Best Cinematography 1968

1927/28 through 1997

What was the year's Best Cinematography from among the Oscar nominees

Funny Girl (Harry Stradling Sr.)
Ice Station Zebra (Daniel L. Fapp)
No votes
Oliver! (Oswald Morris)
Romeo & Juliet (Pasqualino De Santis)
Star! (Ernest Laszlo)
No votes
Total votes: 16

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Re: Best Cinematography 1968

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:55 pm

Once Upon a Time in the West wasn't Oscar-eligible until 1969.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1968

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 4:59 pm

Like many, I voted Romeo and Juliet here more out of desperation than anything else. Even with my limited viewing history, I could fill out this slate excitedly with none of these nominees: Once Upon a Time in the West, 2001, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Planet of the Apes, and Rosemary's say nothing of Belle de Jour, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Party, or The Battle of Algiers.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1968

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jun 10, 2017 10:57 pm

Most of these years with grisly nominees usually have at least one or two excellent options -- this year, it's hard to really get that excited about even the better nominees.

Which means I can come up with plenty of alternates, beginning with 2001: A Space Odyssey, arguably one of the finest achievements in this category in the history of film. Other more exciting prospects: The Battle of Algiers, Rosemary's Baby, Belle de Jour, Weekend.

Even the good version of Ice Station Zebra would likely be anathema to my sensibilities, but I think the actual version is flat terrible -- an action movie without the action. Presumably the sheer size of the thing got it this nomination, because I'm in agreement that the overall look of the movie is pretty chintzy, a low-budget B-movie dressed up to look like a Technicolor roadshow epic.

Star! is similarly insufferable, a three-hour bore where nearly half the running time is taken up by production numbers that have zero relation to the plot. Aside from the color and widescreen, this movie feels like it could have been made 30 years earlier, and there's little that's imaginative about the cinematography here -- virtually all of the film's musical numbers are filmed in completely dull proscenium style.

Funny Girl has one shot that's pretty clearly made it into pop culture history -- Streisand at the front of the tugboat at the end of "Don't Rain on My Parade" -- but on the whole, it's another movie that (save for its leading lady) feels like it could have been made decades earlier. It's not as lumbering a thing as Star!, but nothing much about the photography feels all that fresh either.

The remaining two nominees are the only ones I'd consider, and in that context, I don't object to Romeo and Juliet winning (at the Oscars or here). Of the four film versions I've seen (the obvious 3 plus '54), this is probably the overall best, and there's a visual elegance to the colors and compositions that sets it apart from some of the stiffer Shakespeare adaptations. That said, I don't think it has nearly the cinematographic innovation that Olivier and Branagh showed in the best of their Shakespeare transfers, and I don't feel bad voting elsewhere.

I went with Oliver! Although the camerawork clearly doesn't reach Cabaret levels of innovation, when compared to stuff like Star!, it has an obvious visual dynamism in both its movements, and the framing of some fairly lively group production numbers. And in certain sequences, the lighting and angles give the movie an almost noirish feel -- although the movie isn't a bracing piece of work, it captures the grit and grimness of London street life to about as impressive a degree as one could expect from a big budget '60's musical. Among a pretty uninspiring lot of candidates, I think it stands out the most.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1968

Postby Reza » Fri Jun 09, 2017 4:49 am

1. Romeo and Juliet
2. Oliver!
3. Funny Girl
4. Star!
5. Ice Station Zebra

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Re: Best Cinematography 1968

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:29 pm

To address an issue BJ noted in the previous thread, about how many really-really bad (and sometimes inexplicable) nominees showed up on the cinematography slate during the next was a result of two things: first, ongoing addiction to the behemoths (as nominees if no longer as winners), and second, as severe a crony system as any branch displayed over the period. Look over the lists, an you'll see the names Stradling and Fapp -- and later Surtees and Fraker -- attached to ridiculously undeserving nominees. Each of these men (always men, of course) did meritorious work over the course of their careers -- some even during this same period -- but got way more recognition for inferior work than they should have.

