Best Cinematography 1972

1927/28 through 1997

What was the film with the year's best cinematography from amongst the 1972 Oscar nominees?

Butterflies Are Free (Charles Lang)
No votes
Cabaret (Geoffrey Unsworth)
The Poseidon Adventure (Charles E. Stine)
1776 (Harry Stradling, Jr.)
Travels with My Aunt (Douglas Slocombe)
No votes
Total votes: 17

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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jul 07, 2017 3:03 pm

Greg wrote:Nykvist won the Oscar for Cries And Whispers, albeit in 1973.

Of course he did. Good catch.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Greg » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:24 pm

Nykvist won the Oscar for Cries And Whispers, albeit in 1973.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:02 pm

Correction regarding other awards for cinematography:

The National Society of Film Critics began giving awards for cinematography with their 1967 awards. Shockingly, none of their winners through 1974 received an Oscar nomination for their efforts, let alone a win.

Winners through 1973:
1967 In the Heat of the Night (Haskell Wexler)
1968 Bullitt (William A. Fraker)
1969 The Wild Bunch (Lucien Ballard)
1970 My Night at Maud's and The Wild Child (Nestor Almendros)
1971 The Conformist (Vittorio Storaro)
1972 Cries and Whispers (Sven Nykvist)

Next two winners:
1973 The Long Goodbye (Vilmos Zsigmond)
1974 The Godfather Part II and The Parallex View (Gordon Willis)
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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:37 am

Mister Tee wrote:I have to strongly dissent from Magilla's contention that Cabaret was a sure winner even if The Godather or Deliverance had been nominated. In fact, I spent most of the year assuming that one of the two of them would triumph, and it was only their exclusion that made Cabaret such a clear choice.

That may be, but I was reading other tea leaves.

The Academy was not alone in its failure to substantially reward The Godfather.

In 1972, there were only five organizations besides AMPAS that gave out film awards - the National Board of Review, The New York Film critics, the National Society of Film Critics, the Golden Globes and BAFTA.

Aside from AMPAS, only BAFTA gave an award for cinematography. It was given that year to Geoffrey Unsworth for Cabaret and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The other nominees were Vilmos Zsigmond for McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance and Images; John Alcott for A Clockwork Orange and Ennio Guarniri for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. The Godfather was not nominated. In fact, it was nominated for just five BAFTAS, Best Actor (Brando), Supporting Actor (Duvall), Newcomer (Pacino), Costume Design and Score (Oscar disqualified Nino Rota), winning only for Rota. Cabaret, on the other hand, was nominated for 11 BAFTAs and won 7, including Best Picture.

The Godfather had previously been snubbed by all the groups except the Globes where it won Best Picture - Drama while Cabaret won Best Picture - Musical or Comedy. NBR went with Cabaret, NYFC with Cries and Whispers and NSFC with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

The ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) did not start handing out awards until 1987. The editors were the only guild giving out awards aside from the DGA and WGA. They went with Cabaret over The Godfather and The Poseidon Adventure.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:04 pm

I have to strongly dissent from Magilla's contention that Cabaret was a sure winner even if The Godather or Deliverance had been nominated. In fact, I spent most of the year assuming that one of the two of them would triumph, and it was only their exclusion that made Cabaret such a clear choice.

A year after The Last Picture Show had seemed to prove that certain period pieces needed black-and-white for authenticity, The Godfather found a way to capture the feeling of another era -- in this case, 40s films -- while still using color. It was a stunning achievement at the time (though, like Summer of '42, one so frequently replicated since that the original impact may be lost). The reasons for Gordon Willis' exclusion (here and elsewhere) have been well-documented, in Inside Oscar and other places: the very novelty of that use of shadow and color -- what so enthralled many of us -- was anathema to old-school cinematographers, who seemed stuck on the idea that, if you couldn't see the actors' eyes at all times, the d.p. wasn't doing his job properly.

As highly as I regard The Godfather's look, though, I'd probably have gone with Zsigmond for Deliverance, given the option. There's a sense of foreboding that hangs over Deliverance, very much due to the tones Zsigmond finds in his shots. And that's not even addressing the exquisite river shots. This is just a beautifully composed film, for which Zsigmond deserved far stronger recognition. I'm glad he at least managed a win later in the decade.

