Best Cinematography 1984

1927/28 through 1997

Which of the 1984 Oscar nominees for cinematography was the best?

Amadeus (Miroslav Ondricek)
6
38%
The Killing Fields (Chris Menges)
3
19%
The Natural (Caleb Deshenal)
1
6%
A Passage to India (Ernest Day)
5
31%
The River (Vilmos Zsigmond)
1
6%
 
Total votes: 16

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Kellens101 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:16 pm

BJ, how'd you feel about OUATIA as a whole? Others have complained about the horrifying brutality of the rape scenes, but I could also see complaints about the length and sluggish pacing at times.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:17 pm

Mid-eighties trough or not, I think this is actually a pretty respectable field. I agree with dws that Once Upon a Time in America would have been a strong substitution -- that shot of the kids playing with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background is luminous. (The DVD available to rent on Netflix is the extended director's cut, for anyone interested in seeing the non-butchered version.)

I guess those shots of the titular body of water got The River on to this slate, but it's a thoroughly uninspired choice, as there's nothing notable about the visuals in the film. This is well below Zsigmond's peak.

The Natural is a movie almost carried along by the beauty of its images, because the film overall is a pretty vaguely generic sports saga, with a very thin script. But the photography is eye-catching throughout, with a lot of striking light sources (from car headlights to stadium bulbs), and imaginative use of low light and shadows. The movie is too lacking in personality to choose, but it's a solid nominee.

I can sort of see why most people have defaulted to their Best Picture choice here. The remaining three nominees are all solid, but none leap out as being the obvious standout. Hence, go with your favorite movie overall.

Ernest Day's resume is peculiar -- he's the camera operator on a ton of notable movies (including all three of Freddie Young's triumphs for David Lean), but his work as cinematographer amounts to barely anything I've ever heard of...and A Passage to India. I'd say the photography here amounts to more than simply bland travelogue -- the lighting of the shots in and out of the caves gives those sequences a haunting quality, the luminous glow of Ashcroft's plunge into the ocean gives the character a poignant send-off. But it's not quite as sumptuously shot as those earlier Lean epics.

The second half of The Killing Fields is full of obviously striking shots, as Dith Pran makes his way through the horrifying genocide in Cambodia. But I think there's plenty to recommend about the earlier portions of the movie as well -- the entire takeover of the embassy sequence is shot with urgency and real verisimilitude. And the film overall finds the right balance between shots of picturesque beauty and ones that more simply highlight the real-life horrors of the movie's subject. A perfectly respectable winner.

But in keeping with the "go your favorite movie" trend, I went with Amadeus. I agree with dws that the use of candlelight -- particularly in the opera sequences -- is gorgeous throughout, illuminating beautiful sets and costumes to be sure, but enhancing that beauty aesthetically rather than simply capturing it. The snowy exteriors (particularly the nighttime ones) have a chilliness that memorably contrasts with the warmth of the interiors. And perhaps some might consider this more direction than photography -- though I'd argue both are at work -- but I'm always impressed by a movie that can balance so many people and detailed elements within its frames without feeling cluttered; so many shots in Amadeus feel like the kind of pleasingly overstuffed classical paintings you want to pore over at a museum until you've noticed everything. It's a close call, though.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:44 pm

Reza wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
dws1982 wrote:I would never say that Once Upon A Time In America is pro-rape, or even that it's misogynistic (I think it's too complicated to be reduced to simple adjectives like that), but I also won't sit through those scenes and say "that's just how things were then" without engaging them on a moral or intellectual level. Those two rape scenes, and the way they exist--or don't exist, after they take place--in the universe of the film gives me a lot of pause and reservation when I think about the movie.

Sexual violence will always bother me when it's portrayed casually and inconsequentially in a film, and that's not something that I'm going to apologize for.


But these scenes (I actually remember only one, in a car - Robert De Niro and Elizabeth McGovern) arent there "casually and inconsenquentially". The car scene says alot about De Niro's character, his way of relating to others, to women especially, which is of course a result of his growing up in a certain environment. It's much more subtle than you think it is. And even the fact that it's not mentioned afterwards says alot about that time and those two characters (yes, I know, in America today there would be a long scene where he's punished for what he did, etc.).

Condemning or even - because I am sure you are honest - being annoyed by such scenes is like condemning Lolita for its theme, or, like that painter Braghettone did, putting underwear on Michelangelo's naked bodies in the Sistine Chapel to hide their genitals (Italian art wouldn't exist if one applies political corretness to it). And the result of refusing to face the truth - a bitter truth maybe, but one we have to relate to - is Donald Trump as President of the US.


Only a foreigner (non-American) would relate to what you just explained.

Being politically correct every time or seeing things from that angle, especially about "stuff" that happened in the past and trying to view that from a modern sensibility, is absurd. You have every right to be outraged but also need to understand the nuances of those actions in context to that particular period in time.


