Best Cinematography 1973

1927/28 through 1997

What was the best cinematography of 1973 based on the Oscar nominees?

Cries and Whispers (Sven Nykvist)
The Exorcist (Owen Roizman)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Jack Couffer)
No votes
The Sting (Robert Surtees)
No votes
The Way We Were (Harry Stradling, Jr.)
Total votes: 16

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Re: Best Cinematography 1973

Postby dws1982 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:54 pm

Haven't seen the movie, but Jonathan Livingston Seagull is apparently still regarded by some people as good literature. When the district I work in had a summer reading requirement, it was an option for one of the grades (not sure which...I want to say 7th or 8th).

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Re: Best Cinematography 1973

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:23 pm

Although this year had its deserving alternates (American Graffiti, Paper Moon, Last Tango in Paris), and a WTF nominee, you can at least understand why most of the nominees were cited -- these were movies voters responded to in general, so it makes sense that such big-ticket entries would pop up here. I guess that makes me less offended by this year's lineup than some this decade.

I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in elementary school, and my teacher showed our class the movie afterwards. Even as a 5th grader, I found it completely, utterly, 100% WACK. I put myself through it again last week to prepare for this discussion (it’s now easily available to rent on iTunes, for the completists). My adult eyes can conclude that this nomination isn’t totally inexplicable -- there’s a ton of camera swooping, flashy uses of color, and technically ambitious shots of animals, waves, and weather. But the film itself is a stupefyingly miscalculated effort, a nature documentary crossed with some New Age rendition of The Secret starring seagulls. I could never vote for photography in service of something this ridiculous.

I’m a bit split on The Exorcist. On one hand, there are shots from the movie that are genuinely memorable, like the iconic poster image of von Sydow entering the house, or the gripping imagery in the final exorcism sequence, where the lighting and camerawork are contributing essential qualities to the film’s mood. But I also think other portions of the movie look pretty bland, even to the point of seeming haphazardly filmed at times.

The Way We Were is certainly an old-fashioned romantic drama, but it’s not a vapid white elephant either. And I rate the cinematography at that level as well -- it has the glossy, Technicolor look of films from decades earlier, but doesn’t feel like a stilted, ancient thing. And It’s hard to hear the film’s theme song without recalling the swoony images of the boat at sea. Not innovative or ambitious enough to get my vote, but it’s an inoffensive nominee.

The Sting is a jaunty, colorful affair, one that very well might have won this prize along with the rest of its haul. The movie on the whole is more style than substance, but the style is fun: the sepia-tinged color palette gives the film an air of nostalgia for a bygone era, and the deep-focus compositions in numerous scenes help keep up the movie’s energy by immersing the audience into the details of its world. Mister Tee’s point is valid, though -- the art direction is a much more dynamic aspect of the film’s look than its photography.

Happily, the Academy made a far more adventurous choice by picking Cries and Whispers, which is photographed like a dream (or, depending on the scene, a nightmare). The film is chock full of memorable images, from the ethereal glow of the sisters’ happier times in the flashbacks, to the agonizing close-ups of faces and bodies in pain, from the pops of candelight that illuminate the darkness, to the striking impact of the reds that fill out the movie’s color scheme. This is clearly the most artful and visually intoxicating movie on the ballot, and my easy choice.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1973

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:08 pm

Those two no-names listed as responsible for the cinematography of American Graffiti have such paltry credits one could almost guess they're a pseudonym for "Visual Consultant" Haskell Wexler who 1) was firmly in with the Coppola/Lucas/Ashby gang and 2) was even at the time given most of the credit for Graffiti's distinctive look. The film should emphatically have been among the nominees: its poetic images of driving up and down the strip were among the many things that took Graffiti out of the class of the teen movies it used as template.

Paper Moon could also have been a solid substitution, as might have been Don't Look Now or The Long Goodbye.