Now, to the far sorrier actual nominees:

I guess technically I'm not able to judge Butterflies are Free, since I only saw it once, years ago, on a black and white TV. But, come on: we know that wouldn't make the difference. This was a pointless crony nomination, the sort to which the branch was all too vulnerable.

I'm afraid I can't go along with FilmFan's enthusiasm for 1776. I only ever saw that on TV, as well -- though at least a color TV. But I found the whole thing pretty excruciating...mostly attributable to the director, but the cinematographer's contribution wasn't enough to offset anything.

BJ is correct, that the Poseidon Adventure nod was simple tradition -- by now, we expected the crap behemoths to sweep through the tech categories. They even had one agonizing win left in them -- though let's hold off a few years for that one.

I remember Roger Ebert, in his nomination reactions article that year, singling out this category as particularly dire, saying it featured "three ringers out of five". I always wondered which was his second non-ringer...I guess I'd expect it was Travels with My Aunt, which was at least a colorful-looking film (it well deserved its costuming prize). Though I'm with BJ rather than Magilla on the film's overall quality: I, too, watched it again recently, but found it even worse than I'd remembered -- a bargain-bin Auntie Mame that might be the worst thing on Graham Greene's resume.

So, yes, Cabaret, of course -- in this company, it's K-2 in the flatlands. The scenes inside the Kit Kat Cub are just stunning (Liza, with those lights seeming to extend from her arms during Maybe This Time, hasn't left my memory for 45 years). And the film as a whole has a slightly otherworldly look and feel -- I remember thinking, it was one of the first films I'd seen set in a foreign country where every scene really felt like it was taking place in a foreign country. It's no news to anyone here that Cabaret is an all-time-special movie for me, and Unsworth's visuals are very much a part of that. An easy vote, as it's seemed to be for most.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby FilmFan720 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 3:41 pm

What a lineup.

Like most everyone else, I will go with Cabaret, the obviously easy choice here (especially with The Godfather somehow left off and Cries and Whispers pushed until 1973). Those musical numbers are like nothing else in film (even the imitators don't get anywhere near them) for the way that they move through the dancers and frame their bodies, not to mention the lighting. Cabaret is a masterclass in filmmaking from top to bottom and Unsworth is a major reason why.

I will just put in a good word for one of the other nominees, however, and that is 1776. While not nearly as stylish or stylistic as Cabaret, the way that Stradling uses that massive set by weaving through the Congress keeps the film from never quite feeling static, and it also certainly has some interesting lighting choices throughout also, from the slight sepia look the film has to the shifting moods of "Molasses to Rum." Certainly a more proper second place than the other three nominees.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:48 pm

Even by the standards of the era, this is a GRIM lineup. I think there's only ONE worthy nominee, four complete WTF nominees, and as usual, some head-scratching omissions.

I'm sure there was some crony-ish reason why The Godfather was excluded, but its omission is an enormous injustice. I can still remember watching the movie for the first time, as a teenager, and thinking as early as Vito's dance with Connie at the wedding that I was seeing images of uncanny visual beauty. And then, the entire Italy sequence is shot with such a gorgeous sun-dappled glow it makes the inevitable tragedy of that flashback that much more devastating. One of the best pieces of work of the year.

The other Best Picture nominee that surely should have placed is Deliverance, which establishes much of its sense of a foreboding environment through its haunting shots of the river and woods. And then pick any two movies that are better than the dreck that was actually nominated (not a hard task) to fill out a far more deserving slate.

Butterflies Are Free -- What. The. F*ck? This is a filmed stage play set almost entirely inside an ugly-ass apartment. I don't think there's a single interesting shot in the whole movie, and the small scope of the thing couldn't have presented any remotely notable production challenges. There are plenty of Oscar nominations that are unbelievable -- this one is truly inexplicable.

1776 only makes slightly more sense given that big-budget musicals repeatedly scored nominations here, regardless of quality. But it's still another baffling nominee, given how utterly stagey this whole affair is. (Though, to be fair, I'm not sure the material lent itself to anything wildly cinematic -- it's one of the more contained musicals of the golden era.) And it's not as if the movie was an Oscar juggernaut otherwise -- for the cinematography to be plucked out as the one element rewarded with a nomination is totally bizarre.

I guess all disaster movies in the '70's were automatic Cinematography nominees, so...The Poseidon Adventure. Clearly the movie has a scope to it that presented photography challenges -- I'm sure all that water wasn't easy to shoot in and around. But it's such a graceless, clunky movie, and the only saving grace about its nomination is that (unlike Irwin Allen's extravaganza two years later) it didn't win.

