Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Oscar Race: Best Cinematography


The Assassiation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Roger Deakins)

Atonement (Seamus McGarvey)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Janusz Kaminski)

No Country for Old Men (Roger Deakins)

There Will Be Blood (Robert Elswit)

Roger Deakins would appear to be the man to beat this year, nominated twice for films that are "westerns" of sorts, one a more traditional period western and the other a more modern noirish piece. These are his sixth and seventh nominations, and he's never won. Jesse James is a beautiful movie as shown in the trailer above. What you don't necessarily get from that though are the films contrasts between the huge wide open spaces of the outdoor settings and the intimate almost claustrophobic indoor settings. I thought the filming, together with the movie's sound, worked well together to create a very realistic and intimate setting to put the viewer close to the characters. The lighting is very well done too, both for day and night scenes.

No Country for Old Men isn't as lavish looking, but it also does well in terms of contrasting night and day scenes. The clip above highlights the constant perspective shifting, such as between Havier Bardem and his victims and between Josh Brolin and the suitcase. This clip also shows why this film in a nominee in both sound categories, both for the quality of the sound effects and how sounds are repeated but modified as they are from different places. The relationship between space and sound is really well done in No Country.

Atonement has gotten a lot of buzz for its Dunkirk tracking shot (see my posting here), so I chose a different clip above to show how its cinematography is good in other ways, such as this lovely segment that highlights how sensual this film is, emphasized by Seamus McGarvey's use of light and mirrors within the scene. (See also the trailer).

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly relies heavily on cinematography to emphasize the actions (and therefore disability) of the main character. Many scenes are filmed from his point of view, using the camera to create blinking (his only remaining movement) and in the clip above, tears. It's quite creative and well done.

There Will be Blood is such an odd movie--the trailer clip captures that perfectly--so how feel about its cinematography is colored by my overall feelings for the film. Visually, it's a bleak, dirty-looking movie, which is appropriate. Elswit won the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) award, which nominated the same five films this year, so he's the front runner. I'd really like to see Deakins win, with my preference being for the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, although it's a close call for me, since I loved the filming of Atonement too.

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