ASC on the way

Posted by · 5:06 pm · January 8th, 2010

Daniel Day-Lewis in NineAlong with the WGA, the American Society of Cinematographers will also be announcing nominees Monday.  Guesses as to which way they’ll go?

I’d say the safest bet is Robert Richardson and his work on “Inglourious Basterds.” He often gets his due from the guild (eight nominations) even when he doesn’t from the Academy (five nominations).

After that, it’s likely Barry Ackroyd, the most lauded of the season’s lensers in the critics awards circuit, will be chalked up for “The Hurt Locker.” But I think I have to come clean on something here.

Due respect to Mr. Ackroyd, who is a considerable talent, his work on the film totally took me out of the narrative.  The slavish devotion to dizzying handheld work lacked the focus of the characters being depicted while attempting to somehow simulate the tension of their profession, and that, I think, was a misstep.

Anyway, after that, it’s something of a crap shoot.  “Nine” is falling and but fast, but surely the striking quality of the film’s lighting is enough to get Dion Beebe in, right?  Or is everything but “Cinema Italiano” going down with the ship?

Some of my favorite cinematography of the year was in a similarly maligned film, “The Lovely Bones.” Andrew Lesnie has been singled out in the past even when the Academy passed on him, but that was for a much better-received film.

I would have expected Greig Fraser to be a no-brainer for his luminous work on “Bright Star,” but the film never caught on with the critics circles that could have given it a boost.  Maybe Fraser’s colleagues will spot the quality.  If he has anything going for him, it’s that the ASC has been open to newbie talent in the past.

Bruno Delbonnel got some nice notices for his textured work on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” earlier in the year, and I think he could be a threat for a nod.  He won this award five years ago, after all.

Roger Deakins is always someone to watch for in a lensing race and his work on the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man,” while not as stylized as some of his past efforts, was nevertheless quite striking.  Maybe the guilds could step in to support this film where the critics failed.  The Art Directors Guild has already spoken up.

The ASC has always been more open to digital photography than the Academy, but even having said that, I feel like Mauro Fiore might be facing an uphill climb for “Avatar.” But I’m happy for the guild to prove me wrong.

Speaking of digital photography, Dante Spinotti teamed up with director Michael Mann for the first time in 10 years on “Public Enemies” — to decidedly mixed reception.  The clash of Spinotti’s traditional sensibilities with Mann’s more progressive technical tastes registered the wrong note for a great many, but maybe the guild felt differently.

One contender that has all but completely disappeared is “The Road,” and I actually have a suspicion Javier Aguirresarobe could be a surprise mention for his rather eloquent photography.  One of his frames will be on my shots of the year list, you can bet on that.

Finally, another surprise possibility that I actually think could happen is Andrew Dunn and his work on “Precious.” Personally speaking, I thought it made for some of the most dynamic imagery of the year, but Dunn was also one of the more seasoned vets on the crew.  And he’s yet to be recognized by his guild.

I’ll go with the following for my guesses.  Speak up on yours in the comments section if you like:

“The Hurt Locker” (Barry Ackroyd)
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (Bruno Delbonnel)
“Inglourious Basterds” (Robert Richardson)
“Nine” (Dion Beebe)

“A Serious Man” (Roger Deakins)

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29 responses so far

  • 1 1-08-2010 at 5:25 pm

    Yogsam said...

    I really liked Mr. Fiore’s work on AVATAR, but im not sure if the ASC is going to support a basicly DIGITAL cinematography than a more artistic and more “realistic” work

  • 2 1-08-2010 at 5:36 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    It’ll certainly be interesting to see whether or not Avatar is in or out. Gut feeling tells me there’s no way it’ll be nominated, on account of everything visually spectacular about being done digitally, with a 3D camera and lighting you can move and change any way you wish as opposed to the craft of cinematography. And frankly, I don’t think it belongs either, to me it’s part of the visual effects work.

    But then again, who knows? It might be too big to ignore, even for the cinematographers.

    That said, what an exceptionally weak year for cinematography. It’s usually one of the strongest categories in my own opinion, but this year I’m really not feeling it for very many films at all. The Hurt Locker was nicely lensed, but at the same time it wasn’t Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line. And even if Inglourious Basters was impeccable, I find his work on Kill Bill superior for the most part.

    I’d love to see District 9 and Moon pop up here, but that’s probably unlikely (the latter in particular since it got the shaft by Sony).

  • 3 1-08-2010 at 5:58 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    Ooooh, LOVED Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’s cinematography. The cave sequence was everything I’d ever imagined it to be, and Delbonnel is in part responsible for that.
    Also, Deakins, Deakins, Deakins. YES.

