I feel like whenever someone talks about Oscar nominations, what they really want to do is complain. And I’m afraid I’m no different. I raise this issue when discussing the Best Cinematography nominees in particular because I think this is a pretty good set of nominees. I mean, you’ve got your Roger Deakins, who does as amazing as job as ever in Prisoners, even if the movie is actually kind of dumb. You also got the technologically groundbreaking and sophisticated work of Emmanuel Lubezki in Gravity, the chillingly mute wintery landscape of Bruno Delbonnel’s Inside Llewyn Davis, and the gorgeous work of Philippe Le Sourd in The Grandmaster (when does a Wong-kar Wai movie not look immaculately beautiful?)… and then you have Nebraska.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with Phedon Papamichael’s black and white photography in Nebraska. As a matter of fact, I found the way he framed the dull monumentality of the midwestern landscape to be really lovely. But I also think that the movie was immediately nominated for being shot in black and white, which wouldn’t annoy me as much if there weren’t so much interesting work waiting in the sidelines. I was expecting Benoit Debie’s dynamic and exuberant lensing of Spring Breakers, and even Hoyte van Hoytema’s sweet and soft Her to be ignored, but I was particularly surprised that Sean Bobbitt’s fantastic work in 12 Years a Slave wasn’t nominated. Anyway, one really can’t complaint that much when the Academy found room to honor The Grandmaster and Inside Llewyn Davis.
Incidentally, those are my two favorite films in the category, and the ones that would have me banging my head to make a decision if I were an actual voter. There are probably no more beautiful images this year than the way Le Sourd shoots the complex choreography of The Grandmaster. The images of Ziyi Zhang in the snow or Tony Leung’s hat dripping with rain (pictured) will forever keep popping up in my head. Similarly, I think there is no better fit to tell the depressing tale of Llewyn Davis than the way Delbonnel evokes The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan‘s cover and turns it into a chilly trap for the protagonist. I’d probably end up flipping a coin to pick what I would vote for, but Academy voters won’t have the same problem. Expect the Oscar to go to Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the finest working cinematographers, who will probably finally win for his sixth nomination. Gravity is not Lubezki’s best work, but I will happily pretend the Oscar is as much for this movie as it is for Children of Men and The Tree of Life.
Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
My Vote: Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)