This post presents 6 cinematographers that were not nominated for the 3 major awards this past season.
Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan with cinematography by Gökhan Tiryaki
and the nominees were...
Many of us are presently suffering from post-awards-season fatigue. The months of December to January are filled with a flurry of Hollywood award shows. This implies a lot of press coverage, with ink and pixels, focused on about a dozen films, and their filmmakers.
For cinematographers of English-language films, the major awards are given by the ASC, BAFTA and the Oscars. These 3 awards are intertwined, and confer a level of fame to cinematographers that is not yet achieved by other honors. This year's nominees included wonderful work by 7 cinematographers:
All of this year's top-notch cinematographers fully deserved their nominations, and their films merited the in-depth coverage they received. For my part, I am pleased to have contributed an AC article on Dick Pope's masterful cinematography for Mr. Turner, in addition to my print and on-line coverage of Ida.
As we know, the great Emmanuel Lubezki swept all 3 awards with the simulated single-take of Birdman. This is the second year in a row that Chivo won all three honors (last year it was for the virtual cinematography of Gravity), a unique recognition for this pioneering cinematographer.
Also noteworthy, Lukasz and Ryzsard were the first cinematographers ever nominated for an Oscar for a Polish-language film. Obviously cinematography nominations almost always go to English-language films. Marcin Kulakowski took this great photo of Lukasz Zal and Polish friends getting the unusual Oscar news:
The Academy is said to be rethinking their recent decision to up the best film nominations from 5 to 10. I believe that they should go the other way, and augment the number of best cinematography nominees to 10, and perhaps the ASC should too...
Now that the dust has settled, I would like to suggest half a dozen other cinematographers whose work touched me in 2014. These folks were not nominated for the ASC, BAFTA or Oscar, but they deserve our attention nonetheless, and I invite you to see their films, if you haven't already. You can think of these cinematographers as "almost famous".
I focus in this post on less well-known cinematographers, and not other, established ASC DPs who made striking films in 2014, like Jeff Cronenweth (Gone Girl), BSC member Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy), Robert Elswitt (Inherent Vice), Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher), Darius Khondji (The Immigrant), Rodrigo Prieto (The Homesman) and Newton Thomas Sigel (X-Men: Days of Future Past). These guys are already famous! :)
Instead, the images in this post give a glimpse of less familiar work, to remind us that the circle of talented cinematographers extends far beyond the mostly English-language films and filmmakers that have gotten most of the media attention. Below is a list of 6 "extra nominees" whose work touched me in 2014.
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Sofian El Fani (Tunisian)- TIMBUKTU by Abderrahmane Sissako
Timbuktu shows the tyranny of Islamic fundamentalists in Mali in a series of stirring tableaux from everyday life. El Fani's muted and poetic desert cinematography is essential to the humanity of Sissako's understated film. The film was actually shot in Mauritania on a low budget with 2 Alexas.
El Fani won the 2015 French Cesar for best cinematography.
Mikhael Krichman, RGC (Russian)- LEVIATHAN by Andrey Zvyagintsev.
Leviathan is an epic tapestry of a movie, as rich as a Russian novel. The film recounts the story of one man's fight to save his house from a corrupt mayor who wants to level it, and unfolds as a personal tragedy inspired by the book of Job, and enfolded in Mikhael's poetic naturalism embued in Northern light. Leviathan was shot in 35mm film with an Arricam and Zeiss Master Primes.
Leviathan earned Mikhael the Golden Frog at Camerimage 2014.
Gökhan Tiryaki (Turkish)- WINTER SLEEP by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Winter Sleep is a psychological drama centered around an imperious ex-actor and landowner and his wife and sister isolated in a remote hotel. The film feels like a mix of Checkhov and Bergman. Tiryaki's ravishing cinematography sets the stage with a blend of snowy exteriors and claustrophobic interiors. Winter Sleep was shot with a Sony F65, and Zeiss Master Primes.
Winter Sleep won the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
André Turpin (French-Canadian)- MOMMY by Xavier Dolan
Mommy follows the attempts of a vivacious French-Canadian mother to cope with her troubled, hyperactive adolescent son, with the help of a reserved school-teacher neighbor. Mommy was shot on 35mm film, with Arricams and Zeiss Master Primes. I interviewed André in my previous post.
André's work on Mommy earned him the Bronze Frog at Camerimage 2014.
Bradford Young (American)- A MOST VIOLENT YEAR by J.C. Chandor / SELMA by Ava Duvernay
This year has been a turning point for Young, with two strong releases. Both films were shot with an Alexa XT and anamorphic lenses: Hawks for Violent and Zeiss Masters for Selma. Selma is an important political film about Dr. Martin Luther King's historic march against segregation in the 1960s, and Young succeeds in rendering an epic story with intimate moments.
Young's work on A Most Violent Year is more stylized, offering a contrasty, colorful palette with top light that sometimes evokes Gordon Willis. Violent is what I illustrated above.
Bradford Young was nominated for a 2014 Independent Spirit Award for Selma.
Haris Zambarloukas, BSC (British)- LOCKE by Steven Knight
Locke is an amazing cinematographic and production achievement. The film takes place almost entirely in a car, with a single on-screen actor, who plays Locke. The movie follows him on a life-changing car trip to be present at the birth of his child, the result of a one-night drunken fling. On the way, Locke has intense, recurring phone conversations with his wife, his child, the mother-to-be, his employer and employee. Locke was shot over 8 nights in half-hour takes with 3 Red Epic cameras and Panavision C series anamorphic lenses with an occasional half-silvered mirror. Haris' night-time anamorphic two-layered cinematography is a stunning imaging of Locke's introspection.
There are many other promising and talented DPs I did not include in this limited space, I hope to cover them in future posts.
test of time
As I look back at the awards season, I recall Alejandro Iñarritu's wise words upon accepting the Oscar for best director for Birdman:
"Ego loves competition because, for someone to win, someone has to lose. But the paradox is that true art, true individual expression ... can't be compared, can't be labelled, can't be defeated. Our work will be only judged, as always, by time."
YouTube: Sofian El Fani interview
YouTube: Timbuktu trailer
Mikhail Krichman's web site
YouTube: Leviathan Trailer 1
YouTube: Leviathan UK trailer
YouTube: Leviathan excerpt
Winter Sleep: website
Gökhan Tiryaki's web site
YouTube: Winter Sleep US trailer
thefilmbook: Mommy: André Turpin interview
YouTube: Mommy trailer
Bradford Young's web site
YouTube: A Most Violent Year trailer
YouTube: Selma trailer
Haris Zambarloukos, BSC web site
vimeo: LOCKE BSC Q & A with Haris Zambarloukos,BSC & producer Guy Heeley in conversation with Barry Ackroyd, BSC
YouTube: Locke trailer
Frame grabs by Benjamin B
You can also refer to these American Cinematographer print articles:
Locke by Jon Witmer - May 2014
Mommy by Benjamin B - February 2015
A Most Violent Year & Selma by Patricia Thompson - February 2015