Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Through the lens of a cinematography geek

January 11, 2011

The American Society of Cinematographers (that's what ASC stands for) has announced its nominees for its year-end award. I know this isn't a big deal to most people, but this is my favorite technical category. For those not in the know, the cinematographer is the camera chief - the man chiefly responsible for the lighting of a picture. 

I am a geek overall, but that's especially true when it comes to cinematographers. I know that field very well. I can spot the styles of certain DP's (that's directors of photography). I can name every cinematographer Martin Scorsese ever worked with from Mean Streets forward without looking at IMDB. I can also list all the DP's who have worked for James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.

Here's a demonstration, with some trivia about this year's nominees.

Danny Cohen, The King's Speech

Well, maybe Cohen isn't a good place to start. I'm least familiar with his work. And with all due respect, the nomination surprises me a bit. Cohen did good work, to be sure, but I would have much preferred to see Robert Richardson's work in Shutter Island nominated.

(Richardson at left, with Scorsese on Shutter Island)

Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network

Croneweith has worked with Fincher before, having shot Fight Club. He is the son of esteemed cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who shot Blade Runner. Jordon briefly worked for Fincher, having started Alien 3 before he fell ill and had to withdraw. Some of his work remains in the film, which was completed by Alex Thomson.

Cronenweth in foreground

Roger Deakins, True Grit

It's my guess that Deakins will be the one who will go on to win this year's Oscar - he's grossly overdue for one. In addition to shooting most of the Coens' films, he also shot The Shawshank Redemption and Kundun, among many others. He also served as a lighting consultant on both WALL-E and How to Train Your Dragon.

Deakins with Joel Coen

Matthew Libatique, Black Swan

Libatique has worked primarily with director Darren Aronofsky, but he also has some big-budget credits, incluidng both Iron Man movies. If I had a vote, Libatique would get it - I loved his combination of gritty realism and nighmarish visions. 

Wally Pfister, Inception

Pfister has shot every film by Christopher Nolan, save Following, which was shot by Nolan himself. He pulled a particulary neat trick with Inception, shooting some of the scenes (I suspect the snow ones) in 70 MM - something very rarely done anymore.

Pfister at left, with Nolan

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