Oscar Circuit: Best Cinematography

And the Nominees Are:

Guillaume Schiffman
“The Artist”
Oscar Scene: Waking up from the sound dream sequence

Jeff Cronenweth
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Oscar Scene: Opening credits

Robert Richardson
Oscar Scene: Traveling through the train station

Emmanuel Lubezski
“The Tree of Life”
Oscar Scene: Creation

Janusz Kaminski
“War Horse”
Oscar Scene: Joey running through the battle

This is my favorite technical category of them all.  Being a fan of photography and the illustrious works of some of the great artists that grace the backyard of New Jersey and New York, I can appreciate a beautiful depiction or dimmed sequence of war and love.  The nominees this year have produced some of the greatest images scene in film in a long time.  From simple frame work highlighting the origins of film to a full on blast of trains, nooks and crannies, the auteur that exists within these gentleman are something to marvel at fondly.

Guillaume Schiffman’s work in “The Artist” is probably the core of the charm that everyone speaks of when describing Michel Hazanavicius’ picture.  The film led by a breathtaking cast of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, accurately captures the essence of a famous film or nickelodeon that would have been seen in the early days of cinema.  Schiffman’s simplicity and honor of the genre has been a force to be reckoned with all season.  With bigger, louder, and more dynamic films coming through the circuit, “The Artist” remains a formidable contender in this category and a possible beneficiary of a sweep.

Jeff Cronenweth, fresh off his deserved nomination for “The Social Network” teamed back up with director David Fincher and painted a dark, demented tone for the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  Cronenweth’s style, almost demanding the audience’s attention and showcasing itself as if it were a film from the horror genre, was a match made in cinematic heaven.  A opening sequence to die for with angles and shots only a master could interpret and capture, if the Academy is inclined to do so, could find a consolation prize for this box office success with four other nominations under its belt.

Robert Richardson has been working in the field for decades now.  With an impressive resume and an even better stylistic quality, Richardson and director Martin Scorsese turned “Hugo” into one of, if not the finest, 3-D experience seen on film thus far.  Rather than going after cheap limericks and camera tricks, Richardson devoted himself and the camera to a golden tone that smoothly enriches a train station that might otherwise look unsightly in person, and turn it into a stunning blockade of stone and metal.  Richardson has found himself at Oscar’s podium before with his terrific works in “JFK” by Oliver Stone and Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” Richardson shows no sign of coming up for air anytime soon.  With eleven nominations, eight of which in the technical fields, “Hugo” has huge chances of becoming one of, if not, the most rewarded film of the night without winning Best Picture.  If Oscar wants to embrace the man and team that redefined the 3-D genre, Richardson could find himself ahead of his competition.

Emmanuel Lubezski, criminally ignored for his work in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” comes back bigger and better every time.  Lubezski has seen the nominations come and go over the years with his deserved citations for “Sleepy Hollow” and “The New World.”  Unbeknownst to me, Lubezski remains one of the unrewarded artists of our generation.  His lesser works are still among some of the best performed in the given year.  In the uneven “Ali,” Lubezski turned typical boxing matches into full fledged bloodbaths.  And who could forget his work in “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” a cinematic masterpiece of its own accord that didn’t break through the circuit and remains simply a nominee for Original Screenplay.  Whatever you think of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” there’s a hat that can be tipped to its director of photography.  Can you deny the overwhelming beauty that engulfs the screen as we watch the birth of our existence?  Or the introduction of a baby sibling to his older-toddler brother as he looks with mystery and confusion?  Lubezski’s win with the Cinematographers Guild will hopefully solidify his Oscar but he did win the same award and looked like a shoo-in for “Children of Men.”  Five nominations is enough, an Oscar is in order, don’t you think?

Janusz Kaminski is one of the most seasoned and influential cameramen to grace our screens.  When Spielberg attached him to his passion project “Schindler’s List,” the world was introduced to a different kind of experience.  Kaminski’s use of framing and placing the audience in a first-person view of epic proportions is among the best techniques in the business.  While “War Horse” contains a jagged story that some found both moving and long winded, the technical aspects of the film solely carried the film to the latter part of the season to make it a nominee.  While it’s not as brilliant as his works in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Saving Private Ryan,” Kaminski can hold his head up high as still one of the biggest dogs in the industry.

Predicted: Emmanuel Lubezski for “The Tree of Life”

Snubbed: Drive, Moneyball, Melancholia

What do you think?


Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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