Essays · Movies

Oscar Analysis: Cinematography

By  · Published on February 28th, 2006


Think about your experience in a movie theater, as you sit and watch the feature presentation. The lights begin to dim, the popcorn is already half gone, and the background music of the film rises. What if the excitement that the soundtrack to a film brings was the only way the filmmaker could deliver his or her message to you, the audience? It would make for a fairly unique yet completely wasteful theater experience, right?

It is the role of the cinematography to do many things with the use of a camera. Their basic function is to tell the story with pictures, and deliver emotions and plot points without the use of sound whatsoever. The cinematographer is the man or woman who is solely responsible for the look and feel that I film takes on as it is delivered to you on the screen. Their craft is perfected by those who can deliver a unique point-of-view on the story, wow you with beautiful cinema landscapes, and ultimately make you forget that you are watching a film and engross you in the surroundings of the story.

The nominees in the category of Cinematography this year do exactly that, allow us to escape into the fantastic worlds of superheros, experience what television was like when it was first born, escape to the tops of Wyoming’s great mountain ranges, recreate the world of America as it was when it was a naive and uncharted territory, and even allows us to see life through the eyes of a real Geisha. The create the escape into the visual realm of fantasy and draw the viewer in with what seems to be an astounding eye for the right angle of the right motion to deliver a great story.

The surprise this year, at least in my eyes, is Batman Begins. With its fast paced action sequences and dark intense settings, the movie is astounding to behold, especially for a comic book film.  Both The New World and Memoirs of a Geisha were fantastic displays of imagery set in a historic place. Brokeback Mountain was, as I have said before, a prefect example of how a great opportunity to show off breathtaking scenery has been wasted, and I ultimately question it’s nomination. The standout to me in this category is the unique, but powerful Good Night, and Good Luck. I believe that it is Robert Elswit’s ability to deliver us into the world of a 1950’s CBS News station that makes for a spectacular visual experience. Some of the shots that show the interaction between Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and Ed Murrow (David Straithairn) enhance the power of the dialogue immensely. If there is one completely underappreciated factor of this films success, it is the amazing ability of its DP to give us a unique perspective into such intense political and social themes via a lens.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Good Night, and Good Luck

WHO WILL WIN: Good Night, and Good Luck

Tags: Cinematography, Oscar, Academy Awards, Movies, Film, Entertainment

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)