Best Cinematography 1978

1927/28 through 1997

What film contained the best cinmeatography among the 1978 Oscar nominees?

Days of Heaven (Nestor Almendros)
17
89%
The Deer Hunter (Vilmos Zsigmond)
1
5%
Heaven Can Wait (William A. Fraker)
0
No votes
Same Time, Next Year (Robert Surtees)
0
No votes
The Wiz (Oswald Morris)
1
5%
 
Total votes: 19

Aceisgreat
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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Aceisgreat » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:09 am

Eric wrote:I promise you, I was not that solitary voter for The Wiz, despite being the only person in the natural world who still harbors some affection for that movie.


Not so. I think MJ's pretty wonderful in it, QJ's score has some nice moments, and that Emerald City sequence is a demented dream.

Voted for Days of Heaven.
"I can't stand a naked light bulb any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action." -- Blanche DuBois

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Eric » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:02 pm

I promise you, I was not that solitary voter for The Wiz, despite being the only person in the natural world who still harbors some affection for that movie.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:20 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Just don't expect The Formula or Murphy's Romance to be among them.


Trust me, next week's double bill of The Formula and The Blue Lagoon will have me questioning a lot of my life choices.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:38 pm

The Original BJ wrote:I actually think most years in the '80s will have a wider spread of votes -- some all over the place, and even some with clear winners that aren't the blowouts these years from the '70s have been. (I even anticipate my own votes being a lot less certain, while most of the last decade's choices have been total no-brainers.)


When I said we were in a stretch of no-doubters -- years where the choice was so obvious, even the Academy got it right -- I specifically meant 1975-79. After that, I expect a lot more difference of opinion (including some years where I'm not even sure what I'd select).

The Original BJ wrote:One thing that excites me -- a lot of the movies I haven't seen yet at least seem interesting. Whereas since we started this poll, the nominees I was missing amounted to one piece of worthless crap after another.

Just don't expect The Formula or Murphy's Romance to be among them.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:12 am

I actually think most years in the '80s will have a wider spread of votes -- some all over the place, and even some with clear winners that aren't the blowouts these years from the '70s have been. (I even anticipate my own votes being a lot less certain, while most of the last decade's choices have been total no-brainers.)

One thing that excites me -- a lot of the movies I haven't seen yet at least seem interesting. Whereas since we started this poll, the nominees I was missing amounted to one piece of worthless crap after another.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby dws1982 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:18 am

So we've had lots of pretty lopsided results in the 70's, and this one (as I expected) has been no different.

I'm wondering when we'll get a closer race? I don't think next year is that year (given that two of the main achievements of that year weren't nominated), but maybe the 80's will bring us some more variations. Looking at the nominees from the 80's, some years seem clear, but some--like '82--I couldn't guess what people will prefer. I'm just glad there'll be some years where I've actually seen the nominees. Here there's usually one or two that I've never got a chance to see.

I actually have seen all of these in this lineup, and I vote for Days of Heaven, although any other year it would be The Deer Hunter. Glad, at least, that Zsigmond won an Oscar in his career.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:54 pm

This year thankfully doesn't have a mind-boggling exclusion -- though I guess next year would make up for it with two -- but given its success elsewhere, it's still surprising Midnight Express couldn't carry its moody prison environs to a nomination.

I had the same thought Mister Tee did -- it's hard to figure out which nominee is the worst. Same Time, Next Year is probably more inexplicable -- it hails from the Butterflies Are Free school of nominations, for stagey play adaptations set almost entirely in one locale that have virtually zero visual elements of distinction.

But The Wiz might be even more incompetent. I've never been a fan of any of my experiences with The Wiz, but this filmed version just about caused me to break out in hives. The whole thing just looks ugly, from the cheesy lighting to the lackadaisical camerawork. There are moments, like Ross and Jackson singing "Ease on Down the Road," in a wide shot, with their BACKS TO THE CAMERA, that make you question if anyone even bothered to think about where to place the camera to tell this story, or if they just plopped it down randomly some place.

I'd actually forgotten Heaven Can Wait scored this nomination until I came to this thread -- this past week, I somehow had it in my head that another sunny California-set Best Picture nominee I'd seen years ago (Coming Home) had received this coattails nom instead. That probably sums up how memorable the cinematography is here -- pleasant enough for a pleasant enough movie, but nothing that stands out as exceptional.

It's quite nice that Vilmos Zsigmond had just won the previous year, because otherwise you might have felt bad for him losing here. The Deer Hunter is a movie that in many years would have been an easy victor -- a Best Picture winner, full of breathtaking images from beginning to end, from the early deer hunt in the Pennsylvania mountains, to the epic sweep of the Vietnam battle sequences. Even smaller moments are beautifully composed -- the final "God Bless America" tableau, for instance, is shattering in its simplicity.