By the way I am not against being politically correct in general - today there are certainly things which, justly, can't be said or done. But context is important, and Americans tend to forget that history and geography do exist, and have to be understood. Plus, when approaching art, art of the past for sure but in a way even art of the present, one should forget certain moral guidelines.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Reza » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:34 am

ITALIANO wrote:
dws1982 wrote:I would never say that Once Upon A Time In America is pro-rape, or even that it's misogynistic (I think it's too complicated to be reduced to simple adjectives like that), but I also won't sit through those scenes and say "that's just how things were then" without engaging them on a moral or intellectual level. Those two rape scenes, and the way they exist--or don't exist, after they take place--in the universe of the film gives me a lot of pause and reservation when I think about the movie.

Sexual violence will always bother me when it's portrayed casually and inconsequentially in a film, and that's not something that I'm going to apologize for.


But these scenes (I actually remember only one, in a car - Robert De Niro and Elizabeth McGovern) arent there "casually and inconsenquentially". The car scene says alot about De Niro's character, his way of relating to others, to women especially, which is of course a result of his growing up in a certain environment. It's much more subtle than you think it is. And even the fact that it's not mentioned afterwards says alot about that time and those two characters (yes, I know, in America today there would be a long scene where he's punished for what he did, etc.).

Condemning or even - because I am sure you are honest - being annoyed by such scenes is like condemning Lolita for its theme, or, like that painter Braghettone did, putting underwear on Michelangelo's naked bodies in the Sistine Chapel to hide their genitals (Italian art wouldn't exist if one applies political corretness to it). And the result of refusing to face the truth - a bitter truth maybe, but one we have to relate to - is Donald Trump as President of the US.


Only a foreigner (non-American) would relate to what you just explained.

Being politically correct every time or seeing things from that angle, especially about "stuff" that happened in the past and trying to view that from a modern sensibility, is absurd. You have every right to be outraged but also need to understand the nuances of those actions in context to that particular period in time.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:25 am

dws1982 wrote:I would never say that Once Upon A Time In America is pro-rape, or even that it's misogynistic (I think it's too complicated to be reduced to simple adjectives like that), but I also won't sit through those scenes and say "that's just how things were then" without engaging them on a moral or intellectual level. Those two rape scenes, and the way they exist--or don't exist, after they take place--in the universe of the film gives me a lot of pause and reservation when I think about the movie.

Sexual violence will always bother me when it's portrayed casually and inconsequentially in a film, and that's not something that I'm going to apologize for.


But these scenes (I actually remember only one, in a car - Robert De Niro and Elizabeth McGovern) arent there "casually and inconsenquentially". The car scene says alot about De Niro's character, his way of relating to others, to women especially, which is of course a result of his growing up in a certain environment. It's much more subtle than you think it is. And even the fact that it's not mentioned afterwards says alot about that time and those two characters (yes, I know, in America today there would be a long scene where he's punished for what he did, etc.).

Condemning or even - because I am sure you are honest - being annoyed by such scenes is like condemning Lolita for its theme, or, like that painter Braghettone did, putting underwear on Michelangelo's naked bodies in the Sistine Chapel to hide their genitals (Italian art wouldn't exist if one applies political corretness to it). And the result of refusing to face the truth - a bitter truth maybe, but one we have to relate to - is Donald Trump as President of the US.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby dws1982 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:10 pm

I would never say that Once Upon A Time In America is pro-rape, or even that it's misogynistic (I think it's too complicated to be reduced to simple adjectives like that), but I also won't sit through those scenes and say "that's just how things were then" without engaging them on a moral or intellectual level. Those two rape scenes, and the way they exist--or don't exist, after they take place--in the universe of the film gives me a lot of pause and reservation when I think about the movie.

Sexual violence will always bother me when it's portrayed casually and inconsequentially in a film, and that's not something that I'm going to apologize for.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:44 pm

Reza wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
dws1982 wrote:[but I struggle more with the 1933 scenes which have some attitudes to women that are, shall we say, troubling.



But that's the way women were treated back then - simply. And one can't change that just because TODAY that would, justly, considered "bad".


You should hear the mass hysteria Gigi invokes amongst young cinephiles in the United States. They are horrified that Gigi is being trained to be a "mistress" and then this "child" gets "involved" with Gaston, a grown man.

Watching old films with strictly a modern sensibility is not only absurd but shows lack of an understanding of how things were in the past.



Yes... And the result is - they vote for Donald Trump.That's the dark side of politically correct ignorance.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Reza » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:21 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
dws1982 wrote:[but I struggle more with the 1933 scenes which have some attitudes to women that are, shall we say, troubling.



But that's the way women were treated back then - simply. And one can't change that just because TODAY that would, justly, considered "bad".


