Best Cinematography 1997

1927/28 through 1997

Of the 1997 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Amistad (Janusz Kaminski)
0
No votes
Kundun (Roger Deakins)
0
No votes
L.A. Confidential (Dante Spinotti)
7
47%
Titanic (Russell Carpenter)
6
40%
The Wings of the Dove (Eduardo Serra)
2
13%
 
Total votes: 15

Greg
Tenured
Posts: 2747
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 1:12 pm
Location: Greg
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Greg » Thu May 03, 2018 11:05 am

Titanic brings up the question of how much credit goes to the cinematography vs. the special effects. For example, the night sky when Jack and Rose hang on to the piece of ship is computer generated, obviously they did not shoot in the middle of the ocean at night; however, there would need to be coordination between the cinematographer and the visual-effects team to match the lighting of how Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were shot with the lighting of the night sky, etc. The Titanic cinematographer deserves credit, but, not as much as, say, the cinematographer of Lawrence Of Arabia, where almost the whole movie was shot on location.
"Wall Street is not the solution to our problem. Wall Street is the problem!"

Ronald Reagan, corrected

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 4224
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby The Original BJ » Wed May 02, 2018 5:42 pm

The alternates that I think could have been in the discussion have all been cited by you guys already -- the chilly winterscapes of The Sweet Hereafter and The Ice Storm, the visual energy of Boogie Nights, the swoony romanticism of Happy Together (especially the Iguazu Falls sequence). But I thought voters came up with a pretty respectable list here.

Amistad has some impressive sequences -- the Middle Passage portion of the film has some obviously arresting images -- but the movie gets a little hemmed in visually in the courtroom scenes. Ultimately, I just don't think there's enough dynamic work in what becomes a fairly talky effort to select it for photography honors.

We've talked before about how The Wings of the Dove is an almost noirish take on Henry James, and I think that statement applies to both the narrative approach and the visuals -- so many scenes have a shadowy, ominous look to them that sets the film apart from your average classical period piece. I'd still probably argue that the production/costume design were even more impressive elements, but they're aided plenty by Serra's work.

Titanic is obviously impressive in terms of scope, but I can think of shots that stick out as genuinely beautiful as well -- the early sun-dappled images of guests boarding the ship, the oft-mocked "I'm flying" sequence on the ship's bow, the crowds in the rowboats staring at the giant hunk of metal and light sinking out of the night sky, Winslet looking up at the Statue of Liberty while docking in New York's harbor. I'm not voting for it, though -- while I think its visuals are WAY more noteworthy than something like The Poseidon Adventure, it doesn't get into the gold-standard territory for epic photography that The English Patient was for me.

Kundun is a triumph in all the visual departments, and the praise I'd give toward the cinematography would be that it's the rare American film that captures Asian locales with a quality as artful as the best of actual Asian cinema. Truth be told, though, the movie hasn't stuck in my mind very much (and for me it's probably been 10 years, not 20, since I've seen it) -- I doubt I could recall much of what it was about without a refresher. So while I can still vividly remember the photography's eye-popping visual quality, I'm more inclined to give my vote to a film I keep coming back to...

...and that's L.A. Confidential, whose cinematography is one of its finest areas of achievement. It's not that we'd never seen color noir before -- Chinatown pulled it off pretty spectacular, among others -- but L.A. Confidential manages to pull off an homage to an earlier B&W film style with enough gritty realism to make it seem like it isn't aping more recent neo-noirs either. The garish lights of '50s Hollywood, the shadows of the urban underbelly, even the ironic sunny glow of the daytime scenes -- all these elements combine to form a movie that's visually dynamic from top to bottom. An easy vote for me.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7428
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Sabin » Wed May 02, 2018 1:45 pm

dws1982 wrote
My favorite movies on the year were La Promesse, Hamsun (both probably not eligible), The Game, Titanic, Donnie Brasco, Jackie Brown, Gattaca, and Bob Rafelson's underrated Blood and Wine. I don't see any of those as absolute must-have cinematography nominees, but Gattaca and The Game were definitely on the same level as many of the Oscar nominees, as was Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

A nomination for The Game would be very deserving. Poor Harris Savides.

