Best Cinematography 1980

1927/28 through 1997

Which film had the best cinematography among the 1980 nominees?

The Blue Lagoon (Nestor Almendros)
1
6%
Coal Miner's Daughter (Ralf D. Bode)
0
No votes
The Formula (James Crabe)
0
No votes
Raging Bull (Michael Chapman)
9
50%
Tess (Geoffrey Unsworth, Ghislain Cloquet)
8
44%
 
Total votes: 18

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby dws1982 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:32 pm

I'm not sure. I know The Kite Runner and The Alchemist have become staples of high-school readings lists, which has kept them in the public consciousness a bit more than they might have been otherwise.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:37 am

dws1982 wrote:A movie like Snow Falling on Cedars, although I like it a good bit, has pretty much faded into obscurity over the 18 years since it was released. Young people today, and in the future, will likely have only heard about that movie because it got that Oscar nomination--it's not widely shown on TV, there's no Blu-Ray, it's not on Netflix or anything like that. They don't have our perspective of knowing that it was praised in real-time for its look. It's just a random movie, shot by a multi-nominated (and winning) cinematographer. I'm just wondering, will people look at it on the list and say, "Okay, so it got the Islands in the Stream/Jonathan Livingston Seagull spot"? They won't have any perspective on it, just like I don't for those movies from the 70's.

Do people no longer know the book Snow Falling on Cedars? Because it was quite a widely-read book in its time -- not a hardcover best-seller, maybe, but one of those books, like The Kite Runner or The Alchemist, that took off in paperback and seemed to hang around on those lists for years.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby dws1982 » Sat Sep 02, 2017 8:19 am

Mister Tee wrote:
The Original BJ wrote:But a beautifully shot movie that doesn't get much traction elsewhere is a different story. I figured Snow Falling on Cedars would get this nomination while I was watching it in the theater


The reviews for Snow Falling on Cedars almost unanimously praised the cinematography. It was only a matter of whether the film's low grosses would keep it from a widely-thought-deserved nomination.

I agree with this, and remember expecting it to be nominated (I think The End of the Affair was the surprise in that lineup), and not to discuss it too much before its time comes, I'll come out and say that I think it's more impressive than any of Richardson's three wins, and it's the one in that list that might get my vote.

But I guess my thought/question would've been better worded like this: I look at those years we just went through, all years before I was born, and I see lots of movies (in Cinematography, but not limited to that category) that I've only heard of because they got an Oscar nomination. Islands in the Stream would be an example. I know nothing much about it except that it got an Oscar nomination. A movie like Snow Falling on Cedars, although I like it a good bit, has pretty much faded into obscurity over the 18 years since it was released. Young people today, and in the future, will likely have only heard about that movie because it got that Oscar nomination--it's not widely shown on TV, there's no Blu-Ray, it's not on Netflix or anything like that. They don't have our perspective of knowing that it was praised in real-time for its look. It's just a random movie, shot by a multi-nominated (and winning) cinematographer. I'm just wondering, will people look at it on the list and say, "Okay, so it got the Islands in the Stream/Jonathan Livingston Seagull spot"? They won't have any perspective on it, just like I don't for those movies from the 70's.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 02, 2017 1:07 am

The Original BJ wrote:But a beautifully shot movie that doesn't get much traction elsewhere is a different story. I figured Snow Falling on Cedars would get this nomination while I was watching it in the theater


The reviews for Snow Falling on Cedars almost unanimously praised the cinematography. It was only a matter of whether the film's low grosses would keep it from a widely-thought-deserved nomination.

The Original BJ wrote:And then you have nominees that maybe weren't gimmes in this category -- Bobby Fischer, A Civil Action, The Illusionist, I'd throw in Prisoners as another example -- but were nonetheless respectable enough films, that you could imagine getting recognition somewhere, if not top nominations.


Of course, to be fair, we should note that most of those nominations sprang from the same impulse that got us the bummer nods in the 70s: branch crony-ism, with Conrad Hall and Roger Deakins getting nominations repeatedly for off-the-beaten-track material. I'm not saying they weren't deserving; just that I think of Conrad Hall as a more accomplished William A. Fraker.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Sep 02, 2017 12:06 am

dws1982 wrote:On one hand, it seems like we're almost out of the era of (at least) one random WTF? nominee every year, but on the other, maybe it's just that I've happened to see a lot of the random nominees from here on. I mean, we have still had nominees like Searching for Bobby Fischer, Batman Forever, A Civil Action, Snow Falling on Cedars, Malena, and The Illusionist, among others...I've just happened to see those. And one of those I just mentioned might actually get my vote.


I'd argue most of the movies you listed, as well as numerous others, aren't really of the same stripe as most of what we might call the WTF nominees from the decade and a half we've just completed.

