Best Cinematography 2005

1998 through 2007

Of the 2005 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Batman Begins (Wally Pfister)
No votes
Brokeback Mountain (Rodrigo Prieto)
Good Night, and Good Luck. (Robert Elswitt)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Dion Beebe)
The New World (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Total votes: 22

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jul 01, 2018 7:22 pm

My alts would have been 2046 and A History of Violence.

I found The Dark Knight a considerable improvement on Batman Begins in all areas, including the photography. I know there are many who instantly admired the grittier look of Pfister and Nolan’s take on Batman, but I thought this first film had too many moments where I just thought, would someone please turn on a light in that room? I felt the more serious approach here tipped the movie too far into the dour, both narratively and visually.

Memoirs of a Geisha winning here provoked one of my biggest groans of the night (well, until the big horror, that is). The film obviously wasn’t ugly -- there was plenty of striking lighting, especially in the performance sequences, to wow the eye. But I thought the set and costume prizes were ample reward for the film’s beauty, and I hated seeing such a bland vehicle with pretty but unimaginative camerawork scoop up this category too.

Because the competition was a pretty impressive lot -- three of the very best films of the year, with photography that was crucial to their success as creative works.

I bet on Brokeback Mountain winning that Oscar night, thinking the Best Picture pull would carry it along (shades of “Hillary will win Arizona!”) The film has obviously memorable individual shots -- the repeated images of the guys reflected in rear view mirrors, Ledger beneath the fireworks, the final shot of the shirt -- as well as a generally beautiful portrait of the American West’s natural landscapes. But I rank it a solid third place -- impressively shot across the board in story-enhancing ways, but not as specifically dazzling as the other two films.

The New World’s not-totally anticipated citation here was perhaps (along with Amy Adams) my happiest nomination of the year. Because this film just looks heavenly, with a use of natural light that gives the whole movie a magical and mysterious quality, gorgeously composed shots of nature, and effortlessly graceful tracking shots. As always, Malick’s films are love letters to cinematography, and Lubezki’s contribution is a superb fit for his director’s vision. A win for this film would have been a truly excellent choice.

But my choice at the time was Good Night, and Good Luck, and I’ll stand by that opinion today. As I said in another thread, it’s always a real achievement for a cinematographer to craft a beautiful-looking film from mostly interiors -- in this case, almost entirely interiors, if I recall -- and the smoky, shadowy look of Elswit’s work is striking, dynamic, and elegant. Like many cinephiles, I’m a soft touch for black-and-white, but this is a genuinely exceptional use of that format, and it gets my vote by an eyelash.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby Bog » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:28 pm

Haven't been doing a good job keeping up with the polls here, or sadly much of the board at all, but can chime in here excitedly.

Similar to others' feelings this is an (unusually) solid slate including many I would nominate with 1 caveat. I find the 7 or so hours of run time, in this bloated fanboy wet dream why so serious remake trilogy, in which Heath Ledger does not appear on screen to be mostly excruciating and often times preposterous. It would be futile to determine if Batman Begins or The Dark Knight Rises is the lesser film...but we're residing in the basement either way and neither should possess a nomination of our sacred Oscar.

Precious invoked my second favorite choice for the year...which is awesome because I would likely nominate Mark Lee each and every time he collabed with Hou or Wong. Three Times is definitely no exception.

Which film it would replace would be Brokeback or Geisha...but not because both aren't nice nominees. With hindsight intact, this category's winner would get the boot as I sure as hell won't retroactively reduce the nom haul of the should have been story of the night.

The New World gets my enthusiastic vote and was probably my favorite film of a 10 year period...the phenomenal DP is one of the many reasons. Glad he has 3 wins in such an interesting fashion now, however I (blasphemously?) fall on the side of thinking his Oscars are for more Sleepy Hollow/Burn After Reading-esque work when compared with Tree/Children/New World/Y Tu Mama

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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:35 pm

The nominees actually come relatively close to my own choices on the year. The Constant Gardener would be my prime substitution; whatever narrative issues I had with the film, the visual flash was impressive. (By the way, whatever happened to Mereilles? I don't know I've seen a promising career flame out quite that quickly, maybe not since Cimino.)

Batman Begins is first to be eliminated. I'll never understand the general critical enthusiasm for this film (and I DO see the appeal of The Dark Knight.) Pfister has done later good work for Nolan, but this nomination was undeserved.

Going into the Oscars that night, I'd thought Memoirs of a Geisha more likely to top Brokeback for music score than in this category; voters reversed my expectations. Geisha is a beautifully-designed piece, and it's hard to argue the costumes/production design wins, but this one was a "but it's so PRETTY" groaner.

Brokeback wasn't exactly a world-beater in the visual department, either, but it's a solid-looking effort, and I'd thought the outdoor vistas of the early section, as well as individual shots like the fireworks scene, would carry it home. It wouldn't have been an awful choice.

