Best Cinematography 2016

Of the 2016 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Arrival (Bradford Young)
6
32%
La La Land (Linus Sandgren)
1
5%
Lion (Greig Fraser)
1
5%
Moonlight (James Laxton)
7
37%
Silence (Rodrigo Preito)
4
21%
 
Total votes: 19

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:22 pm

This is a tough one for me because I think there are several strong choices that are all so different, it's hard to elevate one above another.

My alternates would be The Handmaiden, which merited nominations in all the visual design categories, as well as Jackie.

Lion is the easiest to move past, mainly for the reason Precious Doll cites -- although the first half had some notable images (the butterflies, the night-time city scenes), the second half wasn't terribly spectacular in the visual department.

I wasn't much of a fan of Silence, so that could be a reason I'm not quite as high on the photography as some of its strongest partisans. I definitely thought it had impressive moments -- one shot of Neeson surrounded by fog is particularly striking -- but I also thought portions of the film were a bit staid, and lacking the visual dynamism of more impressive Scorsese films.

I think Arrival, La La Land, and Moonlight are all pretty strong achievements, without one necessarily making a case for itself as the standout.

Arrival's haunting look was a key factor in building its mood, and it's hard to imagine the movie working as well as it does without the bleak shots of Adams's house, the harsh lights of the military/research facilities, and the evocative fog-drenched interior of the aliens' pod. I'd admired Young's work before this, but here he was working on a bigger and broader canvas than ever before, and thoroughly rose to the challenge.

La La Land's photography is full of swoon-worthy romanticism, from the colorful skies behind the pier and the Hollywood hills, to the star-lit beauty of the observatory waltz, to the stylish spotlights that accentuate the musical performances. The film finds an inventive balance between the real and the theatrical, and Sandgren's camerawork is a key factor in this creation of a larger-than-life Los Angeles.

Moonlight's images similarly create mood and define a sense of place, covering a decent amount of visual ground -- the harsh sun-lit exteriors of South Florida, the beautifully textured moon-lit beach encounter, the twinkling cityscapes that fill the backgrounds. I agree that for such a low-budget effort, the film looks luminous, culminating in that beautifully-shot restaurant sequence where the film reaches its visual and emotional peak.

As I said, I find it hard to choose among such equally successful but disparate efforts, but I guess I'll say that the visual looks of Arrival and La La Land are certainly given an assist from visual effects and/or production design, whereas Moonlight is more singularly a photography triumph. So in the end, I went for Laxton by the smallest of margins.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:11 pm

Mister Tee wrote:The Handmaiden is the obvious miss, and one that stands out because of the branch's propensity for honoring Asian films. We speak of random inclusions, but this was a random omission.



After two decades of producing the best cinema Asia has to offer its incredible that no South Korean film has managed a single nomination in any category. But.....Korean cinema is generally extreme and The Handmaiden was probably too much for the Academy to take.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:38 pm

Mister Tee wrote:The backlash against La La Land is pretty much complete at this point -- its unforgettable best picture loss seems to have emboldened its non-fans into proclaiming it a piece of shit.


I wouldn't go that far, but I would call it a missed opportunity.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:22 pm

The Handmaiden is the obvious miss, and one that stands out because of the branch's propensity for honoring Asian films. We speak of random inclusions, but this was a random omission.

Lion has its merits, particularly in the early night-time scenes. But it's also the easiest to dismiss, and it's hard to figure why the ASC chose to honor it.

The other four stand about equal for me, so it shouldn't be taken as dismissal when I say Moonlight is the first I knock out from the remainder. The film uses its visuals in an interesting way -- giving each time of life a different tint, culminating in the cool blue of adulthood. But it didn't wow me enough to get my vote.

Silence, as I said when I first discussed it, did for fog what Lawrence of Arabia did for sand and Doctor Zhivago for snow. There were beautiful images of our protagonists struggling their way through the seaside mists. I could certainly understand a vote here.

The backlash against La La Land is pretty much complete at this point -- its unforgettable best picture loss seems to have emboldened its non-fans into proclaiming it a piece of shit. (The fact it was in part about a white guy trying to save jazz also made it a ripe target in these be-super-woke-or-die times.) This has extended to many negating its clear virtues, not least among them the film's often gorgeous visuals. The use of color throughout -- most memorably in the City of Stars stroll along the dock -- makes its Oscar win here completely defensible.

That said, my vote goes to Arrival, the one film on this list whose visual scheme seemed most allied to its overall mood. Though Arrival is, structurally, a thriller, its subtext is a sad meditation on the inevitability of disappointment in life, and Young's gloomy look puts us in that frame of mind from the opening shots and keeps us there till the unexpected and heartbreaking ending. Young had done strong work prior to this, but here is, I think, the most perfect match of his style to a director's vision. It gets my vote.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:39 am

This is a reasonably respectable line-up with the exception of Lion that had a far more impressively shot first half than second half. I voted for Moonlight which I found the most visually impressive film that complements its material beautifully.

