Best Cinematography 2004

1998 through 2007

Best Cinematography of 2004

The Aviator (Robert Richardson)
House of Flying Daggers (Xiaoding Zhao)
The Passion of the Christ (Caleb Deschanel)
The Phantom of the Opera (John Mathieson)
No votes
A Very Long Engagement (Bruno Delbonnel)
Total votes: 18

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jul 01, 2018 7:14 pm

I thought this was an odd cinematography year for a few reasons. The first is, I remember having NO idea what was going to be nominated -- only The Aviator struck me as a certain nominee. The second is, many of my own favorites were atypically off-Oscar, whether due to ineligibility (Hero, my vote for the year’s most ravishingly gorgeous images), simply not being Oscar-type films (The Return, Bad Education, Birth), or for just not being the kind of movie that places in this category, for a variety of reasons (Eternal Sunshine, The Motorcycle Diaries, Collateral, Million Dollar Baby).

This set of circumstances led to, unhappily, at least one abysmal nominee: The Phantom of the Opera, which I honestly hadn’t even considered a possibility. Slight tangent: I did FINALLY see the Broadway production a couple years back, and I have to concur with something Mister Tee wrote about it -- the staging and lighting were truly exquisite, with one delicately crafted image after another. This only had the effect of enraging me further over this nomination, which was all garish lighting, silly fog, and graceless camerawork. Maybe the worst nominee in this category this decade.

The Passion of the Christ was definitely better than that -- some of Deschanel’s lighting recalls the touched-by-the-heavens look of centuries-old religious art. But as with any Mel Gibson movie, you run into the problem that the images are just so excessively gruesome -- here, in a manner that I found bordering on unbearable -- that it’s tough to honor the film’s look when all you want to do is look away.

I don’t have a terribly strong favorite between the remaining nominees, and might have picked any of them.

In some respects, House of Flying Daggers could almost be seen as a proxy nominee for Hero, which had won the NY crix prize, and might have placed had it been eligible. But Daggers is nonetheless an impressive achievement in its own right. From the opening brothel sequence to the battle in the bamboo forest to the climactic fight in the snow, the film is full of striking, colorful imagery that makes it all a feast for the eyes. Still, I rate it pretty clearly the lesser of Zhang Yimou’s two martial arts films this year, both narratively and visually.

A Very Long Engagement is a lovingly shot film that covers a decent amount of visual ground -- the picturesque beachside homefront scenes starkly contrast the grittier battle sequences, with genuinely beautiful images in both portions of the film. Watching the movie, I definitely wondered if all Jeunet films were going to be so YELLOW -- there is definitely a degree to which it just lifts the Amélie visual scheme and transports it to a new milieu -- but it remains eye-popping nonetheless.

Despite losing ASC, I still thought The Aviator would prevail here almost by default, simply for being the (almost) Best Picture epic storming through the tech categories. Still, it’s quite a strong choice, with genuinely majestic flight sequences, as well as a colorful look that obviously pays homage to Technicolor epics of yore without merely feeling like an imitation. This strikes me as the most impressive achievement in terms of scope on the ballot, as well as a far more excitingly and wittily photographed entry in the genre than many more lumbering epics. I'll give it my vote.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2004

Postby dws1982 » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:05 am

So many of these 2000's lineups are just uninspiring to me. Voted for The Passion of the Christ, could've just as easily cast a null vote.

My picks for the year:
1- The Dreamers
2- Mean Creek
3- Birth
4- Million Dollar Baby
5- Code 46

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Re: Best Cinematography 2004

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:06 am

House of the Flying Daggers was an easy choice. The others were typical Academy nominees that took the places of more interesting work such as Collateral (quite unlike anything seen before it), Citizen Dog, Trilogy The Weeping Meadow & Downfall.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2004

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:02 pm

Good cinematography candidates were so lacking in Hollywood films released in 2004 that the ASC had to look to the France-U.S. co-production, A Very Long Engagement, to find a worthy winner. None of their other nominees including the Oscar winner, The Aviator, were even worthy of mention.

The China/Hong Kong co-production, House of Flying Daggers, is the only other worthy Oscar nominee. To them I'd add the Argentina-U.S.-Chile-Peru-Brazil-U.K.-Germany-France co-production, The Motorcycle Diaries (cinematographer Eric Gautier), Spain's Bad Education (cinematographer José Luis Alcaine) and Germany's Good Bye Lenin! (cinematographer Martin Kukula). Also worthy of consideration: the UK/South Africa/Italy co-production, Hotel Rwanda (cinematographer Robert Fraisse).

My vote goes to the ASC winner, A Very Long Engagement.
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Best Cinematography 2004

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:11 pm

The only interesting thing to say about this year was that this was the first year that the Academy faced pressure to nominate a film using digital cinematography. Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron received an ASC nomination for Michael Mann’s Collateral for its atmospheric LA nightscape. It’s not as though the film completely stiffed. It picked up nominations for Jamie Foxx and Film Editing. Even though a nomination was probably a bridge too far for this group, it’s not as though they had much to choose from. What can you say about John Mathieson’s nomination for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera? It’s not a good-looking film at all. Pawel Edelman would have been a more expected choice for Ray (he got an ASC nom and was a recent nominee for The Pianist). Digital cinematography would make its breakthrough in 2008 with almost no fanfare and would become a dominating mainstay until today.

This is going to be my shortest round up because I have less to say about this group of nominees than any other of recent memory. Caleb Deschanel is the big name of the group and there was some early talk of him winning for The Passion of the Christ way back when there was early talk about this being the Oscars of Mel Gibson vs. Michael Moore. In retrospect, I kind of wish we had that. It would have been a livelier affair than the boring show we got. Before checking out its Wikipedia page I was about to write “The best praise I can give The Passion… is that it looks good for an independent film shot on such a small budget.” I must have banished from memory the fact that it had a budget of THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS. That’s more than Finding Neverland, Sideways, and Million Dollar Baby. With that in mind, the best I can say is he does what he can with Mel Gibson’s sloggish vision.

The Aviator won largely on the basis of uncanny approximation of historical film stock using digital intermediates. Admittedly, it’s impressive stuff.

But for me it’s going to be between House of Flying Daggers and A Very Long Engagement, two films in the shadow of other films (Hero and Amelie). I have very little to say about either film. I’m not much a fan of either but I just voted for Bruno Delbonnel and I plan on voting for him again in nine years. Having punted on Ang Lee’s wuxia vision four years ago, I’ll glad sign off on Zhang Yimou’s.
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