Best Cinematography 1995

1927/28 through 1997

Of the 1995 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Batman Forever (Stephen Goldblatt)
0
No votes
Braveheart (John Toll)
1
7%
A Little Princess (Emmanuel Lubezki)
2
13%
Sense and Sensibility (Michael Coulter)
5
33%
Shanghai Triad (Yue Lu)
7
47%
 
Total votes: 15

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Apr 19, 2018 4:35 pm

We're now getting into years where my childhood self had very strong opinions on some of the nominated films.

I'm agreement that the list overall is lackluster, not only because some of the nominees are obviously unworthy, but also because so many strong efforts were overlooked. Many have mentioned the praise-worthy cinematography in films like Se7en, Nixon, Heat, Leaving Las Vegas, and The Bridges of Madison County, all of which seem like they could have been well within typical Oscar range. And I'd also offer up Safe and Devil in a Blue Dress as fringier candidates that are clearly better than some nominees.

I LOVED Batman Forever... when I was eight years old. (Believe it or not, there was a time when even I was obsessed with superheroes!) I watched it again after two decades, and found it quite terrible -- the recent run of Marvel movies are WAY better than this. And I think the movie's look is flat ugly -- all that garish lighting and cheap-looking neon make for a truly lousy nominee in this category.

Braveheart likely won this prize with ease, but I rate it well below a lot of recent "pretty vista"-type winners in this category. Sure, it has an epic sweep, but I think much of the film's look comes off as chintzy -- I can remember one misty-looking sequence that looked so silly it felt like a fog machine was sitting just out of frame. And the movie's focus on extreme violence doesn't leave much room for many actually beautiful images. I'd say this is the weakest winner of the '90s, and probably since then as well.

Sense and Sensibility has an amiable glow to its images, and I think it's a good-looking movie. But I also would chalk a lot of that up to the sets and costumes -- even more so than with some of the recent Merchant-Ivory efforts. Given the paucity of the field, I can see why some of you have voted for it, but for me its visuals just aren't enough of a knockout to nab my vote.

A Little Princess was one of the more formative movies of my childhood. I can still vividly remember my dad taking me and my sisters to the theater, and watching enraptured as this magical story unfolded on-screen. Looking back, I think that this movie -- and The Secret Garden a few years prior -- were my first real exposures to film DRAMA. Which is to say, even though the movies were geared toward family audiences, they were of a completely different stripe than the silliness I was accustomed to watching in the usual comedy/fantasy/animated films geared toward kids, and that maturity connected with me in a special way at that age. I revisited the film a few years back, and found it a thoroughly enchanting trip down memory lane, with moments of genuine emotional impact. (A starving Sara giving away her food to the homeless girl just destroyed me.) I think the cinematography nomination is mostly for the strikingly-lit fantasy sequences, but there are strong moments in the contemporary sections as well, especially the entire third act storm sequence. But, like many of you, I see the bountiful opportunities to honor Lubezki for quite a bit stronger work up ahead, so I'll take my time in getting around to rewarding him.

Shanghai Triad is not, to put it mildly, the strongest of the Zhang Yimou/Gong Li collaborations. It suffers significantly from a central character -- the little boy -- who is almost entirely an observer of action, rather than a player in it. But, as with most of the director's films, it looked beautiful, from the bold theatricality of the first half's nightclub scenes, to the even more impressive photography of the island sequences in the second half. This is a case where I wish the cinematography was in service of a better movie, but it's the kind of artful foreign nominee I'm generally pleased to see included on an Oscar slate, and my vote in this lineup.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:42 pm

Ah, 1995 -- the year there were so many candidates, and the Academy did such a generally poor job of selecting from them. I look back at old notebooks, and find that, as under best picture, the five I chose failed to match the Academy list even once. My 20-odd-years-ago picks: Heat, Dolores Claiborne, The Secret of Roan Inish, Leaving Las Vegas, and the one for which I'd have voted, se7en -- a movie whose look is so distinctive, so unprecedented, that it's a dark mark on the cinematographers' branch for not citing it. (It might be one of those films whose reputation has so grown since initial release that it would get slated today.)

It's not as if everything nominated was without value. But Batman Forever for sure was. That Tim Burton's original film failed to get nominated here, but Schumacher's godawful third-in-the-series did, is baffling.

Sorry to say that, by Oscar night, I had little doubt Braveheart would win this category (even though I doubted its best picture win to the end). This was still the Academy that, while occasionally making more discerning choices, was largely in love with sweeping vistas -- see the quite recent Dances with Wolves and Legends of the Fall wins. Braveheart was indifferently lit, but met those epic requirements. It's not, of course, my choice.

Shanghai Triad was one in a series of period Asian films that the branch nominated over a stretch of 20 years or so. It felt like it was more an endorsement of the films' design elements than an appreciation for Asian cinema -- they never nominated a contemporary effort like In the Mood for Love, despite critical acclaim. In all honesty, I can't recall much about Shanghai Triad, apart from finding it pretty. But its nomination isn't bad in any way.

My lukewarm choice comes down to Sense and Sensibility or A Little Princess -- both of which I find I'd marked down in my notebooks for costumes and production design, but neither of which impressed me enough in the cinematography area to grab a nod. But both stay in my mind as cleanly shot, good-looking films. It's truly a coin flip. Let's say that, since Lubezki is going to be amply rewarded by me in future face-offs, we give this one to Mr. Coulter.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby mlrg » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:31 am

Pretty weak lineup. Voted for Braveheart.

Se7en should have been nominated and would have been my choice

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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:21 am

Sabin wrote:It certainly couldn’t have been unexpected though, right? It’s a big historical epic with war scenes. Those have a track record.