  • 4 1-08-2010 at 6:02 pm

    geha714 said...

    There are two other movies that you left out and can be contenders: The White Ribbon has already won a lot of critic awards for Best Cinematography and A Single Man, with a very stylish look ho can not be ignored.

    If Avatar get nominated by the ASC and by AMPAS, then it will win in this category IMHO. A sweep in the technical awards by a this king of ground-breaking film won’t be a major surprise.

  • 5 1-08-2010 at 6:03 pm

    geha714 said...

    Sorry for the typo.

  • 6 1-08-2010 at 6:04 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I didn’t see Ackroyd’s work that way at all. For me, the stripped down, no bullshit attempt to capture the harshness of the Iraq setting was perfectly apt for The Hurt Locker.

    More of a misstep, for me, was the cinematography of The Lovely Bones. While the acting and editing are far worse, Andrew Lesnie does the film no favors with his garish color palette.

  • 7 1-08-2010 at 6:08 pm

    average joe said...

    Am I the only one that didn’t care too much for Delbonnel’s work on Harry Potter? I recall a lot of DI overkill.

    Definitely hoping for Lesnie and/or Spinotti to get mentions, but I know it’s probably a lost cause.

    Anyway Kris, I’m very much looking forward to your shots of the year article. It’s my favorite of your year end pieces.

  • 8 1-08-2010 at 6:09 pm

    Andy said...

    Lance Acord, Where the Wild Things Are
    Dion Beebe, Nine
    Roger Deakins, A Serious Man
    Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
    Robert Richardson, Inglorious Basterds

  • 9 1-08-2010 at 6:16 pm

    Paul M. said...

    Maybe the guild will recognize Dod Mantle’s spectacular work on Antichrist?

  • 10 1-08-2010 at 6:28 pm

    Hardy said...

    Seeing Precious being nominated would be a pleasant suprise.

  • 11 1-08-2010 at 6:49 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Hamer: The color palette is one of the most thematically relevant aspects of the film. It is a movie told through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, after all.

    As for The Hurt Locker, I didn’t feel it was as organic to the material as so many seem to believe. It was trying so hard to be both a visual commentary and incredibly non-conformist that the result is a film maddening at times because it doesn’t allow the audience to focus on something.

  • 12 1-08-2010 at 6:55 pm

    Adam said...

    The Lovely Bones was obviously photographed by Lisa Frank.

  • 13 1-08-2010 at 7:38 pm

    Speaking English said...

    What about “Where the Wild Things Are?” I thought that was one of the most beautifully shot films of the year.

    And I agree with you on “The Hurt Locker.” Horrible, ugly, unnecessarily shaky photography. More likely to give you a migraine than anything else.

    My vote would be for “Bright Star.” No competition.

  • 14 1-08-2010 at 8:01 pm

    red_wine said...

    I really don’t agree Kris about The Hurt Locker. I think it was great and has rightfully won a lot of awards. I think its a thread to win. It was not unfocused, rather was giving you a complete panoramic view during the big set pieces. His camera picked up so much incidental detail about Iraqi society it only lent more weight to the film.

    The White Ribbon had a sweep of the top critics awards for cinematography, I hope it can get some traction. I like the movie a lot but I didn’t think Basterds’ cinematography was anything special. It was the usual period photography. I admire how he shot it all on film like its meant to be (unlike Public Enemies). Harry Potter looked so smooth and slick and enhanced with special effects, I really wouldn’t consider it.

    And now Avatar, the most interesting proposition. The cinematography in Avatar is akin to cinematography in animated films. All the digital environments and characters(75% of the movie that is) were lit inside the computer. There was a camera but it was not for capturing reflected light but movements of the actors. If they nominate it I hope they release a disclaimer explaining how it constitutes actual photography. I again repeat Kris & Guy, if you talk to a lenser next, you can maybe get an opinion on new definitions of cinematography and what do they think of cinematography in Avatar and in animated films.

    My pick for Best of the year – Tetro. Beautiful and glorious.

  • 15 1-08-2010 at 8:06 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Is two-time nominee Rodrigo Prieto eligible for his work on Broken Embraces?

  • 16 1-08-2010 at 9:52 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    Bright Star should be nominated, but I expect another snub

  • 17 1-08-2010 at 10:15 pm

    Ben M. said...

    While they are not directly related, it doesn’t help Nine’s cinematography chances that it couldn’t make the BAFTA longlist and that, combined with the ADG omission, makes me think Beebe is missing this.

