Categories One-by-One: Cinematography

For the films of 2018
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Cinematography

Postby dws1982 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:06 pm

Wish I could comment on this with an opinion, but Never Look Away doesn't become accessible to me until next Friday (and even then, it's a drive to Nashville). I know people are giving Sony Classics credit for the way they've handled Close and The Wife this year, but too often they do crap like this, where they keep an Oscar contender out of reach for viewers, and then the viewers have moved on by the time the film comes to their city. Same thing happened with Call Me By Your Name last year: They kept it in about ten cities for two months, and then went wide around nominations time, and the movie sank because there was so much else to see at the time.

Cold War would have my vote hands-down, although I'm glad A Star Is Born got this nomination--I think its cinematography is a huge thing in its favor. The Favourite is a nomination I would like more if it didn't have all of those wide-angle shots. So much of it looked great (mostly shot with natural light, I believe), but those shots were a hell of a distraction. And Roma can't be faulted on a technical level, but so much of my issue with the film comes down to the too-studied and too-perfect cinematography. I agree that it will probably win the Oscar.

My longlist for the year (with a dozen or so films left to see):
A Ciambra
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Cold War
First Man
First Reformed
If Beale Street Could Talk
Lean on Pete
Leave No Trace
The Mule
The Rider
A Star is Born
The Third Murder

Mister Tee
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Categories One-by-One: Cinematography

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:01 pm

Given the VERY limited release Never Look Away has so far received, I may be the only one here who can give an honest overview of this category.

The nominees:

Cold War (Lukasz Zal)
The Favourite (Robbie Ryan)
Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron
A Star is Born (Matthew Libatique)

To get right to the surprise candidate: Never Look Away is kind of an odd movie. It's REALLY long (I had to struggle to remember the last 3-hour-plus movie I'd seen; I guess The Hateful Eight, and Wolf of Wall Street before that?), but it's not a painful sit, mainly because the story has pulpy plot turns that reminded me of Sidney Sheldon in Other Side of Midnight mode. At the same time, the film has art aspirations (in both the general and painting-specific sense), and it resolves those pulpy elements in ways that are less melodramatic (and more cerebral) than I'd have expected. It's not a bad movie, but rather less than meets the eye.

Speaking of "eye", the cinematography: About half a dozen times, I thought to myself "That's a nice-looking shot" which point I remembered, oh, rright: this is a cinematography nominee. The remainder is certainly good-enough-looking, but nothing to make you go wow (or to select this over ASC evictee First Man). Given the branch's long-standing cliquishness, it's hard not to conclude the main rationale for the film's inclusion here is the Deschanel name.

Back in late Fall, when A Star is Born was riding high, Matthew Libatique may well have dreamed of being carried along by the vehicle -- which means he's equally subject to disappointment now that the campaign has gone flat. He wouldn't have been an awful winner, but his Black Swan work was way more deserving.

The Favourite looks great; if there are voters who just don't like black-and-white the way we cultists do, this is the movie they'll likely gather around.

Cold War has a fabulous look and, were there not another B&W effort stealing its thunder, it's interesting to wonder if it might have made a play here (even without best picture contention). The ASC win might indicate yes, though we note that The White Ribbon also won there.

But that ASC loss was the only bump in Roma's otherwise steady ride to the win, and the quick recoup at BAFTA suggests we were correct in thinking that loss was largely owing to Guild solidarity. Roma has been a shockingly near-unanimous choice this season, and should be one of the easiest wins of the night.

How easy? I reserve 100% certainty for only a few categories (song, animated feature), But this strikes me as a 99%-er. Only my uneasiness over the black-and-white thing makes me hesitate (Schindler's List remains the only B&W winner since the category merger 50 years ago, despite a number of strong contenders over the years). But Roma is surely the way to bet.

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