Best Cinematography 1991

1927/28 through 1997

What was the best cinematography of 1991 from among the Oscar nominees?

Bugsy (Allen Daviau)
JFK (Robert Richardson)
The Prince of Tides (Stephen Goldblatt)
Terminator 2 (Adam Greenberg)
No votes
Thelma & Louise (Adrian Biddle)
Total votes: 17

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:28 pm

First time participating in a while...

Good group. The Silence of the Lambs is the most obvious omission in this category, but it's a very common sort of snub. I think it's easy to confuse the cinematography for directing. The snub by Howard Shore is also baffling. It's easily one of the more memorable scores of the year. It might surprise people to learn that Barton Fink swept the critic's awards. Barton Fink is one of those films I just watched WAY too young. One of the many films my precociousness robbed me of the opportunity to watch it as an adult. Of Deakins' collaborations with the Coen Brothers, it stands out as a feat of nightmarish expressionism. If nominated, it would get my vote.

Instead, I'm going with another feat of expressionism: JFK. Another film I watched way too young. I've revisited it several times over the years. I want to watch it again in today's world of fake news. The editing deserves a lion's share of awards, but cinematography feels like Robert Richardson gone completely off the deep end. I wasn't much of a fan of Born on the Fourth of July. The look of the film felt too much like sledgehammer to me. But JFK is watching a conspiracy unravel for two and a half monologuing hours, and Richardson makes everybody (including the viewer) sweat like they're in the Hotel Earle going up in flames. He gets my vote.

I'd also like to champion Adam Greenberg's work on Terminator 2, which spearheaded countless films shot with a blue filter, where every surface seems wet, and of course chains hanging from every warehouse. It is a great looking film with countless iconic images. Watching it again, I feel a sense of loss that Cameron felt that he got too big for summer films. He's very good at them.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:22 am

Mister Tee wrote:Before I make my observations about 1991's crop, can I put forward the suggestion that, after dealing with 1992 starting this Wednesday, we commence our annual hiatus?

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:44 am

Before I make my observations about 1991's crop, can I put forward the suggestion that, after dealing with 1992 starting this Wednesday, we commence our annual hiatus? Once we Americans get past Thanksgiving weekend, high season will have kicked in at full speed: the Gothams Monday the 27th, NBR the 28th, NY Critics the 30th. It doesn't slow down any from there, with LA & Boston, The Broadcasters. AFI, the Globes and SAGs all putting out lists prior to December 13th. Given that we'll all want to weigh in on most of these developments, plus will probably have things to say about the hottest movies as they start rolling in, it seems a good time to put this series on hold till the big event has passed. (I admit to one bit of self-interest: I haven't yet got around to the three hours of Wyatt Earp yet, and would sure rather have the whole winter to squeeze it in.)

As to 1991: I'm mostly okay with this year's slate, and none of my alternates fall in the "how could they ignore that?" category. Silence of the Lambs, sure, and I also thought Branagh's Dead Again had a real good look.

The Prince of Tides is obviously there because it's got those lush-looking coastal shots, but it's not a bad choice; in fact, this may be the most-merited of its way too many nominations.

Terminator 2 had those cool effects and an overall sleek look, so it's a perfectly acceptable listee, though not the sort of film that'd ever get my vote.

Thelma and Louise has always been most remembered for its script and the two lead actresses. But Ridley Scott gave it a really good look, and Biddle's cinematography was a big contributor. Those shots of the ladies' car, set against the wide-open Southwest terrain, conveyed just how quixotic their whole adventure was. This was a case of visual elements working perfectly in tandem with a script.

Like most, I was impressed by JFK as a technical achievement: the way it blended so much material -- some documentary, much newly-shot -- and made it all feel of a piece (which helped sell the huge leaps of faith the script was asking you to make). And some elements gave an elegant look, notably those shot inside the courthouse. This was a perfectly justifiable choice.

But I'll be a minority player this time around and go with Allen Daviau. Bugsy was a pretty terrific-looking film all around, and, while its design and costumes were suitably honored, I don't think enough people gave credit to Daviau for how strikingly lit the film was. It evoked the period without ladling on the nostalgia, and provided a succession of memorable, often gorgeous shots. I understand, noting how many times Richardson was nominated without winning, feeling he has to triumph at some point. But, seeing he did ultimately win three times, I don't feel the great necessity of pulling for him here -- especially when I"m looking at Allen Daviau, who might have won on several occasions but NEVER did. For whatever small iota of satisfaction it might provide him, I'm giving him my vote here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby FilmFan720 » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:39 pm

Despite some baffling omissions -- I especially cite The Silence of the Lambs as the most baffling -- this is overall a pretty strong lineup. Even the weakest, The Prince of Tides, is not an abomination (and this is probably its most earned nomination). I have to vote JFK, not only for the changes of stocks but the framing and lighting that highlights every moment of the film. A close second would be T2; for all of the impressive effects, none of those action sequences work nearly as well if they weren't filmed to perfection.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby dws1982 » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:20 am

I think The Silence of the Lambs was the clear oversight here. 1991 is not a year where I have a lot of definite substitutions beyond that, but I would throw in a word for The Man in the Moon, which would've been a deserved late-career salute to Freddie Francis. Barton Fink as well, although it's not anything close to a favorite of mine.

