Best Cinematography 1983

1927/28 through 1997

Which film among the 1983 nominees had the best cinematograpy?

Fanny & Alexander (Sven Nykvist)
Flashdance (Donald Peterman)
No votes
The Right Stuff (Caleb Deschenal)
WarGames (William K. Fraker)
No votes
Zelig (Gordon Willis)
Total votes: 16

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 1983

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:26 pm

I'm not joking, I'm pretty sure Flashdance got this nomination because of that one backlit sequence where Jennifer Beals is posing on the chair and the water is being dumped on her. (Google "Flashdance images" and see how often shots of this come up.) I guess that was striking enough to impress the cinematographers branch. For me, this rates down there with some of the most inexplicable nominees of the '70s.

I rate WarGames a pretty solid summer movie, and its modesty is one aspect of its appeal. (No doubt the 2017 version of that movie would have climaxed with a huge blow-em-up action sequence.) But in terms of cinematography prizes, it's too modest -- I can't remember much in the way of visual distinction, though I would agree it's not the most outrageous Fraker nomination.

I'll tow the party line here on Zelig. I'm glad Willis FINALLY got a nomination, and think the newsreel look of Zelig is a fun enough pastiche. It's also probably worth pointing out that the blend between archival and new footage is pretty seamless, in an era when that wasn't even as easily accomplished as when Forrest Gump did it a decade later. But it's such a minor movie, and pales in visual scope to Willis's achievements photographing some of the best movies ever in the '70s, to say nothing of the remaining nominees.

Honestly, I'd be fine calling it a draw between Fanny and Alexander and The Right Stuff, because I think both are excellent choices.

Fanny's use of natural light -- particularly the candle lights which so often illuminate the images -- is full of warmth, and contributes immeasurably to the movie's sense of magic. And the compositions have such an artful beauty to them, you feel as if you're watching paintings come to life. I think this movie's visual textures are ravishing, with lights and shadows that bring out the sense of theatricality infused in the film's story, and find its prize here to be an absolutely praise-worthy choice.

As for The Right Stuff, it's a work of exceptional visual dynamism -- everything from Yeager's speed racing sequences to the segments in space have you constantly marveling at the inventive places Deschanel puts his camera to grip the audience. And it, too, is a film of great visual beauty, with tons of gorgeous shots -- Shepard in the desert while his plane smolders behind him, the astronauts marching up the hallway, the funeral at sunset, the Clair de Lune fan dance. It's hard to imagine photography that better sells the wonder of the space program than in this movie.

Ultimately, I'm persuaded by the case that Nykvist has other equally impressive opportunities for which he can be rewarded, but that this is Deschanel's finest hour, and I give the edge to The Right Stuff.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1983

Postby dws1982 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:25 am

This was one of those races where I wasn't quite sure whether it would be a landslide in one direction, or if the votes would split fairly evenly between two films, which is what has happened so far.

I ultimately sided with The Right Stuff, but those who side with Fanny and Alexander get no argument from me. I do prefer The Right Stuff here, but if I were trying to strategically spread the wealth, I'd probably still side with it, because Deschanel doesn't really have another good spot to get my vote, while Nykvist has two (haven't voted in 1973 yet).

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Re: Best Cinematography 1983

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:51 pm

Films that might have been cited include Never Cry Wolf and Under Fire.

Flashdance was a movie that became a surprise blockbuster, and sometimes such surprises get nominations they don't deserve. (And I really mean surprise: I had so little interest in this movie I never bothered to see it in a theatre; I assumed it was along the lines of stupid box-office hits like Mandingo or The Amityville Horror, not something that would be an award contender.) What in the cinematography could have impressed branch voters? The welding scenes? Or maybe just Jennifer Beals slipping out of her bra under her sweatshirt?

You'd like to think the branch was changing for the better in finally nominating Gordon Willis (and Caleb Deschanel, the other inexcusable 1979 omittee). But -- Fraker!! Actually, WarGames, while hardly an exemplary nominee, was better than some of Fraker's nominations in that it was for a film that was relatively well-liked, and looked good enough, if nothing special. I assume I don't need to mention I'm not voting for it.

Happy as I was for Willis to finally have a nomination after deserving so many in the 70s, getting it for Zelig has a tinge of Al Pacino/Scent of a Woman for me. The Godfather, All the President's Men and Manhattan are major achievements in cinematography; Zelig is a beautifully-executed stunt. Its primary achievement is to match the look of a 30s/40s documentary...and, kudos, it's accomplished flawlessly. But Willis doesn't play the universe-creating role he did in those earlier classics. (Nor did he as much in the too-little-too-late Godfather III nod.) So I can't grant him a real Oscar to go with his richly deserved Honorary.

I'd cheered when Sven Nykvist won for Cries and Whispers, and would have cheered had he won a few years down the line. So it was a bit disconcerting to find myself reacting to his win on Oscar night as a something of a letdown. Fanny and Alexander was certainly a good-looking film, but I'd underestimated the extent to which it'd be honored that night -- I'd easily foreseen the costuming win, but the art direction and cinematography prizes were more than I'd imagined. I hardly begrudge such a great artist holding a second Oscar, but he won't get my vote in concurrence.

I was The Right Stuff all the way, here. The film covers so much visual ground -- from the near-mythic desert in which Chuck Yeager rides, to the literal heavens -- and does it with such perfect lighting (right down to that last sequence of Sally Rand's fan dance) that to me it's the clear choice. That it's my one decent chance to enshrine Caleb Deschanel (spoiler alert: I won't be voting for The Patriot or The Passion of the Christ) only makes the vote easier. The Right Stuff for the win.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1983

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:17 am

For me this was a toss up between The Right Stuff & Zelig. Having seen both of them numerous times over the years the cinematography plays such a vital role in both films. I went with The Right Stuff.

Fanny & Alexander is a respectable enough nominee but it doesn't match the inventiveness of The Right Suff or Zelig. Beside I prefer Nykvist's work on Star 80 to F&A.

Flashdance & War Games nominations are utterly ridiculous.

The main omission for me was Stephen H. Burum's superb work on Something Wicked This Way Comes. However, given that this film was a critically and commercially disaster I can completely understand it exclusion.

I'll take this opportunity to make a special mention Alex Thomson's brilliant work on Nic Roeg's Eureka. Given that Eureka was barely released anywhere and it was never going to be in the running no matter what year it was released (the studio basically abandoned and sabotaged the film) it's many stunning images linger on in my memory, most of all Gene Hackman's discovery of gold. Given that Roeg was formally a cinematographer it's no wonder most of his films look stunning and Eureka was no exception.
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Best Cinematography 1983

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:58 pm

The good: Sven Nykvist gets his second Oscar while Gordon Willis and Caleb Deschenal finally their first nominations.

The bad: William Fraker is nominated for the pedestrian WarGames.

The ugly: The asinine Flashdance is nominated while The Night of the Shooting Stars, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and The Return of Martin Guerre are not.

Nykvist deservedly won this, but had the Academy been operating under the same rules that found Scenes from a Marriage ineligible because it had been shown on Swedish TV before being cut and released theatrically, we might be looking at a win for either Willis or Deschenal, neither of whom ever won.
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