Best Cinematography 2006

1998 through 2007

Of the 2006 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

The Black Dahlia (Vilmos Zsigmond)
2
11%
Children of Men (Emmanuel Lubezki)
14
78%
The Illusionist (Dick Pope)
0
No votes
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Navarro)
2
11%
The Prestige (Wally Pfister)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 18

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:27 pm

I'm going to be falling behind for the next couple of weeks if someone wants to do the next year.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Sabin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:51 am

Mister Tee wrote
Sabin's post makes me wonder two things, though: should we have been surprised the film didn't win with AMPAS, and why were we? The answer to the second part is easier: we thought Children of Men would win because it had won almost everything leading up -- not just ASC, but BAFTA (even though the film had only a few stray nods there), and every critics' prize except NY's. When it fell short, we rationalized it well enough...Pan's had a more traditionally pretty look, and its 6 nominations marked it a more generally popular film. But we maybe have missed something more critical, something to which Sabin refers: Pan's was a nominee for production design, and Children was not.

How significant was that?

Short answer: very. The reason we overlooked the precedent was Children of Men wasn't simply the favorite for Best Cinematography. It was a breakthrough in the craft. I'd argue that no film until Birdman (also by Lubezki) turned as many heads for its camerawork, and it didn't win nearly as many awards in the field. Or maybe Tree of Life (also by Lubezki, also favored to win). The reason we all went along with it was the screenplay and editing nominations. 2006 was such a flukey set of nominees that it seemed like the Academy was retroactively honoring films it had forgotten about but in retrospect it was always silly to think the Academy would honor a sci-fi dud over a foreign-language hit (even one as nerdy as Pan's Labyrinth).

Mister Tee wrote
And, in retrospect, those of us who really wanted Roger Deakins to win this past year should have been more appreciative of the production design branch for helping carry him home.

Exactly, and how many predicted The Shape of Water would win Best Cinematography? At the last minute, I switched my vote for Blade Runner 2049 and felt like an idiot... until it paid off.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:55 pm

Okri wrote:Children of Men not getting a production design nomination was hugely dispiriting in it's own right, I felt. I think it was you, Tee, that referred to the film as "eye-protein" (as opposed to "eye-candy") and that's how I felt about the work done there. Some stunning Guernica-level diorama work in those scenes.

Yeah; I was quoting Guillermo delToro from a Charllie Rose round-table of the Three Amigos.

The production design branch seems, like many in the Academy, to prefer pretty pictures. (It's why it's so surprising Lincoln won the category in 2012.) I agree, this was a depressing omission.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Okri » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:05 pm

Children of Men not getting a production design nomination was hugely dispiriting in it's own right, I felt. I think it was you, Tee, that referred to the film as "eye-protein" (as opposed to "eye-candy") and that's how I felt about the work done there. Some stunning Guernica-level diorama work in those scenes.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:09 pm

It'll come as no surprise to most here that I find this a spectacularly easy choice. But there are things to comment on beyond merely citing my favorite.

It IS surprising to have a slate with no best picture contenders, especialy given that some of the best picture nominees seemed right in the branch's wheelhouse -- Iwo Jima, definitely, but I'd say Babel as well, with its range from Middle Eastern mountains to neon-lit Tokyo.

I enjoyed both magician movies for what they were, but I'd never have thought of citing The Illusionist for its visuals.

The Prestige, on the other hand, was pretty great looking -- as well as quite entertaining. I guess we're beyond hoping Nolan will ever make something that breezily enjoyable again.

I have a lot less tolerance for The Black Dahlia than some here, possibly because I had read Ellroy's book almost two decades earlier and been a huge fan of it. I found De Palma's treatment of it borderline hysterical (as well as wildly miscast, as Sabin recounts). Zsigmond, yes, brought his great talent and provided some beautiful pictures, but in the context it was hard to appreciate.

As we've noted many times, the trademark of this category this millennium has been Good/just-not-the-best. It pains me to feel bad about an award going to Pan's Labyrinth, but, as BJ rightly recalls, its win was perhaps the biggest letdown of the night. Let's give the film its due: it's a good-looking effort, that floats easily between fantasy and stark reality, and would have been a perfectly acceptable winner in several years that decade.

But not over the great Children of Men, still my favorite movie post-Y2K, and one of the most exquisite pieces of cinematography in Lubezki's impressive portfolio. Everyone talks about the extended set pieces, and they're impressive, but one shouldn't overlook the overall look of the film: the sense from the very beginning of looking at life during wartime, with ominous clouds seemingly perennially on the horizon. By the time we get to the climax -- Theo and Kee's trek both into and out of the housing project -- the film has taken us to a kind of cinematic heaven, and Lubezki is a prime collaborator in bringing that about. He's my first and only choice here.

Sabin's post makes me wonder two things, though: should we have been surprised the film didn't win with AMPAS, and why were we? The answer to the second part is easier: we thought Children of Men would win because it had won almost everything leading up -- not just ASC, but BAFTA (even though the film had only a few stray nods there), and every critics' prize except NY's. When it fell short, we rationalized it well enough...Pan's had a more traditionally pretty look, and its 6 nominations marked it a more generally popular film. But we maybe have missed something more critical, something to which Sabin refers: Pan's was a nominee for production design, and Children was not.

