Oscar Circuit: Best Cinematography

Deakins Cinematography

Nominee: Roger Deakins for Prisoners
Oscar Scene: Opening shot

Speaking of Roger Deakins earlier, what would an Oscar season be without the Academy nominating him for something that he probably won’t win for againPrisoners was one of the odder movies I saw last year, with its muted, haunting imagery and finely-etched performances clashing against a pretty silly whodunit more suited to an episode of Law & Order: SVU.  Deakins, as usual, is a master of solemn shots packed with emotion, yet I could never shake the feeling that such visual severity was inappropriately matched to a story that didn’t amount to much more than a rip-roaring melodrama.  Nevertheless, there are individual shots here that rank among the best of any in 2013, and an overdue “career honor” is not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

Beyond the nominees, it is heartbreaking to have seen 12 Years a Slave’s Sean Bobbitt left behind in the mix.  Not only does he achieve his own array of accomplished, powerful images as he did in Shame and especially Hunger, but Bobbitt is one of only a handful of cinematographers I’ve seen (Bradford Young and Amy Vincent among them) who actually consider how to properly photograph black actors on film.  Bradford Young showed off that ability as well with Mother of George and created several beautiful compositions in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, yet was barely in the conversation for the best-shot films of 2013.  While I wasn’t crazy about the film’s hyperbolic slut-shaming and “kids these days” hand-wringing, it’s hard to find fault with Benoît Debie’s kaleidoscopic neon nightmare realization of Spring Breakers, particularly the robbery scene.

That aside, this is a mostly very good lineup featuring some of the best DPs in the industry all vying for their first win.  My money is on Gravity to win, awarding Lubezki his first Academy Award and thereby bringing balance to the world at last.  Think I’m wrong?  Let me know in the comments!