Because most of those were complete head-scratchers: movies like Ice Station Zebra, The Hindenburg, The Black Hole, and The Formula are terrible movies with completely unimpressive visuals. There's no justification for those movies taking up cinematography spots.

But a beautifully shot movie that doesn't get much traction elsewhere is a different story. I figured Snow Falling on Cedars would get this nomination while I was watching it in the theater (and certainly hoped as much for The Black Dahlia and The New World, two other one-off nominees).

And then you have nominees that maybe weren't gimmes in this category -- Bobby Fischer, A Civil Action, The Illusionist, I'd throw in Prisoners as another example -- but were nonetheless respectable enough films, that you could imagine getting recognition somewhere, if not top nominations.

And in recent decades, foreign language fare have often been plucked out by the cinematographers -- in addition to Malèna, there's Farewell My Concubine, Shanghai Triad, House of Flying Daggers, The Grandmaster, etc., and that's certainly a trend that I'd say has led to savvier nominations than not.

Batman Forever, though, is definitely a revival of the WTF tradition (and you could find others, like The Phantom of the Opera).

Of course, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, since we have all these movies to discuss up ahead... :D

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby dws1982 » Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:10 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Coal Miner's Daughter is another sign that the cinematographers' branch was starting to award art rather than lumber. The film has little of the sweeping epic vistas that used to dominate the category -- rather, it gets deep under the surface of the region. You can almost feel the coal dust in the air; the rigor the environment imposes. This is very fine work.

Coal Miner's Daughter isn't your typical Art Direction or Cinematography nominee--like you say, no epic vistas, not typically "pretty", and the sets aren't your typical lavish period recreations or fantasy designs--and they may seem like Best Picture coattail nominations, but I think they're both very deserved. If nothing else, the way it captures Butcher Holler in those early scenes more than earns those nominations. Watching the movie, I'd swear I've been in that town; even 70 years later and in places less remote, it's not at all hard to find buildings and towns that look remarkably like the Butcher Holler of that movie. For pure authenticity, they really nailed it.

I would probably, like most, debate between Raging Bull and Tess--movies that may be "better" than Coal Miner's Daughter, although I prefer it--for the win. I haven't seen The Formula though, and while I don't think it's likely to challenge any of those three for my vote, I'll sit this one out for now.

On one hand, it seems like we're almost out of the era of (at least) one random WTF? nominee every year, but on the other, maybe it's just that I've happened to see a lot of the random nominees from here on. I mean, we have still had nominees like Searching for Bobby Fischer, Batman Forever, A Civil Action, Snow Falling on Cedars, Malena, and The Illusionist, among others...I've just happened to see those. And one of those I just mentioned might actually get my vote.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Sabin » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:50 pm

Haven't seen The Blue Lagoon, The Formula, or Tess. One of those I feel remiss about.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:50 pm

You could make a case that this year marks the end of the WTF era in this category, because it features both hallmarks of the period: a major player bafflingly excluded (The Elephant Man, whose shadow-filled black-and-white images are a crucial aspect of the film’s haunting experience) and two pieces of crap that I could have gone my whole life without seeing had it been for their stray nominations here. The lineups from this point on aren’t perfect, but on the whole they seem a lot less random.

There were definitely other solid alternates, as well: the creepy roaming camerawork in The Shining, the magical realist portrait of war in The Tin Drum, the striking lighting (especially in the Luke-Vader fight) in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Formula’s nomination is completely nonsensical to me. The movie is a thriller without any thrills, a hopelessly convoluted snooze full of flat, boring compositions of characters talking and talking and nothing happening (except everyone being conveniently murdered literally the moment after George C. Scott questions them.)

The Blue Lagoon is another nominee that made it on to the list solely because it was shot at an exotic locale (well, and probably affection for Almendros during his peak period -- four Oscar nominations in five years). I guess I wouldn’t say the movie is ugly or anything, but it’s an artless, stupid affair, and there’s nothing award-worthy about the cinematography.

Coal Miner’s Daughter absolutely deserves credit for its look -- the film’s rural Kentucky environs feel appropriately gritty, and the photography doesn’t come across as too slick. I think ultimately the cinematography is too modest for an Oscar, but the images serve the film well enough.

Tess is certainly a praise-worthy winner. The interiors are beautifully lit throughout, and the exterior shots of characters posed against the landscapes have a genuinely painterly quality to them. And there are a few shots -- like the blood dripping through the ceiling -- when the movie shows off a more morbid side that peeks through its Masterpiece Theater veneer. While most of the ‘70’s choices were no-brainers for me, this year offers a real race, and a part of me feels bad voting to take away Tess’s Oscar.

But Raging Bull is on the ballot, and I think that’s an even more viscerally exciting piece of photography. The ring sequences are full of skillful camera moves, the club scenes entrance with smoky black-and-white sleaze, and the source lighting throughout the film pops in a manner that’s simultaneously harsh and picturesque. Raging Bull is one of the great pieces of film craft of the 1980s, with images that have gone straight into the cinema history books. By me, it merits the prize this year.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:12 pm

The Elephant Man, The Stunt Man, The Tin Drum and (for laughs) Altered States would have made decent substitutes.