Omissions abound (some of them no doubt ineligible): The Handmaiden, A Quiet Passion, The Death of Louis XIV, the little seen Mr. Church, Paterson, Being 17, Elle & The Diary of Anne Frank (which remains criminally unseen outside of Germany).

My best of the year was another film that has been little seen from a director that 25 years ago was viewed with great promise. He has continued to make films but they receive little notice: Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya). His latest film Éternité (Eternity), a French film with an all-star French cast shot by one of the worlds greatest living cinematographers Ping Bin Lee is a visual splendour to behold. Like very few films before it any shot could be hung up on a wall - simply gorgeous looking and it needs to be given the slim premise of the film which features minimal dialogue and is mostly silent with famous classical music used on its soundtrack. It is the best of the year and I must say that that I found it strange that even the Caesars overlooked the stunning technically aspects of the film.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Sep 11, 2018 10:31 am

Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water also had impressive cinematography, but these five nominees are all stellar.

I hate, hate, hated La La Land but that was due the embarrassing warbling of the two leads, not the cinematography. However, this film was such a singular vision for the director it's difficult to tell how much the look of it was due to the imagination of the cinematographer vs. Chazelle.

Lion and Arrival were both well shot but it's difficult to recall either anything in either that was really extraordinary.

Moonlight does wonders on a miniscule budget but overall I was more impressed with what Rodrigo Prieto did with Silence - as with Brokeback Mountain for which he was nominated and lost eleven years earlier, he should have won and consequently gets my vote here.
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Best Cinematography 2016

Postby Sabin » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:57 pm

So crazy to be catching up to this year already, and even crazier to think very soon it will be two years past. ThIt's so strange that the bulk of the Best Picture nominees (Hell or High Water, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Hidden Figures) would have been shocking inclusions, while the ones circling the list like Jackie, Nocturnal Animals, and Sully were the likelier and more worthy bets. The Handmaiden remains one of my big blind spots over the past few years so I have no doubt its omission from this category is as unforgivable as it is expected.

In many ways, the Oscars of 2016 represented a changing of the guard in multiple categories like Cinematography and Original Score. Rodrigo Prieto represented the old guard and was very likely the nominee with the least support. I haven’t revisited Silence since its release but it struck me as a victim of timing. Nobody was interested in seeing that film at that moment in time. Perhaps in years to come it will pick up the following it deserves but the word “reserved” pops to mind more and more when thinking about it. Martin Scorsese is an exuberant filmmaker but with Silence he demonstrates commendable restraint. It’s a beautiful film that finishes about halfway up the list for me.

Greig Fraser winning the ASC was a rather baffling thing. I suppose the best thing I can say about his work on Lion is that the film is beautiful evocative without coming off as fetishistic of poverty. He deserves credit for differentiating between looks as well as shifting from one perspective to another (not continually, but y’know once) but it’s in the service of a story that really isn’t much of a story. Good to see Fraser nominated. Kind of a shame it’s for this.

I believe Bradford Young was my choice for Arrival but now I have some second thoughts. Young is one of the most talented cinematographers working today and I love the low-light look. Two of Arrival’s greatest attributes are the authenticity of its devotion to research but also how it drips with melancholy and depression. But there are scenes where the look is all I can pay attention to.

I’ve seen La La Land several times over the past couple of years. Even though it’s taken a slight dip in estimation for me, it’s still such an engaging thing. Although Linus Sandgren was certainly favored to win on Oscar night, by the point that award was given out it certainly felt as though it could go any which way. Perhaps to Fraser, perhaps to Young. In many ways, La La Land won Best Production Design for work that Sandgren did with lighting and that’s to his credit. To his discredit, the film is peppered with choices that leap out such as visible wide-angle lensing that distort the locations and a weird sun-drenched lensing choice on Ryan Gosling in a scene or two that isn’t reciprocated in the reverse. And of course that opening number. “Another Day of Sun” is a song that I love and even love the choreography of it but the shadows on the dancers faces are just hideous. Not a bad win by any stretch and not even enough to constitute a mixed bag, but not my choice.

A couple of years out, I side with the critics in giving my choice to James Laxton for a host of reasons. I think Laxton and director Barry Jenkins appropriate their influences more seamlessly and more originally than Chazelle and Sandgren do theirs. The cinematography tells the story in a more high-wire act fashion. But also… this movie cost nothing. Just nothing. And it is absolutely stunning. From its three-sixty degree-circling opening shot to its shifting color schemes to its moments of silence. As I write about the other directors of photography, I realize that James Laxton should win for lapping them all at their respective games.
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