Best Cinematography 1970

1927/28 through 1997

What was the best film nominated fro the Best Cinematography Oscar of 1970?

Airport (Ernest Laszlo)
Patton (Fred J. Koenekamp)
Ryan's Daughter (Freddie Young)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (Charles F. Wheeler, Osamu Furuya, Shimsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh)
No votes
Women in Love (Billy Williams)
Total votes: 17

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Re: Best Cinematography 1970

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jun 21, 2017 4:40 pm

One of things that always fascinated me about Ryan's Daughter, which I'm happy to see isn't that far behind Women in Love in the voting, is that many of the beach scenes had to be filmed in Cape Town, South Africa because the weather on the Irish coast was too difficult to film in. Leo McKern almost drowned in the storm sequence. Rumors at the time had it that the wind took out his glass eye. Be that as it may, or not, you can't tell the difference between the Irish scenes and the Cape Town ones.

Another thing that always fascinated me is the fact that Christopher Jones' squeaky voice had to be dubbed by Stanley Holloway's son and that he was almost comatose in the love scene, the result of having been drugged by Robert Mitchum to ratchet down his inability to perform with Sarah Miles, whom he detested.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1970

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:21 pm

Mister Tee wrote:For the most part, I can just say "See BJ".

I'll go second next week. :D

One result of the clunky fields of this decade is that there's often one no-brainer choice that stands above the rest, which is most likely going to leave us with discussions where there's a ton of unanimity.

It isn't until we get to the '80s that I have any doubt about what movie we'll collectively make the winner, and I expect a bunch of landslides in the years directly ahead.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1970

Postby Greg » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:03 pm

Mister Tee wrote:For the most part, I can just say "See BJ". Though I will add a few alternates (beyond Little Big Man): The Wild Child, Woodstock, and my will-always-love-it-no-matter-what-anybody-says, Catch 22.

Woodstock is also an alt for me. Apparently, the cinematographers for this, Malcolm Hart and Michael Margetts, never worked on another film, while two of the editors, Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, went on to have storied careers in directing and editing.
A party without cake is just a meeting

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Re: Best Cinematography 1970

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:29 pm

For the most part, I can just say "See BJ". Though I will add a few alternates (beyond Little Big Man): The Wild Child, Woodstock, and my will-always-love-it-no-matter-what-anybody-says, Catch 22.

Airport's 10 nominations were a laughingstock in my circles, and seemed to mark the Academy as hopelessly out of touch. (It was only in that context that the Patton sweep was seen as a triumph of good taste.) This nomination wasn't its most ridiculous -- costumes was the clear you've-gotta-be-kidding nod -- but, as BJ notes, the film had a strictly TV did much of what came out of Universal in that period.

Tora! Tora! Tora! was another death rattle from the collapsing stdio system. I guess the actual attack was impressive enough logistically. I only ever watched the film once, on TV years ago, strictly for completeness purposes, and I don't plan to ever think of it again.

I came into the show that night thinking Patton would win, as part of a tech binge (it did win all the others I'd imagined), and it wouldn't have been an offensive choice -- it had as good a look as many winning blockbusters of the era. Not much art, but a decent amount of craft.

Freddie Young won his Oscars essentially for sand, snow and surf. The first two were pretty unimpeachable, and this one is not without merit, either. Ryan's Daughter is an offensively empty movie -- the stuff of a 90-minute weepie blown up to 70mm and extended over three interminable hours (I watched the damn thing a month or two ago, and confirmed all my long-ago impressions -- except this time finding the Mills performance/character completely unbearable). But the one thing you can't fault about the film is the look, culminating in that bravura sequence of bringing in the contraband weapons amidst picturesque waves. The win made sense to me in retrospect, and I don't deeply object to it even now.

But, like BJ, I opted for Women in Love, which struck me even at the time as gorgeous in a far deeper way. The film is filled with memorable images -- in addition to those BJ cited, I'd note Alan Bates rampaging through the weeds, or even just the sisters sashaying down the street all full of themselves. Women in Love was, for me, the most coherently successful film of Russell's career, and Billy Williams' contribution was crucial to that. (Watching Williams win years later, for the manifestly undeserving Gandhi, was like seeing Pacino win for Scent of a Woman.) I cast an enthusiastic vote for the best-looking Lawrence film ever.
Last edited by Mister Tee on Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1970

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:01 pm

Little Big Man would probably be my top alt -- it's a shame a movie with such solid craft credentials got totally blanked below the line. I think one could make a case for Five Easy Pieces and M*A*S*H as well, though neither is visually striking enough to get near win territory for me.