It's been ages since I saw Gattaca but I've wondered how it holds up. My main recollection is the look of the film: how shiny every surface is, how blasting the outside light is, etc.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

dws1982
Tenured
Posts: 3006
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 9:28 pm
Location: AL
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby dws1982 » Tue May 01, 2018 9:13 pm

Mister Tee wrote:OK, I have to say, I don't think terribly much of the cinematography on Titanic...nor was there any kind of you-are-there realism to it.

To be fair, they weren't really going for that. I think it pulls off the big Hollywood epic thing reasonably well.

After spending years on message boards insisting to anyone who will listen that Oscar voters don't sit around discussing fairness, and who's "due", and how to get the awards to the most deserving people in the most equitable way possible, I find myself having the same discussion with myself. Eduardo Serra (who seems to have retired) and Roger Deakins are probably my favorites here, but they both have future nominations where they may get my vote--Serra's future nomination was in one of the weaker Cinematography fields of my lineup. It's a dicier proposition for Spinotti (who seems to have retired from doing prestige movies with name directors), whose only other nomination is in an extremely strong lineup, although I prefer his work on The Insider to his work here.

Long story short, I'm not sure which way I'll vote, but I am sure that I'm giving this too much thought.

My favorite movies on the year were La Promesse, Hamsun (both probably not eligible), The Game, Titanic, Donnie Brasco, Jackie Brown, Gattaca, and Bob Rafelson's underrated Blood and Wine. I don't see any of those as absolute must-have cinematography nominees, but Gattaca and The Game were definitely on the same level as many of the Oscar nominees, as was Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6528
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:53 pm

My choice on the year, unavailable to me here, is The Ice Storm -- a film as exquisitely shot as it is written and directed. I'd also have gone for Boogie Nights, though Sabin's take on why it was omitted rings true.

Muddy is indeed the word that comes to mind when I think of Amistad -- the images (like the drama) seemed sort of fuzzy and half-hearted. Kaminski has done and will almost certainly continue to do much better work.

OK, I have to say, I don't think terribly much of the cinematography on Titanic. Apart from maybe the look of the sky in the Leo/Kate/I'm flying scene, I didn't feel there were images memorable for any lyrical quality -- nor was there any kind of you-are-there realism to it. The whole thing looked like it was shot on a giant backlot, and, while I enjoyed it well enough as a big-bruiser kind of epic, only the production design and visual effects were worthy of tech honors, by me. I never doubted the film would win this prize (along with a ton of others) from AMPAS, but I was legitimately surprised when Carpenter took the ASC trophy. It seemed like exactly the sort of lumber-based achievement that ASC routinely turned its nose up at (as they did later, with Cameron's Avatar). I'm also a bit surprised so many here are going for it.

The Wings of the Dove was a shoestring effort next to Titanic, but I think it has more genuine beauty throughout than anything in Cameron's film (I'd vote for its costumes, hands down). The opening sequence in the underground sticks in my mind as creating a sense of the oppressive life that gave the characters the desperation that drove them. This is a very worthy nominee.

Deakins + Scorsese + remote Asian locales is almost an unfair advantage in this category. The film is as beautiful as you'd expect, and one of the many times Deakins might have won during his unlucky two-decade run. Since I know I have times I'm going to be choosing him up ahead, I'll pass here, but give him my salute.

Like the current bare plurality, I'm voting for LA Confidential. The film captures its era with immense style and -- how to put this? -- Curtis Hanson's earlier work hadn't shown much visual panache. So...I have to assume his tech team played an outsized role in giving the film its great kick. You can love LA Confidential for its narrative density and its fine dialogue, but it's also a pretty great visual recreation of LA circa 1950, and Spinotti -- who got no recognition for his contemporary LA two years earlier in Heat -- deserves credit and, in my estimation, this prize.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7428
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Sabin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:33 am

Precious Doll wrote
1997 was not a great year for this category with any real standouts but there was some good work including The Sweet Hereafter, Lost Highway, Boogie Nights & The Ice Storm. The usually reliable European's and Asia's gave us nothing of note in '97.

