmark for World War II melodrama, Deakins achieves a classical look, packing the frame with intensity. From the ethereal opening of Zamp’s B24 ascending the clouds to the bleached out claustrophobia of surviving 47 days in a raft in the Pacific, to the agonies of enduring POW torture porn in the Omori and Naoetsu camps, Deakins creates a masterful dance of light and dark that serves as the primary metaphor of miraculous survival and spiritual transcendence.

2. Meanwhile, Lubezki, the master of the long take, outdoes himself with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdmancreating the illusion of a single take to put us in the mind of Michael Keaton, who loses his grip on reality. Lubezki has already taken the LA and Boston film critics prizes (with Pope as runner-up), and has become the early frontrunner. He uses a lot of hand-held and steadicam shots with the Alexa, and opens it up almost to the max to allow Keaton and his fellow actors to roam freely in 360 and to light practically and with LEDs.

3. But you could certainly argue that Mr. Turner is the most opulent-looking movie in years, as Pope takes us into the visionary mind of eccentric 19th century British painter J.M.W.  Turner (a career-definer for Timothy Spall). The cinematographer initially wanted to shoot on film but the budget precluded it, so he made it work digitally with the Alexa, studying Turner’s paints and recreating his rich color palette.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers

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