Best Cinematography 1979

1927/28 through 1997

What film featured the year's best cinematography among the 1979 Oscar nominees?

All That Jazz (Giuseppe Rotunno)
1
6%
Apocalypse Now (Vittorio Storaro)
16
89%
The Black Hole (Frank V. Phillips)
0
No votes
Kramer vs. Kramer (Nestor Almendros)
1
6%
1941 (William A. Fraker)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 18

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Re: Best Cinematography 1979

Postby Sabin » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:34 pm

I must be slipping. I had entirely forgotten that 'Manhattan' wasn't nominated for Best Cinematography. I understand why Gordon Willis wasn't appreciated in his time. I can understand how his fellow cinematographers groused at his rule-breaking. But what about Manhattan should be controversial? It's a stunningly gorgeous film. Did the hatred against this guy run that deep? Or was the feeling that Woody Allen already had his moment, despite how much they liked or didn't like Manhattan.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1979

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:21 pm

This year is a lot like 1972 -- deciding on the best of the year would be a headache, except the omissions make the selection from these nominees an obvious one.

I'm in complete agreement with folks on the major omissions: Manhattan's use of black-and-white makes New York look as beautiful as perhaps any movie, with the aforementioned Brooklyn Bridge shot simply heavenly. And The Black Stallion, particularly in that early wordless section, is visual storytelling of an utterly transporting quality. These should have been gimme nominees.

To add insult to injury, some of the actual nominees are just crud. Somewhere along the line, this branch got it in its head that "a bunch of visual effects" = "best cinematography," because that's the only way to explain nominations for films as crappy looking as The Black Hole. (Although even if voters decided they wanted to cite an effects-laden sci-fi film in this category, it's not like they didn't have Alien sitting right there.)

1941 was one of the few Spielbergs I'd never seen, and even knowing its reputation as a dud, I was still surprised to find it was such a cacaphonous mess. It's telling Spielberg never tried his hand at broad comedy again, as if he seemed to recognized that, despite his many gifts, this was a genre completely anathema to his sensibilities. And I don't even think it looks that great -- the early daytime scenes really overdo the nostalgic glow, to the point that it just looks like the camera is looking through gauze the whole time, and the later night sequences descend into chaotic clunkiness.

Kramer vs. Kramer is fine as a nominee, but it's not a winner. Given this lineup, the fact that it's not ugly rates it at least the bronze medal. There isn't a lot of visual flash to the movie, but the compositions are graceful enough, and the observational quality of the camerawork feels like the right approach for a movie that's mostly a character/performance piece.

As usual, Magilla is COMPLETELY WRONG about All That Jazz, a movie full of exciting cinematography. The early portions of the movie (like the "On Broadway" montage) capture the backstage world of New York theater with energy and grit, and the garish lighting, use of mirrors, and choreographed camerawork make the finale a hugely memorable fantasia of death. A very deserving nominee.

But I cast my vote -- like everyone else, apparently -- for Apocalypse Now. Literally from the opening shot -- the explosions in the jungle -- the movie dazzles with images both gorgeous and horrifying. And from a technical standpoint, the camerawork is remarkable, giving the impression in the battle sequences of total chaos, yet capturing all of that in a manner that feels stylistically controlled at all times. And as the movie moves through its various locales, from the war scenes to the journey down the river, to the iconic shot of Brando's head emerging from the water, it delivers consistently striking images of real variety. An easy choice.
Last edited by The Original BJ on Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1979

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:20 am

I voted for Apocalypse Now now, when is where is suspect most of the votes will go.

However, my choice for no. 1 of the year was shoot by the great Sven Nykvist, Hurricane. Sure, the film is as rickety as hell and it was a commercial and critically disaster but for me it was the best looking film of '79.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1979

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:32 am

Mister Tee wrote:Magilla, I don't know if your omitting Black Stallion was a oversight or intentional, but I think Deschanel's work had to be there.


Pure oversight.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1979

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:59 am

The progression of my thinking about this category, as that wonderful movie year 1979 went along:

April: Manhattan is simply a stunning use of black-and-white -- that night-time shot along the East River will live forever. For sure, Gordon Willis will finally get nominated.

August: Apocalypse Now is sensationally well-shot -- a good early bet for the win.

November: wow -- I hadn't counted on something like The Black Stallion coming along. The film's story isn't much -- I believe Andrew Sarris summed it up as "half soft-core Equus/half outtakes from National Velvet". But the film was gorgeous from start to finish -- creatively so in that first half, more traditional but till memorable in the second. The two critics' group who gave cinematography awards -- LA and National -- both went for it.

February: ...but the cinematographers' branch, shamefully, didn't. They left off Gordon Willis again, too. (I seem to recall Caleb Deschanel, Stallion's photographer, was something of a Willis protege, so the two omissions may have been related.) Making the choice pretty simple.

Magilla, I don't know if your omitting Black Stallion was a oversight or intentional, but I think Deschanel's work had to be there. As well as Willis. And Hair, as you advocate, or even The Rose could have shown up as well.

The only actual nominee that's unforgivable is The Black Hole -- a surpassingly silly movie whose mention here makes no sense, even as guild cronyism. Even in the special effects realm, there were far better options.

I'm not exactly going to stick up for 1941 -- it gets pretty ridiculous by the end, and comedy to such a slapstick level isn't, to put it mildly, Spielberg's forte. But there are some well-staged bits, and the look of the film -- design and lighting -- is of reasonably high calibre. So I don't view this a a disgraceful nomination,

Ah: yet another round of "Magilla hates All That Jazz", soon to be followed by "BJ loves it", and here I am, on cue, to say I'm somewhere in between. Actually, here, I don't even need to qualify: whatever my objections to the film, the look of it is unimpeachable: gritty in its backstage realism, haunting in its fantasy sequences. Fine work.

Kramer vs. Kramer's nomination is 1) a nod to its best picture strength and 2) a continuation of the urban trend pioneered by Owen Roizman earlier in the decade. I'd say Almendros' work here is more deserving on its own terms than the Roizman efforts: Kramer has some truly lovely autumnal NY shots that sit in my memory every bit as much as the performances.

But Apocalypse Now, with its epic sweep, its Ride of the Valkyrie, its glitzy USO show, its night jungle scenes, is altogether the most impressive work in the category. Had Manhattan and The Black Stallion been rightfully present, I'd have had my toughest choice this decade -- maybe one of my toughest ever. But in this stripped-down slate, Vittorio Storaro is the easy, well-deserving choice.

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Best Cinematography 1979

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:25 pm

An imperfect film, but one whose look couldn't be improved upon, Apocalypse Now is an easy pick, especially given the competition.

In a perfect world, Manhattan (Gordon Willis); Hair (Miroslav Ondricek, Richard Kratina, Jean Talvin); The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Ermanno Olmi) and Breaking Away (Matthew Leoneti) would have gotten the other slots. Instead the year's best musical is supplanted by the one with open heart surgery and a before-she-learned-to-act Jessica Lange as the angel as death; a film that should have been dropped in the black hole of its title; Speilberg's most amateurish film ever and more love for Nestor Almendros, who this year was merely good.


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