Travels With My Aunt presumably scored this nomination due to the travelogue quality of the movie -- the film's jaunt through European landscapes and cities manages to give the film a glittery air of class (even if the plot hijinx remain hopelessly silly). And yet, this is a prettiness of a very old-fashioned sort, a George Cukor movie at a time when George Cukor movies (and George Cukor himself) were simply just running out of steam. There's no way for the photography not to come off a bit musty as well.

The one bright spot to such a dreary lineup is that it gave the Academy the chance to reward the one truly outstanding piece of cinematography on the ballot, and of course that's Cabaret. There's a pizzazz to the camera moves that in an era of Hello, Dolly! and Camelot must have come off as revolutionary, as if the full medium of film were being utilized in the movie musical as never before. And the lighting in the musical numbers brings out the stylishness of the film's theatricality as well as its realistically raw grit. This is a film whose look has been copied countless times over the decades -- it's no surprise that the film version of Chicago borrowed much of its aesthetic, as if it were as much a part of the Fosse style as his choreography. A thrilling, imaginative choice, and my easy choice.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1972

Postby dws1982 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:21 pm

Abstain in protest. The Godfather and The Emigrants being passed over (as well as Deliverance, Sounder, and even Tokyo Story if it was eligible) in favor of this lot makes for one of the worst lineups in Academy history.

Cabaret is the best here from a technical perspective, and I understand what Fosse and Unsworth were going for, but I still don't really care for it on an artistic level.

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Best Cinematography 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jul 05, 2017 4:28 am

I think Cabaret would have won this even if the other nominees were The Godfather, Deliverance, The Emigrants and Tokyo Story, but the fact that it won over such lame competition shouldn't diminish its worthiness.

The film, which opened in February, a month before The Godfather, was like The Godfather, a phenomenon from the start even if its box-office wasn't quite as strong. Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography was as essential a part of the film's wow reception, as important to the film as its acting, direction and music. The veteran British cinematographer was ignored for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but was previously nominated for Becket and would be again for Murder on the Orient Express and Tess, for which he won posthumously 2 1/2 years after his death.

It was an easy winner over Butterflies Are Free, 1776, Travels with My Aunt and The Poseidon Adventure.

How The Poseidon Adventure was even considered, I have no idea. There was nothing about Charles E. Stine's routine cinematography that cried out for an award. While I probably have greater affection for the other three than anyone else here, I really can't support their nominations in this category.

Butterflies Are Free and 1776 take place mostly on one set. Charles Lang received his 18th nomination for Butterflies, having won just once on his second nomination for 1932's A Farewell to Arms and would retire after making just one more film. It was a highly professional job, but it was time for him to rest on his laurels. He died in 1998 at 96. Stradling would never come near his late father's fourteen nominations and two wins, in fact earning just two nominations in his long career for 1776 and The Way We Were. Now in his 90s, he hasn't made a film since 1988's Caddyshack II.

Douglas Slocombe's nomination for Travels with My Aunt is more understandable. The film moves with location shooting all over the known world. He would go on to receive nominations for Julia and Raiders of the Lost Ark, dying last year at 103.

Among the ignored, the most shameful is the lack of a nomination for Gordon Willis for The Godfather. Adding insult to injury, he would fail to be nominated for Godfather II, All the President's Men, Annie Hall and Manhattan, finally being nominated for Zelig and Godfather III, finally earning a career achievement Oscar a few years before his death in 2014 at 82.

I was never a big fan of Deliverance, but one thing I admired about it was Vilmos Zsigmond's exquisite cinematography. He would sadly have to wait until Close Encounters of the Third Kind for his first Oscar recognition.

Jan Troell was a cameraman at heart. In fact, he only became a director to have control over the look of his films. A dual nomination for direction and cinematography, or just a nomination for his unforgettable cinematography of The Emigrants would certainly have pleased him as much, if not more than the nod he received for directing.

With the bulk of Yasujiro Ozu's films finally given commercial showings in the U.S. in 1972, the year the Academy gave an Oscar to Chaplin's twenty-year-old score for Limelight, it would have been fitting to nominate both Ozu who died in 1963 and his then still living cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta for the only nineteen-year-old Tokyo Story. He died in 1993 at the age of 88, the year the Japanese Academy, which had also ignore him, finally recognized his work.
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