How significant was that? I went back and looked at recent winners, and found that, post-1992, virtually all cinematography winners have also been nominated for production design (art direction/set decoration, as it was called in some of those years). The very few exceptions -- Braveheart, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire -- were best picture WINNERS; Children of Men wasn't even a nominee. The last film to win cinematography with Children's profile was A River Runs Through It, a quarter-century ago. (Prior to that, winning without art direction or best picture did happen -- JFK, Mississippi Burning, The Killing Fields -- though they were all at least best picture nominees.) So, maybe we should have been a lot more dubious at the time.

And, in retrospect, those of us who really wanted Roger Deakins to win this past year should have been more appreciative of the production design branch for helping carry him home.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:04 pm

Letters From Iwo Jima is my top omission -- given that it pulled through to nab all those top on-the-bubble nominations, I was surprised such a beautifully photographed Best Picture nominee couldn't place here. I also see that I had The Good German down, but talk about a movie I haven't given ANY thought to since this year.

The pair of the magician pictures are the least impressive, but I don't dislike the photography in either. The Illusionist had an appealingly tactile quality to its look -- it felt lit by the candlelight of the period, rather than the high voltage of modern technology. I wouldn't say there were a ton of special moments, but it was appealing enough.

I definitely found The Prestige a step up from Batman Begins in the visual department, with at least one striking image that immediately pops to mind when I think of the film (all those lightbulbs in the ground). In general, the magic sequences are lit and shot with flair, though they don't quite reach the imaginative highs of The Dark Knight or Inception for me.

Pan's Labyrinth might be the zenith of the "great choice/it broke my heart" trend of this period. Because it would be really hard for me to object to photography like this winning in, say, '03 or '04 -- the fantasy sequences are magically lit, the real-world images have their own kind of magic to them (like the girl reading near the bathtub with the light from the window up above streaming in), and the photography throughout has a haunting quality that fits perfectly with the real-world gravity of the war-torn setting. My objection, quite simply, is that this year, it just wasn't the best. (I also happened to be working at the time for an absolute demon of a woman who was friends with Guillermo Navarro, and seeing her so giddy the next day because of this win just felt like an extra insult.)

Sabin is right that The Black Dahlia definitely has a lot of miscasting issues (Mia Kirshner maybe the one exception), but I still think there is quite a lot to like about the movie, in the way that wildly ambitious visions can be rewarding despite (or even maybe because of?) their uneven elements. And there was no area of achievement stronger than its cinematography -- the tracking shot that uncovers the Black Dahlia murder, off-hand and almost as an afterthought, is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking, and the entire film's neo-noir look is elegant and unsettling in a manner that's thoroughly appropriate for a story about the grim rot beneath Hollywood's glamour. I was very pleased that, despite critically and commercially underperforming, the movie received this deserving recognition.

But Children of Men gets my vote handily. Nothing this year came close to matching this film for the pure visceral energy of its images, not only in its most gripping sequences (the car escape, the tremendous tracking shot of Theo and Kee making their way through the war zone), but also in its quieter moments (like Kee framed in the teardrop-shaped hole in the glass), which reveal the artful delicacy of Lubezki's work alongside the dazzling technical brio. Like most, I'd assumed he would win that Oscar night, and was terribly let down he was denied the prize, (though in retrospect, perhaps it's easy to see why the more traditionally beautiful Pan's Labyrinth prevailed.) I'll happily vote to rectify that here, the first (but definitely not the last) time I'll be voting for Lubezki.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Okri » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:05 pm

Easy vote for Children of Men, though I have a soft spot for The Black Dahlia (which I really like, overall) and The Prestige. Pan's Labyrinth is one of the most overrated films of the 21st Century. Barely remember The Illusionist.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:40 am

Big Magilla wrote:It's nice that Guillermo Navarro received a nomination for Guillermo de Toro's visually arresting Pan's Labyrinth, the only really outstanding film on Navarro's resume to date


Whilst Navarro does comes across as a 'journeyman cinematographer' due to the fact that all of his films post PL have been standard Hollywood fare his earlier work for del Dorro with The Devil's Backbone and Cronos are equal to PL.

Only two of the nominees get me seal of approval - Pan's Labyrinth (my vote) & The Black Dahlia. Both stunningly photographed and steered by directors who knew exactly what they wanted. Yes, I'm de Palma die hard and The Black Dahlia is one of his very best later films.

Bit of a head scratcher as two why both the magician films are included here though the Nolan is certainly better in every respect.

To be honest I loath almost everything Alfonso Cuaron has directed so that doesn't help me have any appreciation for Lubezki's work which felt very much been here before, seen that before, just like aspects of the story that was unfolding. I know its much loved on this board, though I recall Damien hating it.