The Formula is one of the all-time mystery nominees. A complete critical and commercial dud, without even cronyism as an explanation for its presence (if it were William Fraker, I'd understand). I only saw the movie in the past year or so, when it turned up on TCM, and it's utterly without value. Hard pass.

Remember the scene in Days of Heaven where Gere and Adams are having drinks by the river, the glass falls underwater, and there's a shot of a fish swimming around it? My theory is, Randal Kleiser went to Almendros and said, Give me a whole movie that looks just like that! Almendros, great artist and craftsman that he is, generated a film of lush island beauty, but in the process demonstrated how empty mere beauty is without the context of an engaging/believable story or an artist's point of view.

Coal Miner's Daughter is another sign that the cinematographers' branch was starting to award art rather than lumber. The film has little of the sweeping epic vistas that used to dominate the category -- rather, it gets deep under the surface of the region. You can almost feel the coal dust in the air; the rigor the environment imposes. This is very fine work.

Tess is the sort of winner to which we've become accustomed in this new century: not (in my view) the best or most ambitious, but perfectly creditable in a not-quite-old-fashioned but still traditional style. It's a good-looking movie, and a decent if expected choice.

But I'm surprised to see at least the initial tide go in its direction, when Raging Bull sits on the ballot -- it is, for me, the far more dynamic choice. Chapman's textures seem to capture the feel of the 50s -- the sense of an era gone by pervades scenes like the nightclub, or even the public swimming pool. And the fight scenes are simply magnificently lit -- Scorsese and Schoonmaker may be mostly responsible for how great those scenes are, but Chapman isn't far behind. I can call to mind individual images from this film far more quickly than I can anything from Tess (and it's a fair fight, because it's 37 years since I last saw either). Plus, yeah, like many film nerds, I have a weakness for the beauty of black-and-white (I wonder how many times we'll vote for a B&W film in the near-40 years remaining in these polls? Oscar has chosen only one -- Schindler's List. Surely we'll go for way more than that?).

Anyway: at least one enthusiastic vote for Chapman and Raging Bull.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:48 am

Big Magilla wrote:
Precious Doll wrote:The major omissions for me are The Shining & Blade Runner.


Blade Runner was 1982.


So it is. Thanks for the correction Magilla.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:33 am

Precious Doll wrote:The major omissions for me are The Shining & Blade Runner.


Blade Runner was 1982.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:27 am

Voted for Tess though I haven't seen it since it's first release. I have the BFI blu-ray and its high on my rewatch list.

No problems with the nominations for Raging Bull, The Blue Lagoon (which is gorgeous looking) and Coal Miner's Daughter, though I would have preferred Bode had been nominated for Dressed to Kill.

The major omissions for me are The Shining & Blade Runner. The Formula is one of the biggest WTF nomination ever in this category.
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Best Cinematography 1980

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:10 am

Welcome to the 1980s and a real head-scratcher.

By this time, it was well established that Nestor Almendros took lovely shots with his handheld camera, but the third film version of The Blue Lagoon was poorly written, directed and acted. It only made money because of its highly publicized nudity. If you want to see a decent film made from the material, try to track down the 1949 British version with Jean Simmons and Donald Houston which pretty much disappeared around the time this mess came out.

The Formula is even worse, in fact it's one of the worst movies ever made. Whatever talent John G. Avildsen had when he directed Rocky was gone by the time he directed this thing. His d.p., James Crabe's sole Oscar nomination doesn't even make sense as a makeup nod for having been passed over for Rocky and The Karate Kid. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to team Oscar refusers George C. Scott and Marlon Brando were wrong. Scott overacts and Brando mugs shamelessly.

That they could have nominated junk like this while ignoring Freddie Francis' sublime work on The Elephant Man and Igor Luthor's fine work on The Tin Drum is maddening.

Ralf D. Bode was the second unit camera operator on the aforementioned Rocky, but had since excelled as a d.p. with Saturday Night Fever and this year had Dressed to Kill as well as Coal Miner's Daughter under his belt. It was a decent nomination, but John Bailey (Ordinary People) and Tak Fugimoto (Melvin and Howard) were equally worthy.

Michael Chapman did his finest work on Raging Bull, and deserved his nod, but Oscar got it right in the long run with the exquisite Tess.

Tess remains the most beautifully photographed of Polanski's films. While it's well-known that Geoffrey Unsworth, who died in 1978, won his second Oscar posthumously, it's not as well known that co-winner Ghislain Cloquet (Au Hasard Balthazar) sadly passed away just six months after winning his only Oscar. Unsworth was only 64 when he died, Cloquet a mere 57. They were both gone way too soon.
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