Aside from just being a stupid piece of junk, Airport isn't even very technically well-made. A lot of it looks like '70s tv with a bigger budget. In this category, disaster movies were to the '70s what road show musicals were to the '60s -- default nominees based more on scope than artistry.

Tora! Tora! Tora! -- more like Bore-a! Bore-a! Bore-a!, am I right? At first, the cinematography nomination seems insane -- the entire first 2/3rds of the movie is basically a series of dully shot board room conversations. In the last forty minutes, we finally get what we came to see -- the attack on Pearl Harbor, which is at least mounted with some gusto -- but this is still a nomination based more on size than imaginative lensing.

I wouldn't say that Patton quite rises to the level of visual beauty that would merit a win, but it's an epic that's at least mounted with some elegance, and the battle sequences have a verisimilitude to them for which the cinematographer must be credited. This isn't photography with all that much personality, but it's efficient enough as a piece of craft that I don't object to the nomination.

Ryan's Daughter is a pretty hollow love triangle, and at nearly three and a half hours, a seemingly endless one. But the movie has one genuine element of distinction, and that's the cinematography. Although the coast of Ireland is surely a gorgeous location, the photography is doing a lot more than simply capturing a picturesque locale -- throughout the movie, the framing, lighting, and fluidity of the camera moves suggest a DP fully in control of the images he's creating. And the film's most stunning set piece -- the storm sequence -- is impressive for delivering such painterly images while overcoming what had to have been major production hurdles.

I don't object to Ryan's Daughter's victory, but I'm going to give my vote to Women in Love, which is just as beautiful, and an even more artful piece. Countless images stick in the memory -- Jackson among the cattle, the beautifully lit wrestling match, the drowned lovers in the river, the haunting snowy final moments. The liveliness of the photography is a key factor in making the film feel less like embalmed literature, and more like a daring, modern piece of moviemaking. This category -- at least along with Best Actress -- was perhaps the film's strongest area of achievement.

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Best Cinematography 1970

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jun 21, 2017 11:07 am

This was a fairly decent line-up.

Cases could be made for the absence of Five Easy Pieces and Little Big Man, both of which were far better examples of the cinematographer's discipline than Airport, but the other nominees are all worthy.

Laszlo Kovacs, who lensed both Easy Rider the year before and Five Easy Pieces never received an Oscar nomination. Harry Stradling, Jr., whose father could be nominated for anything and often was (Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly! being two recent examples), had a harder time being recognized by the Academy and was nominated only twice for 1776 and The Way We Were, but showed more inventiveness with Little Big Man.

Erenst Laszlo was swept up by the blanket voting for Airport, a nomination he didn't deserve any more than the one he received two years earlier for Star!.

Charles Wheeler and the three Japanese cinematographers who were nominated for Tora! Tora! Tora! never received another nomination. It's a pretty standard war movie, but the cinematography surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor was impressive. It was certainly better than the travesty Michael Bay foisted on the world in 2001.

Patton succeeds both as a pro-war movie and as an anti-war movie, as biography and as drama. The cinematography by Fred Koenekamp, who passed away three weeks ago at the age of 94, is immaculate. It definitely deserved the nomination.

The real contest, though, is between the two Brits, Billy Williams and Freddie Young.

Williams was at home both in sweeping dramas such as Women in Love and Ghandi for which he would eventually win an Oscar, and domestic dramas such as Sunday Bloody Sunday and On Golden Pond. Young excelled at the big, sweeping epic, having already won Oscars for Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

I would say that the cinematography makes both films. Williams' cinematography for Women in Love gives focus to Ken Russell's vision in bringing alive the D.H. Lawrence novel. Young's cinematography for Ryan's Daughter provides picture postcard perfection to what is essentially a rather thin story. Both are works of genius. It's a tough call, but I give my vote to Young whose work on Lean's film was pretty much his last hurrah although he did receive another nomination for the following year's Nicholas and Alexandra and continued working for thirteen more years, but retired before he could join Lean for his last film. Ernest Day, his camera operator on his big three Lean films replaced him on A Passage to India.

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