Omissions: Private Fears in Public Places, Volver, Little Children, Syndromes and a Century, V For Vendetta, Letters from Iwo Jima.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:40 pm

I don't know what the fascination was with The Black Dahlia but there were those who loved it, though more for Brian De Palma's direction than Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography.

As for the two competing magician films, they were fun but so were a lot of movies that never got anywhere near an Oscar nomination for cinematography or anything else.

There really were just two nominees in contention, but before I get to them, I want to give a shoutout to five cinematographers who I think were worth considering for more memorable films than those three.

Michael Ballhaus' cinematography on The Departed may not have been as gorgeous as his work on his first two nominations for Broadcast News and The Fabulous Baker Boys, but it was at least as good as his work on GoodFellas and The Age of Innocence, two other Scorsese films for which he was overlooked - his only nomination for a Scorsese film being The Gangs of New York which I hated. If Scorsese was considered overdue for a Best Director Oscar, Ballhaus was just as overdue in this category.

Phil Meheux was a journeyman cinematographer who received his only BAFTA nomination for Casino Royale, but nothing from ASC or AMPAS.

Stuart Dryburgh was nominated by AMPAS for The Piano so they certainly knew who he was when they passed him over for The Painted Veil which was a better and better looking film than The Illusionist, the Edward Norton starrer that they did nominate.

Tom Stern, whose brilliant cinematography was one of the highlights of Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima would have to wait two years for his Oscar nomination for the lesser Eastwood film, Changeling.

Barry Ackroyd did a yeoman job with United 93 but he would have to wait three years for his Oscar nomination, which came for The Hurt Locker.

That brings us to the only two I think are worth considering for this year's win.

It's nice that Guillermo Navarro received a nomination for Guillermo de Toro's visually arresting Pan's Labyrinth, the only really outstanding film on Navarro's resume to date, but the award should have gone to Emmanuel Lubezki for the even more beautiful, haunting, and unforgettable Children of Men a decade before beginning his three-year reign as Oscar's favorite cinematographer.
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Best Cinematography 2006

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:42 pm

The most interesting thing about this race, of course, is that zero Best Picture nominees were nominated, which was the first such occurrence. I’m not even sure a Best Picture nominee came close. Maybe Tom Stern from Letters from Iwo Jima (whom I think I predicted) but the ASC instead nominated Robert Richardson for The Good Shepherd and Dean Semler for Apocalypto. Maybe the late Michael Ballhaus for The Departed, Rodrigo Prieto for Babel, or Tobias Schliessler for Dreamgirls. If message board cinephiles had their way, I’m sure Dion Beebe would be more in the running for Miami Vice. Or previous nominee Xiaoding Zhao for The Curse of the Golden Flower.

Instead, the Academy nominated two magician films, a crime dud, a sci-fi sleeper, and a foreign-language fantastic hit. In that context, it’s not surprising that Pan’s Labyrinth managed to upset Children of Men. Guillermo Navarro won Best Cinematography at the New York Film Critic’s Circle, and wasn’t up for an ASC nomination for eligibility reasons. It’s a beautiful film with some creative if obvious day-for-night. And there is certainly precedent for its victory. The prettiest film usually wins in this category and one can make the case that Pan’s Labyrinth is the only film in the running that can be called pretty. It continued an ongoing tradition of Academy members confusing production design with cinematography. And it’s the only film we can be sure that Academy members actually saw. It remains Guillermo Del Toro’s finest hour and even though I don’t agree with its victory here, I feel bad for harboring anger against a film that demonstrated more innovation and creativity than most Best Picture nominees of the year.

If The Black Dahlia should be remembered for one thing if nothing else: miserable casting. Who, when casting a bored housewife and a femme fatale, would pick Hillary Swank for the latter and Scarlett Johansson for the former? Let alone, Josh Hartnett (remember him?) for the hard-bitten detective and Aaron Eckhart (who seems SO bored) for the reckless partner? While Vilmos Zsigmond shoots it beautifully (his last nomination before passing away), it’s so sand-bagged as a story that I was never engaged enough to see it as more than a series of images.

Remember when The Illusionist and The Prestige came out months apart? I’m still not sure how either film got nominations. History has clearly declared Nolan’s film the winner, especially in the realm of cinematography. The Illusionist looks like a color corrected bauble while Nolan’s film with is fluid hand-held camerawork is more interestingly shot film, especially when he is directing the viewers’ eye during magic tricks. It’s still the forgotten film in Nolan’s oeuvre and deserves more attention, but I can't get behind either one for a win.

It would be easier to list out which awards Lubezki didn’t win for Best Cinematography than the ones he did. Children of Men was my favorite film of the year. It feels like a movie we’re living in more and more everyday. Despite being released so poorly by Universal Pictures they had to basically apologize, it picked up three nominations and had the Best Picture roster expanded to ten I’d imagine the passion for this film might have earned it an inclusion. I’ve read some detracting essays from critics like Mike D’Angelo about how the cinematography showboats in distracting ways, but I don’t agree. This film is an astonishing thing that caught me off-guard in large part because of the cinematography, not simply for its car scene but for the harrowing sequence where Theo races through war to find Kee and the baby. It easily gets my vote.
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