The Prince of Tides doesn't get any consideration at all from me, and Terminator 2 is professionally-shot, but I think it's more of a visual effects winner than a cinematography one.

I watched [i}Bugsy[/i] and Thelma and Louise both recently, and think they're both very good, very deserving nominees. Depending on the year, they might even get my vote. But I think I'll throw it to JFK. It covers a lot of visual ground; I think it does a great job visually distinguishing between its different timelines, and while I'm not sure if Richardson is always well-served by Stone and some of his conceits, I think he's the best here. I think this was the launching-pad for his decade-ending run that included Heaven and Earth, Natural Born Killers, Casino, Nixon, U-Turn, The Horse Whisperer, Bringing Out the Dead, and Snow Falling On Cedars, where he took the techniques and inventiveness he showed in JFK and ran with it in unique ways. So both in tribute to that under-rewarded run (only one Oscar nomination?), and in tribute to a very good piece of work itself, I'll go with Richardson.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:57 pm

I agree that The Silence of the Lambs is definitely a good substitute. I would also throw out Barton Fink -- which won all three critics' prizes that year.

The Prince of Tides is -- as in so many categories -- the worst. I don't find anything special about the photography in the New York portion of the film. And while the South Carolina coastline sections are at least more visually engaging, I find their gauzy look to border on bathetic -- the South visualized in about as much overly-nostalgic cliche as possible. An unimpressive nominee.

The main reason Terminator 2 scored so well with Oscar where so many sequels don't is the fact that in one movie, the franchise had gone from a grungy, low-budget affair to a spectacularly produced Hollywood blockbuster, topping its predecessor in nearly every way. Terminator 2 is obviously shot with flash, and its action set pieces remain visually dynamic all these years later, but I rate it more an effects success than a cinematographic one.

Although the script and performances are the most widely-noted elements of Thelma & Louise, it does have a pretty impressive visual look to it as well. The film captures the natural beauty of the American Southwest, but also the isolation of its barren landscapes, and the possibilities for danger that can lurk there. This visual conceit climaxes at the finale of the film, in its now-legendary final shot, as if that gorgeous yet treacherous landscape is about to envelop Thelma and Louise for good. Not quite a winner for me, but a solid nominee.

I'm actually surprised this race ended up a landslide in this poll, because I thought Bugsy would put up more of a fight. It's a very well photographed film, with the Hollywood portions lit and shot with stylish elegance, finding clever ways to riff on movie iconography in its images (like that romantic shot of Beatty and Bening in backlit silhouette). And the Vegas sequences are full of visual flair, capturing the tacky gaudiness of Bugsy's vision, but also the overwhelming scope of the legendary city it would all become. As with the Beatty gangster picture from last year, I'd lean more toward honoring it as an even stronger triumph of Art Direction, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone who voted for it in this category either.

I see no real reason to take away JFK's Oscar in this category, for a film that's a genuinely exciting visual achievement. The most eye-catching portions of the film are of course the black-and-white flashbacks, shot to look like a Zapruder film that captured so much more than the original, full of the energy and chaos that fuels the film's sense of paranoia. But there's impressive work throughout the film as well -- the Washington, D.C. & Louisiana courtroom sequences are lit with a glow of Americana hanging over them, a nice contrast to the flashbacks, one that suggests some hope in American ideals even as so much else in the film seems hopeless. I agree with Mister Tee about Robert Richardson -- he's done a lot of great work over the years, but there aren't a ton of lineups where I'd rank him the absolute best. JFK may well be his peak achievement, so I'm happy to honor him here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Greg » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:51 pm

I voted for JFK. How the film seamlessly blended filmed performances with newsreel footage and dialog/courtroom testimony with flashbacks led to it receiving two of the all-time-most-deserved Oscars for its cinematography and film editing.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby mlrg » Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:44 am

Voted for Bugsy

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Re: Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:13 am

Bar The Prince of Tides this is a good line-up. Major omission was Silence of the Lambs. I voted for JFK.
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Best Cinematography 1991

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:26 pm

The cinematographer most conspicuous by his absence among the nominees is Tak Fujimoto for The Silence of the Lambs, but the only nominee who gives Robert Richardson a run for his Oscar for JFK is Adrian Biddle for Thelma & Louise. I'd also nominate Eric Alan Edwards and John J. Campbell for My Own Private Idaho, Robert Pratt for The Fisher King and Geoffrey Simpson for Fried Green Tomatoes before Adam Greenberg for Terminator 2, Allen Daviau for Bugsy, and Stephen Goldblatt The Prince of Tides, though they were all decent nominees.

My vote goes to JFK by a hair over Thelma & Louise.
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