Oscar Predictions 2014: Cinematography

Take the entire Best Picture field. They’d be nothing without the powerful visuals crafted by the towering talent of the nominees in this field, as well as the others who (for whatever reasons) didn’t make the cut. Ahem, Sean Bobbitt.

The truth is we’re awash in outstanding cinematographers. If there’s a category that could be boosted to ten nominees, it’s this one. This year, the Oscar hopefuls delivered eye candy that took us from the dry wit of Big Red country to the far reaches of the horizon, from beautiful brawling grounds to the cold snap of reality.

Here’s a look at the nominees with my predicted winner in red

Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster

Why He Was Nominated

Le Sourd was able to take the fighting scenes of Wong Kar Wai’s latest epic and deliver them as balletic acts of raw violence. He took what’s so often chopped to pieces and placed it pristinely and openly in the spotlight.

Why He Might Win

On the fluke chance that a preponderance of Academy members even bothered to see The Grandmaster, the art on display here may very well have won them over. It’s unique among the other nominees and holds a kind of period drama feeling that often reigns supreme.

Why He Might Not Win

Simply put, he won’t. However, it’s encouraging to see his skill here recognized, even if it’s as a knowing also-ran consolation.

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Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity

Why He Was Nominated

Please see above. It’s been stated thousands of times already, but Gravity‘s immersive quality is a product of cinematography, design, editing and technology working in a way that put us in outer space. It probably won’t be only Lubezski taking home trophies on Sunday.

Why He Might Win

This is his sixth nomination, and will you please just give him the Oscar already?

Why He Might Not Win

Some sort of power outage cancels the ceremony permanently.

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Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

Why He Was Nominated

Beautiful visuals that placed us up close with a folk singer and the people in his life, pushing the 60s through soft focus and encapsulating loss within the frame.

Why He Might Win

The skill here is strong (if not his most impressive), and he’s an Academy favorite with four total nominations under his belt.

Why He Might Not Win

He and the next two nominees are all in a race for second place against Lubezski, and there’s just no beating him. Although if Delbonnel won for this over what he did for Amelie, it would be another hilariously fun footnote in Oscar history.

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Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska

Why He Was Nominated

Working in black & white poses a huge challenge, and if you’ve seen Nebraska, you know that just about every screenshot could be hung in a frou-frou art gallery where they serve endive that’s been shown a picture of a stove as appetizers. The point is that the photography is stunningly gorgeous. The second point is that we’re lucky it was all for a movie instead of that gallery opening.

Why He Might Win

Again, beautiful work. This is his first nomination, but he’s had a track record of strong photography (including more b&w via a U2 music video directed by Anton Corbijn), and it’s righteous that he’s gotten recognition. There’s also a lot of love for this movie, too, so there’s a chance this could be swept into the mix if Nebraska pushes through to the podium.

Why He Might Not Win

Lubezki domination. But there’s a solid chance we’ll see Papamichael back in the mix soon.

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Roger Deakins, Prisoners

Why He Was Nominated

It’s time for his annual nomination.

Why He Might Win

You know the outrage you feel over Lubezki never having won an Oscar after six nominations? Deakins has never won after eleven. It’s been 20 years without an acceptance speech (starting with Shawshank) and there’s a possibility that the Academy will finally un-Lucy the situation for this Charlie Brown. Plus, it wouldn’t be an unearned legacy win because Prisoners looks fantastic.

Why He Might Not Win

The same reason everyone else won’t win. Sidenote: it’s interesting that Deakins, after years of working alongside the Coen Brothers and earning nominations with them, is going up against someone else in Delbonnel who shot a Coen movie. Fun.

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Who Should Win

Sean Bobbitt for 12 Years a Slave.

Seriously, any name could be called on Sunday with a knowing head nod afterward. They all created indelible, superb visuals that bolstered the emotional themes of the films they helped paint. For all rational beings who recognize how silly the Oscars are, here’s a field of talent that all deserves to be celebrated, regardless of whether they get played off stage while thanking the people most important to them.

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Oscar 2014


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