Geoffrey Unsworth later became a two-time Oscar winner, but wasn't nominated here for 2001. Today it seems like the clear choice -- and seemingly a certain winner in the Inception/Gravity era -- but 2001 was, of course, strictly a snob choice in its day, and it's not surprising it was left out.

Ice Station Zebra is not only a leaden effort -- would-be suspense that lumbers along so slowly most suspense is drained -- it doesn't even have the good look that this citation would seem to promise. The icy backdrops look exactly like icy backdrops, not a natural environment. (For contrast, Where Eagles Dare, a contemporaneous no-great-shakes hit, at least had believable locales.)

Star! is one of those movies you have to push yourself through (something most audiences at the time chose not to do, as it became a notorious flop, Julie Andrews' first). You can make some case for its design/costume nods, but not here.

Compared to those two, Funny Girl is at least an enjoyable watch (mostly thanks to young Streisand). And it looks fine. No sign of art, but a competently-shot big-budget musical. How sad that that's enough to make it the third least-objectionable nominee.

Oliver! is a good illustration of a film that succeeds as a piece of cinematography in the way Ice Station Zebra fails. We can see that these are elaborate sets on which the actors are performing -- earlier-century London is re-created in delicate detail. But we also have a sense of real people moving through real environments: the sets are lit not to highlight the artificiality but to bring us into this re-created world and let us suspend our disbelief. I'm not voting for the film, but I respect its achievement.

Romeo and Juliet quickly stands out from the rest of the group because it was the only non-prepackaged blockbuster of the bunch. The film was, in fact, pretty much a sleeper: I hadn't heard much about it prior to its opening, and I doubt many in Hollywood expected it to turn into one of the year's box-office hits. (Though, if you think about it, the story has been something of a box-office perennial, getting to hit status in 1936, 1968 and 1996. Can we expect another go sometime during the 20s?) I'm not sure the film holds up as much more than a pretty/competent/well-acted-by-the-adult-cast effort, but it certainly had a vibrant feel to it, and the prettiness is probably enough to justify its win from this field. Not close to 2001, but not anything groan-worthy.

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Best Cinematography 1968

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:12 am

Here we have three former Oscar winners nominated for Best Cinematography along with two first-timers, one of whom would win this year and the other who would win three years hence. Not a bad thing, unless you're Geoffrey Unswworth (2001: A Space Odyssey), Douglas Slocombe (The Lion in Winter) or William Fraker (Rosemary's Baby), all of whom did better work this year than Harry Stradling Sr., Daniel Fapp and Ernest Laszlo.

The justly celebrated Stradling was a 14-time nominee (A Streetcar Named Desire, Auntie Mame, etc.) and a two-time winner (The Picture of Dorian Gray, My Fair Lady). His lensing of Funny Girl was striking, but not in a league with the work of new-to-Oscar Oswald Morris (Oliver!), Pasqualino De Santis (Romeo & Juliet) and the afore-mentioned Unsworth, Slocombe and Fraker.

Fapp won previously for West Side Story, had One, Two, Three in contention the same year and was later nominated for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the third, fourth and fifth of his seven nomination total, but Ice Station Zebra was a poorly done version of an exciting page-turner that didn't deserve the nod.

Laszlo was on the sixth of his eight nominations and had previously won for Ship of Fools. Among his previous nominations were three other Stanley Kramer films, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He does an admirable job of filming the mega-flop Star!, but really, what was the point of this nomination?

The contest here is obviously between Morris and Pasqualino. It's really hard to decide between the two, but I have to go with Pasqualino, the actual Oscar winner, who brought new life to an old tale. Never nominated again, he won four Italian Syndicate awards out of nine nominations, including one for this, so although he has just the one Oscar nomination he is not a non-entity. Morris would go on to win for Fiddler on the Roof against some extraordinary competition, but more about that later.
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