Happy Together?
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

User avatar
Precious Doll
Emeritus
Posts: 3540
Joined: Mon Jan 13, 2003 2:20 am
Location: Sydney
Contact:

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:58 am

Really a close choice between L.A. Confidential and Titanic. I went with the later.

1997 was not a great year for this category with any real standouts but there was some good work including The Sweet Hereafter, Lost Highway, Boogie Nights & The Ice Storm. The usually reliable European's and Asia's gave us nothing of note in '97.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15782
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Apr 29, 2018 7:50 pm

I'd replace Amistad and Kundun with Boogie Nights (Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood) and The Ice Storm (Fredrick Elmes - TV's Olive Kitteridge). The Wings of the Dove can stay, although The Boxer (Chris Menges) would do just as well. The race here, though, is strictly between the spectacular (Titanic) and the sublime (L.A. Conficdential). I voted for the sublime.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

mlrg
Adjunct
Posts: 1113
Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Re: Best Cinematography 1997

Postby mlrg » Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:23 pm

Voted for Titanic

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7428
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Best Cinematography 1997

Postby Sabin » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:17 pm

The fifth spot of this category had to be as up in the air as any nominee that year. The ASC nominated Chris Menges for The Boxer. Following Jim Sheridan’s boxing drama’s surprisingly strong showing at the Golden Globes, some would be forgiven for making this prediction. To me, it seemed like a dud. At the time, I thought Don Burgess might get in for Contact, but that was largely fanboy thinking. There was of course Robert Elswitt’s tracking shot genius in Boogie Nights. At that point, Robert Elswitt had shot pap for ten years, but 1997 was his breakthrough with Tomorrow Never Dies as Well. I suspect his work looked more like the product of Paul Thomas Anderson’s talent, which at the time looked more like the product of Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman’s talent. Had The Ice Storm not completely flamed out, Frederick Elmes might have been a good bet for his first nomination. In retrospect, another chilly film might have had a better shot considering its strong Directing/Writing showing: Paul Sarossy for The Sweet Hereafter.

But The Wings of the Dove makes sense. At the time, it seemed to me that Miramax had abandoned Iain Softley’s film for Mrs. Brown because it was their better shot for Oscar wins. But it has gorgeous, sensual imagery and more importantly a strong sense of visual storytelling, especially in that opening sequence. It not only got a BAFTA nomination but ended up winning. I can’t get behind a win (mostly because I have another opportunity to honor Serra later) but the Academy probably got it right with this one.

It remains such an endless shame that the Spielberg/Kamisnki high-water period between 2001 and 2005 remains un-honored but the periods before and after ran the gamut. Amistad has some remarkable moments, especially in the opening siege of the ship. But there’s not much he can really do with the rest of it. It’s such a muddy, contained production.

I’ve already voted for Roger Deakins and I’ll have several opportunities to do so later. At the time, Kundun seemed like the purest feast for the eyes of the nominees and won awards from the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics (LA went for Confidential). Like many, I had high expectations and when I saw it, I immediately understood why maybe I shouldn’t have. Some gorgeous scenes but dull.

I could vote for Titanic. Calling it “epic filmmaking” never quite fit. It’s epic blockbuster filmmaking, but the shots that immediately spring to mind are of the disaster itself. But the only shot to me that stands out in a non-mawkish way is of Jack and Rose in the car together (no, not that hand on the glass), but of two young lovers. I can’t argue much against it winning because the way they stage it and edit the Titanic disaster itself is remarkable. But instead, this is my chance to vote for Dante Spinotti for L.A. Confidential, a film that straddles the line between homage as strongly as any film I’ve seen, evoking without ever calling attention. I can’t begrudge Russell Carpenter (or anybody) winning an Oscar for working with that asshole. For Dante Spinotti, working with this gentleman on this film must have been reward in an of itself.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


Return to “The Damien Bona Memorial Oscar History Thread”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], Kellens101 and 1 guest