But, like most, I came down to the disparate The New World and Good Night and Good Luck. The New World, like much of Malick, has a visionary look, but I can't say I found it quite as sumptuous as Days of Heaven or The Thin Red Line. Which is, of course, subjecting it to a pretty high standard, but all I can say is, I wasn't so blown away as to automatically vote for it.

And Good Night and Good Luck has a pretty impressive look of its own. It could obviously win simply on the "We Love Black and White" standard -- even though a few films a year use the technique these days, it's rare enough the look always feels somewhat novel. But I think this film makes especially good use of it...not simply to recreate the period (which it does, smashingly), but also, through evocative use of shadow, suggesting the skullduggery afoot in the era, and the menace it offered. Good Night and Good Luck's visual style seems very of a piece with its gripping narrative, and I think it's, by a small margin, the best choice here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:57 am

The New World was my easy choice as well.

My other favourites of the year include Duma, The Constant Gardner, House of Sand & Three Times.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 25, 2018 1:46 pm

My easy pick would be March of the Penguins (Laurent Chalet, Jerome Maison) if it were nominated.

Ironically, this is the category that Crash (James M. Muro) most deserved a nomination in, but didn't get one. Both it and Penguins were nominated by BAFTA, which also had the good sense to nominate The Constant Gardener (César Chalone, whose only Oscar nod was for City of God). Those three films plus Oscar nominees Brokeback Mountain and Good Night and Good Luck would be my top picks.

Without March of the Penguins in the mix, my vote goes to Rodrigo Prieto for Brokeback Mountain.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2005

Postby dws1982 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:31 am

Easy vote for Lubezki, as far as I'm concerned. Despite five very strong nominations coming up, he'll probably only get my vote for one of them. I love The New World, although I've never actually watched the 155-minute cut that was Oscar-eligible. (Have seen the 135 minute cut and the 170 minute cut though.)

My picks for the year:
1- The New World
2- The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
3- Millions
4- Munich
5- The Beat That My Heart Skipped

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Best Cinematography 2005

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:17 am

I wasted so much time writing Oscar predictions over the years with white elephant cinema like Memoirs of a Geisha as the film to beat, or Cold Mountain, or Enemy at the Gates (anyone?). If there is any consolation to our current state of blockbuster saturation, it’s that there is less time to waste pondering the fate of white elephant cinema like Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha, which on paper looked as much of an Oscar film as any to grace the pages of Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Preview. And then it was seen. The best thing I can say about the film is “I understand why it won Best Cinematography.” It was tailor-made to crush that category. I expect it to receive zero votes in this poll.

In retrospect, it was a bit silly that some of us predicted that Brokeback Mountain would take this one. It’s easy to say that now that Brokeback Mountain has gone from watershed sensation to historic Oscar injustice, but what was there for them to honor? Intimate lensing, shifting between intimacy and claustrophobia? Ironically, it’s the natural photography (the shots that would traditionally win in this category) that shows the film at its weakest. Over the years, it’s gone in my estimation from a bit overrated as a piece of visual filmmaking to a bit underrated. Nonetheless, its loss is understandable but not terribly regrettable.

While 2005 was a step down from 2004 in terms of overall film quality, the bench for worthy Best Cinematography contenders was much stronger. Wong Kar-wai’s 2046 might have been a steep disappointment for a sequel to one of the most beloved films of the decade, but it won several awards for Cinematography. Andrew Lesnie picked up another ASC nomination for King Kong, and could have made it in. As could The Constant Gardener’s Cesar Charlone (a previous nominee for City of God), Janusz Kaminski for either Munich or War of the Worlds, or Roman Osin for Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice which grabbed a surprising four nominations. Even still, Batman Begins’ nomination seemed like a fluke. While it may not have been well-received on this board, it was a modern hit that revived a dead franchise and was seriously beloved by moviegoers of my generation. But despite the gorgeous images, it was such a frenetically edited film that a nomination seemed crazy talk. What we didn’t know at the time was that Batman Begins was just the beginning, that Christopher Nolan would pick up nominations in this category for four of his next six films. I won’t give it a win but I will say its nomination wasn’t as remotely as crazy as it seemed at the time.

My choice back then was Emmanuel Lubezki for The New World, a film I’ve tried desperately to love over the years to no avail. No matter what cut I watch, it always feels beautiful and never as moving as I want it to be. Lubezki winning in 2005 made sense. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to honor this brilliant cinematographer. But knowing what is just around the immediate corner (let alone his three Oscar wins coming up) that is no longer the case. So instead, I am going to give this to Robert Elswitt for Good Night, and Good Luck. I won’t be honoring him for There Will Be Blood and he certainly deserves recognition. Good Night, and Good Luck. isn’t simply a pastiche of the era. It captures enough of the playfulness and intimacy he’s exercised in his collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson among others. In fact, the only question I currently have is why I wasn’t bigger on a win for Elswitt at the time.
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