I vaguely recall the movie Miami Rhapsody. Was it any good? I recall hearing it was Woody Allen-lite.


For me Braveheart was unexpected right down to the wins. Maybe I was in complete denial because I hated the film so much but it never struck me as an 'Oscar' film. The reviews were respectable at best but then the box office for it was big and people did seem to like it. Of course back in 1995 there was no internet to predict pretty much everything that may get a nomination. I may have read a few articles that mentioned Braveheart as a possible nominee but I honestly can't remember. I should check out the clippings I have stored away from 1995/96. I do remember being stunned and surprised that Braveheart actually got nominated, even for technical awards.

Sure Braveheart got Globe nominations but it was totally possible to believe it would go no further.

Woody Allen-lite is actually a good description for Miami Rhapsody and Mia Farrow and the rest of the cast give performances that could come right out of a Woody Allen film from that era, except that there is was no Woody Allen 'character'.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Greg » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:38 pm

The most mind-boggling Bravehart Oscar for me is winning Makeup for blue warpaint. My feeling is the zero-gravity shooting in Apollo 13 warranted giving Cinematography to Dean Cundey and Director to Ron Howard. Yes, I think Opie deserves to be an Oscar winner.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Sabin » Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:39 pm

It certainly couldn’t have been unexpected though, right? It’s a big historical epic with war scenes. Those have a track record.

I vaguely recall the movie Miami Rhapsody. Was it any good? I recall hearing it was Woody Allen-lite.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:12 am

Big Magilla wrote:That Braveheart won any Oscars was mindboggling then, and is mindboggling now.


In more than 40 years of following the Oscars I couldn't agree more with that statement.

As for this line-up I only have any passion for Sense and Sensibility (which I voted for) and Shanghai Triad. The Braveheart & Batman nominations are a joke. I can't really comment on A Little Princess as I don't recall it, though given that all of Cuaron's film look good it's nomination was probably just.

A major omission for me is Babe. Andrew Lesnie's work is gorgeous in capturing an English feel to the film, though I've always hated that the human actors in the film speak with American accents - so inappropriate for what is very English material. Jerzy Zielinski's work in Powder was also very good.

My choice for the best of the year in this category goes to the low key comedy/drama Miami Rhapsody shot by Jack Wallner, who only has a couple of film credits to his name. His use of light struck me at the time as very fresh and even daring with one particular shot of two the actors as dark figures against a bright background. Really impressive work in a time of film that never get nominated in this category.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Sabin » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:52 am

Just like in every category from 1995, these nominations are strange. In addition to all the other films you've mentioned, they could have just as easily nominated Nixon. Robert Richardson had three previous nominations from working with Oliver Stone.

The most baffling omission here has to be Dean Cundey for Apollo 13. Not that he necessarily deserved a nomination but so much attention was paid to the filming process of Apollo 13 that you'd think the camera guy would get some attention! And it's not as though he was a newbie who came from nowhere. He was a previous nominee for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and had just shot Jurassic Park. He was a pretty major guy. The backlash against Apollo 13 in the 1995 Oscar season is just inexplicable.

Also worth mentioning is the lack of a nomination for Darius Khondji for Se7en. A remarkable feat of cinematography. Its nomination for Best Film Editing was certainly deserved, but one for cinematography would make more sense. Genre bias can't be used as an excuse considering they bafflingly nominated the unserious Batman Forever. The only excuse I can make is: A) cronyism (Stephen Goldblatt was a previous nominee for The Pride of Tides), and B) I mean...there's flashy lights and shit? No, just cronyism.

Braveheart certainly does not deserve to win but the nicest compliment I can pay it is this. When I first saw the film at the age of fourteen, it was the BIGGEST thing I had ever seen. Watching it again, and it's a rather small film. The lack of a production design Oscar is very telling. It's a bunch of muddy villages, battleground hills, anonymous castles, and what else? John Toll does a nice job of compensating for these shortcomings, be they budgetary of simply a lack of imagination.

Sense and Sensibility is a pretty film but certainly not more so than the Merchant Ivory productions.

And so it comes down to A Little Princess and Shanghai Triad. The reason I'm choosing Shanghai Triad is simple. This is my one opportunities to vote for a Zhang Yimou film for Best Cinematography. It's certainly not his best moment but it's a gorgeous film and I have several opportunities to vote for Emmanuel Lubeszki in the future.
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Best Cinematography 1995

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:25 am

That Braveheart won any Oscars was mindboggling then, and is mindboggling now. All that blue paint in all those confusing battle scenes must have been tough to film, which is probably what they were rewarding over the film's look. Oscar wasn't alone in its extravagance. ASC and BAFTA also awarded it, while the BSC which had been bestowing annual awards since 1953, did the right thing and ignored it. Their nominations went to Apollo 13, Richard III, Sense and Sensibility, Seven and The Madness of King George, a 1994 release in the U.S., which won.

ASC nominated six films this year including the abysmal Batman Forever which Oscar also nominated, the aforementioned Apollo 13 and Seven, as well as The Bridges of Madison County and Crimson Tide. BAFTA nominated Apoll13, Sense and Sensibility and The Madness of King George.

Sense and Sensibilty was the only consensus nominee among the four bodies. Shanghai Triad which AMPAS also recognized won the N.Y. and L.A. critics' prizes, while Devil in a Blue Dress won the NSFC.

Personally I would have given the award to Emmanuel Lubezki on his first of eight nominations for the exquisite looking A Little Princess. That and Children of Men as well as Gravity, all three of which were directed by Alfonso Cuaron would be the three I would award him for rather than waiting for Gravity to give him his first win, followed by those two Inarritu films, Birdman and The Revenant, the latter which is as big a head-scratching winner for me as was Braveheart.
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