I voted here without thinking, and only after I'd checked my choice off did I realize I wasn't really eligible -- and neither, I suspect, are most of the others whose votes are registered, since Jonathan Livingston Seagull has been pretty close to impossible to see down the years (though I do now see it's on Amazon Video -- if I only wanted to pay for yet another video service). JLS (I abbreviate because I'm too bored to write the name over and over) is a phenomenon I'm sure seems inexplicable if one wasn't on the scene. The book was a flimsy one (barely a novella, with lots of big print and pictures -- I read it in an hour or two), and shallow/silly -- but, because it touched upon such just-becoming-trendy ideas as transcendental meditation and reincarnation, it became a HUGE best-seller. It ascended to number one on the Times list in July of 1972, and didn't surrender the spot till the following March. The film was put together quickly -- opening in October of 1973 -- but that was plenty enough time for a backlash to form. Think of how critics slaughtered The Da Vinci Code film, times about ten: this film was utterly filleted, and died at the box office (you'd have thought at least some portion of its book-buyers would have turned out, but no). However: it must be said that even the hideous reviews singled the film out for its impressive cinematography, so this nomination wasn't from the blue.

I have to disagree with Magilla on a number of his other evaluations. I thought The Exorcist had an outright ugly look: the gritty city visuals Roizman had provided for The French Connection weren't suited to this film at all. The famously rushed-into-release film had a slapdash quality throughout, and the unappealing visuals were very much a part of that.

The Sting was the film I feared would take the award that night, given its sweep elsewhere. I have no problem with the film's prize for art direction, and even costumes was defensible if not stellar. But cinematography would have been a bridge too far, as there's nothing remotely special about the film's look.

The Way We Were is also not prize-worthy, but it's got a rich glow that gives the 30s scenes a shimmer, and the Malibu sequences capture the pull a California lifestyle would have even on devoted liberals. It's my second choice.

But the easy selection of the four I've seen is Cries and Whispers, which offers lush, deep-toned interiors that feel very much a part of Bergman's family universe. This is the only one of the nominees that makes a contribution to the Art of cinematography, and, on what was otherwise maybe the worst Oscar night I ever experienced, its win was the only moment that made me cheer. I remain so enthusiastic about it that, as I say, I clicked on it here before remembering I should withhold my vote due to missing a nominee. The set-up doesn't seem to let me retract, so it'll have to stand as is -- and I can't say that bothers me much. Most people here seem to be in agreement.

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Best Cinematography 1973

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:24 am

Let's be charitable and call 1973 an off-year for movies.

Between the highs of 1972 and 1974 in which there were cinematic highs aplenty, 1973 provided films that were interesting diversions at best - Tom Sawyer, Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Ludwig were films that scored Oscar nods in other categories, any one of which could have appeared on the list of nominees for cinematography in place of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a cultural phenomenon of the day I never understood, try as I did. I read the book, listened to Neil Diamond's soundtrack, but couldn't quite bring myself to see the film, which today would have been done as a cartoon - excuse me, animated feature. The d.p. (director of photography), Jack Couffer, was a documentary filmmaker from television and the cinematography, fascinating as it may have been, was of the life of seagulls. It was as odd a choice as the cinematography branch ever came up with. Couffer went back to making documentaries for TV.

One great film that could have been nominated was Andrei Rublev, which was shown at the N.Y. Film Festival but not given a theatrical release in New York in 1973, although it was given one in Los Angeles, which should have qualified it as an Oscar contender. Vadim Yusov's cinematography should have been a contender.

This year also provided another missed opportunity to nominate Laszlo Kovacs, previously snubbed for Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, who could have been nominated here for Paper Moon. American Graffiti was probably left out of consideration because no one had ever heard of the cinematographers, Jan D'Alquen and Ron Eveslage, who promptly went back into obscurity.

Of the other four nominees, Sven Nyskwist's Oscar-winning cinematography for Cries and Whispers is clearly the class act, but Robert Surtees (The Graduate, Last Picture Show) once again proved that the veteran d.p. (Ben-Hur) still had what it took to make a great looking movie with The Sting.

Harry Stradling, Jr.'s nomination for The Way We Were was OK. My personal favorite, however, is Owen Roizman's work on The Exorcist, a difficult film to get right. He gets my vote over Sven Nykvist, who I will have a chance to vote for on two upcoming occasions.

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