You should hear the mass hysteria Gigi invokes amongst young cinephiles in the United States. They are horrified that Gigi is being trained to be a "mistress" and then this "child" gets "involved" with Gaston, a grown man.

Watching old films with strictly a modern sensibility is not only absurd but shows lack of an understanding of how things were in the past.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:11 am

dws1982 wrote:[but I struggle more with the 1933 scenes which have some attitudes to women that are, shall we say, troubling.



But that's the way women were treated back then - simply. And one can't change that just because TODAY that would, justly, considered "bad".

I don't post here often anymore, but sometimes I still have to :) ... though I admit I didn't have the energy to react to Sabin's "The casting of Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence is perfect. Hard to imagine anyone else in these roles" - that was really too much and I am now an old man ;)

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby dws1982 » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:18 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I've never seen Once Upon a Time in America (largely because I didn't want to watch the truncated version) so I can't comment on that one...

...Amadeus has great production design and costumes, but its images aren't that memorable.

Wish you had seen Once Upon A Time In America because I'd definitely be interested in your take on it. Worth noting that the version(s) available today are relatively close to Leone's original vision. Also worth noting that you may not always have four free hours. Very glad I got to see it in a crowded theater; I think the whole movie is pretty strong, but those childhood scenes are just on a different level. Most people tend to see the 1968 scenes as the weakest, but I struggle more with the 1933 scenes which have some attitudes to women that are, shall we say, troubling.

I really think the opera scenes in Amadeus are very strongly photographed, even if they go on too long, I'm always struck by the fact that they achieved that entirely by candlelight. Sometimes I let degree-of-difficulty have an influence. That funeral sequence near the end has always stuck with me too.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:41 pm

I've never seen Once Upon a Time in America (largely because I didn't want to watch the truncated version) so I can't comment on that one. I'll echo the support for Birdy and Places in the Heart, and in addition cite A Sunday in the Country, for its Renoir-like images, and Mrs. Soffel, for its deeply rich tones, especially in the closing snow scenes.

In best picture terms (to which the category largely defers this year), you'd have expected Places in the Heart to be the Farm Trilogy representative, rather than the inferior The River, but I guess by this point Zsigmond was a branch crony.

The Natural certainly has a pretty, nostalgic glow, and I can't deeply question its inclusion, though I won't be voting for it.

It seems like people (Magilla excepted) are largely opting for their overall favorites in the best picture race here. I suppose I'm doing the same, because, for me, Amadeus and A Passage to India are the overrated films from that group, and I don't see anything so spectacular in terms of cinematography with either.

Amadeus has great production design and costumes, but its images aren't that memorable.

A Passage to India struck me as film critics' late apology to David Lean for having been so savage to him at the time of Ryan's Daughter. It wasn't that they regretted not liking Ryan's Daughter, but that the decline of mainstream film into the mid-80s had been so severe that a square filmmaker like Lean seemed a master by comparison. (Similarly, liberal Democrats who'd rebelled against LBJ swooned over Lloyd Bentsen when he ran for VP in '88.) So, critics heaped wild praise on A Passage to India, which was a thoroughly decent but pretty musty old thing -- relying on audiences to react to the hardly-news observation that the Raj was a bit racist. The film looked pretty, but in a travelogue sort of way; there was nothing of-the-moment about it.

The Killing Fields was of course also dealing with historical events, but events from only a decade or so earlier, and I felt more visceral engagement with the film than with any of the others -- though I acknowledge it has flaws. Many of the images, though, were startlingly fresh, particularly during Dith Pran's long trek through the horrors of Cambodia. 1984 was part of a two-year '84/'85 trough that was maybe the worst time for movies in all the years I've been alive...so we're not picking from a bumper crop. But The Killing Fields sticks in my mind most vividly, and gets my vote here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Reza » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:24 pm

Ernest Day for the win with Gabriel Figueroa a close second for the non-nominated Under the Volcano.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Sep 27, 2017 2:36 pm

Although I didn't vote for it, I am very pleased to see my favorite film of the year, A Passage to India, winning here.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby dws1982 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 12:58 pm

Amadeus, quite easily.

Agree with Big Magilla about Once Upon a Time In America, which I recently had the opportunity to see at the Belcourt in Nashville. It is most definitely a gorgeous-looking film. I know the 1984 version was the linear 140 minute version, but those childhood sequences were part of that cut, and those sequences alone merited a nomination.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1984

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:08 am

It's good to know that Chris Menges has an Oscar. Shame it wasn't for a better film as his impressive work on The Killing Fields is wasted on one of the most overrated films of 1984.

I voted for A Passage to India and agree with Magilla on Places in the Heart over The River.

Other omissions include: Stephen H. Burum for Body Double, Dick Bush for Crimes of Passion, Gabriel Figueroa for Under the Volcano and my choice for the year Michael Seresin for Birdy.
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