But The Deer Hunter had to compete with Days of Heaven, and there's just no denying that Malick's film is one of the most beautifully shot in the history of movies. The early train sequence -- from crossing the trestle, to the migrants riding up top, to the train's arrival -- sets up a film of almost heavenly beauty. And the gorgeous images never let up, with shots impressive simply for their visual splendor (the farm house set against the open landscape at sunset) as well as sequences dazzling for their rigorous display of craft (the locust swarm, the fire, the final river journey). It's rare that one could describe a film's cinematography as moving, but that's how I rate Days of Heaven's -- there's such an overwhelming emotional power to the images, and how delicately rendered they all are, that it becomes impossible to separate the humanity of the story from the visuals used to convey it. Best Cinematography Ever, probably.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 16, 2017 2:37 pm

I had wanted to include Midnight Express, along with Autumn Sonata and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as one of the three most ergregiusly overlooked nominees, but when I went to IMDb. to find out who the d.p. was, I found that Michael Seresin, who was then, and still is, an accredited cinematographer of some note, was listed as "lighting cameraman". It made me think that someone else, possibly either Alan Parker or Oliver Stone (who would later act as cinematographer before becoming a director) was the actual d.p. , so I opted for Superman instead.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:10 am

Pretty much the no-brainiest no-brainer of all the years of Oscar.

Glad to see Magilla note Invasion of the Body Snatchers, an endorsement I echo. I'd also go for The Fury (which went insane, in plot terms, in its final reel, but had some gorgeous images) and Midnight Express, which managed to find some beauty in even dank prison interiors.

It's hard to decide which film, Same Time Next Year or The Wiz, looked uglier. I guess it would be The Wiz, which had the whole city of NY and a monstrous budget, but still couldn't come up with one good-looking setting. But Same Time Next Year, a horribly flat film of a play I'd enjoyed on-stage, was something of an eyesore, as well.

Heaven Can Wait was nothing special, but it had a sort of fairy-tale LA glow that suited its laid-back crowd-pleasing story. This is a nomination I can't work up much enthusiasm or outrage about. It's certainly far from Fraker's worst.

In most years, The Deer Hunter would have taken this prize for its incredible range: the panoramic mountain vistas, the helicopter flights inside Vietnam, the chaotic night scenes of Saigon-near-collapse. Outstanding work by a great cinematographer.

But, almost 40 years on, Days of Heaven remains my lodestar for great cinematography -- nothing I've seen in those decades since has surpassed the visual splendor of Malick's film. And I'm not just talking about Pictures of Beautiful Things (though there was plenty of that); this film was perfectly lit from start to finish. I vividly recall the moment early in the film when a train went over a trestle -- an image so stunning it evoked an audible gasp from the entire audience. But there are so many equally memorable visuals further along, culminating in that breathtaking fire -- a fire that feels almost Biblical in character. Days of Heaven is one of those Oscar choices that's so obvious, anyone who doesn't pick it is either an idiot or a deliberate contrarian. Of course it gets my vote.

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Best Cinematography 1978

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Aug 15, 2017 11:31 pm

There's no question that Days of Heaven is a visually stunning masterwork and the year's best photographed film by a long shot. The only question is whether Nestor Almendros deserved sole credit for it. The Criterion Blu-ray extras would suggest otherwise.

Almendros himself credited Terrence Malick with the look of the film, but it was he (Almendros) who designed the look of the film which necessitated only filming in natural light, something he had first done with 1965's The Collector. Going blind at the time, it was newly installed Academy president John Bailey who operated the hand-held camera that was responsible for the shots under Almendros. But the film took so long to shoot under Malick's exacting eye that both Almendros and Bailey had to leave to go to work on other projects. No less than five films Almendros made after Days of Heaven were released in the additional two years it took to complete the film, most of it in the editing room.

Haskell Wexler was brought in to complete the film. He had just one day with Almendros before Almendros had to leave to shoot The Man Who Loved Women for Francois Truffaut. Most of what is on the screen was filmed by Wexler who also took over operation of the hand-held camera from Bailey. Wexler was initially quite annoyed that he was not given equal credit with Almendros for the film, but in time came to accept that the sole credit accorded Almendros was the right thing.

The only other film that deserved its cinematography nomination this year was Vilmos Zsigmond's work on The Deer Hunter.

I haven't seen Heaven Can Wait in some time, but I can remember nothing special about the way it looked. The stylized cinematography of The Wiz was painful to look at. Same Time, Next Year was a filmed stage play that took place in one room albeit with an occasional glimpse at the beautiful lake that surrounded the Monterey hotel in which it was set.

The films that should have filled those slots were Autumn Sonata (Sven Nykvist), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Michael Chapman) and Superman (Geoffrey Unsworth). If they had to go for at least old-time cinematographer, then it should have been Jack Cardiff for Death on the Nile over Surtees, Fraker and Morris this time around.


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