    I also agree that The White Ribbon could be a factor, but for some reason it seems more like something that would be nominated by the academy, while I feel Avatar may score with the guild and miss with AMPAS.

  • 18 1-08-2010 at 10:23 pm

    Ben M. said...

    Just to make it clear, I was referring to Nine missing the BAFTA cinematography longlist, not just the general BP one, it did also miss the production design longlist before failing to score with the guild.

    Also about the Nine tech chances, it seems strange to me that Nine is still predicted in film editing since there is usually a decent correlation between editing and BP, and musicals that were much more liked such as Dreamgirls and Sweeney Todd missed editing nods.

  • 19 1-09-2010 at 1:32 am

    Ali E. said...

    I think Amelie may get a nod here (and only here), but I don’t know who could Dryburgh replace… so my predictions are:

    Mauro Fiore for AVATAR
    Barry Ackroyd for THE HURT LOCKER
    Robert Richardson for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
    Dante Spinotti for PUBLIC ENEMIES
    Roger Deakins for A SERIOUS MAN

    Avatar will get in.

  • 20 1-09-2010 at 3:05 am

    revoir said...


    He was one of the two reasons (aside from Stuart Craig) why “Half-Blood Prince” was such a hit!

    I’m not a fan of Harry Potter but his work was far better than the films predecesors…..

    Also, Dion Beebe, Robert Richardson, Greg Fraser, and Roger Deakins.

  • 21 1-09-2010 at 3:10 am

    matsunaga said...

    I agree… I really love most of the shots in Half-Blood Prince especially the scene at the cave, the bushes in the Burrows where the Death Eaters attacked, and at the House of the fat Professor…

    And most of the critcs’ reviews of the film also loved it. Bruno Delbonnel for a nod! And I hope et the Oscars and BAFTAs too!!!

  • 22 1-09-2010 at 4:06 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Razzies for cinematography:

    – Spinotti for the unwatchable Public Enemies
    – Mindel for lens flare-masturbating Star Trek

    It’s a shame to have to knock a film that has a lot going for it because of it’s cinematography, but there really was no excuse for Public Enemies to look the way it did, not when there are digital film cameras that don’t make your film look like out of a cheap consumer camera ca. 2002. I assume it’s a look that Mann and Spinotti wanted, but considering it’s a look that is so unflattering and cheap-looking, and something no one else likes that certainly was a waste of money.

    Star Trek.. Abrams adding all the lens flares reminds me of those video reviews of The Phantom Menace that are making the rounds, where the reviewer mentions that it was as if no one told George Lucas no when he made the film. Someone should’ve told Abrams (and Mindel) that it looked awful and utterly fake, and just waaaay too much. To me it was practically like smearing lard on the lens. It wasn’t on the same movie-wrecking level as Public Enemies, but it distracts me when I watch the movie and that ought to be considered a crime against good filmmaking rules.

  • 23 1-09-2010 at 9:07 am

    average joe said...

    “something no one else likes”

    Um, aspect ratio, I like the cinematography of Public Enemies (and Miami Vice for that matter) quite a lot, and there are plenty of others who do as well.

  • 24 1-09-2010 at 12:38 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    I didn’t mean to imply every single other person hated it, but I think we can agree that those who liked the cinematography are in a great minority. I’ve certainly never heard so many cite cinematography as a reason for not enjoying a film, anyway, to me that is quite telling.

  • 25 1-09-2010 at 12:48 pm

    average joe said...

    Well, I would agree in saying that it is too divisive to gain a nomination.

  • 26 1-09-2010 at 3:52 pm

    Ali E. said...

    Public Enemies shouldn’t have been shot on digital… Or at least it needed a heavy post production process. Because the rawness of the images, really hurt the film as a whole.

    But… I don’t think it’s bad cinematography on Spinotti’s part. He obviously tried to push the limits of the material, especially in terms of lighting. And I think that will not go unnoticed by his colleagues. I say an ASC nod at least… Hell, I even predict him for an Oscar nod lately!

  • 27 1-10-2010 at 12:09 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Caught Lovely Bones on Friday, should be my favorite cinematography of 09, great job behind the camera.

  • 28 1-11-2010 at 2:57 am

    revoir said...

    Well I saw it as well yesterday… The Lovely Bones cinematography was comendable.. But I just remembered the scene on the field where Mark Wahlber’s character was chasing Mr. Harvey, I thought that was nothing compared to the scene (just like) in Half-Blood Prince where Harry is trying to save Ginny by the attack of the Death Eaters at the field…

    Even though, I also like Andrew Lesnie…