Oscar's Best Cinematography 2021

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Who's visuals will be named Best Cinematography this year?
0%
0 votes
Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah
60.00%
6 votes
Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
0%
0 votes
Phedon Papamichael, The Trial of the Chicago 7
40.00%
4 votes
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
0%
0 votes
Dariusz Wolski, News of the World
10 votes. You may not vote on this poll




The five films singled out for their cinematography this year. Which will win Oscar gold?

Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah


Erik Messerschmidt, Mank


Phedon Papamichael, The Trial of the Chicago 7


Joshua James Richards, Nomadland


Dariusz Wolski, News of the World

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Professional horse shoe straightener
In a year that gave us 'The Painted Bird' and 'This is not a burial it’s a resurrection', we have a courtroom drama up for best cinematography

Never change Academy.



Sorry, carry on.



The Painted Bird is a beautifully shot film...and it was eligible at LAST year's Academy Awards where 1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood competed for the award (Roger Deakins won for 1917).

Carry on yourself.



Professional horse shoe straightener
The Painted Bird is a beautifully shot film...and it was eligible at LAST year's Academy Awards where 1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood competed for the award (Roger Deakins won for 1917).

Carry on yourself.
It doesn't really matter what film(s) I used in the example to be honest.



Welcome to the human race...
Will reserve judgment until I see all the nominees, but it doesn't seem like there's a "showy" contender that looks like an obvious favourite. Maybe Nomadland with its handheld cameras and magic hour will be enough to win over the people who thought The Revenant was good.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



It doesn't really matter what film(s) I used in the example to be honest.
Yes, your constant outrage is duly noted and we all know it has nothing to do with the specifics.



I'd say the majority of The Trial of the Chicago 7 takes place outside of a courtroom, for whatever that's worth.

And of course sometimes these kinds of achievements are specifically about taking a boring or well-tread style of film and using the medium to make it more compelling, like a flawed gymnastic routine being rated higher because of degree of difficulty.



Professional horse shoe straightener
Yes, your constant outrage is duly noted and we all know it has nothing to do with the specifics.
I think debate from more than 1 side is healthy. But I'll stop. I don't want to cause offence.



I'd say Nomadland should take this, just because it was a more landscape-y film than the others.
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well i havent seen none of them so i wouldnt have a clue
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Four of the five nominees here match with the American Society of Cinematographers top award: Mank, Nomadland, News of the World, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. The one difference is Newton Thomas Sigel's work for the Russo Brothers' Cherry was substituted for Judas and the Black Messiah by that voting body.



This is Sean Bobbit's first Oscar nomination, in spite of an excellent filmography. His first feature credit was Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland (1999) and after that he did a lot of television, shorts, and documentaries. A few of those smaller projects were with director Steve McQueen. When he made the jump to features Bobbit has been his DP ever since for Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), 12 Years a Slave (2013), and Widows (2018). In addition to that collaboration he’s also lensed Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), Neil Jordan's Byzantium (2012), Spike Lee's Oldboy (2013) re-make, Michael Cuesta's Kill the Messenger (2014), Mira Nair's Queen of Katwe (2016), David Gordon Green's Stronger (2017), and last year Reed Morano's The Rhythm Section as well as Shaka King's Judas and the Black Messiah. Bobbit is a longer shot to actually win this year, but now that he has broken through he will likely be back.




Joshua James Richards is also a first-time nominee and Nomadland only his fourth feature. He has shot all three of Chloé Zhao’s flicks. The indie success of The Rider (2017) brought both the director and her cinematographer some attention and that has jumped to the next level with Nomadland. Joshua also served as the film’s production designer. The look of heightened cinematic naturalism serves the project well. The no-frills verité camera capturing the isolation and occasional beauty of the transient lifestyle and the mostly non-professional actors worked perfectly. While his fellow cinematographers appreciated the effort I’m not sure if it will play “big enough" to capture votes from the other disciplines? Zhao did not bring Richards along for her MCU adventure The Eternals (for that they used Ben Davis who has already shot Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel) but when she inevitably returns to more personal filmmaking I suspect Joshua will be collaborating with her.




Dariusz Wolski also gets his first Oscar nomination, though he has been working in features since the early 1990s. After lensing dozens of music videos in the 1980s he made the leap to features with the likes of Peter Medak’s neo-noir Romeo is Bleeding (1993), Alex Proyas’ The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998), Tony Scott’s Crimson Tide (1995) and The Fan (1996), Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd (2007) and Alice in Wonderland (20120), and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), The Counselor (2013), Exodus: Gods & Kings (2014), The Martian (2015), Alien: Covenant (2017), and All the Money in the World (2017). He also shot all (so-far) of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

News of the World is his first pairing with Paul Greengrass as well as his first true Western. The movie missed out on the big nominations like Best Picture and Best Actor picking up only Best Sound, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score nods (James Newton Howard’s ninth nomination). That may seem to make its Oscar odds unlikely here, but Best Cinematography is rarely paired with Best Picture these days, and a handful of the winners from this century have triumphed without the bigger nominations (Blade Runner 2049, Memoirs of a Geisha, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Road to Perdition) so it would not be unheard of.




Phedon Papamichael is the only member of this class to have a previous nomination. It came for his black & white work in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska (2013) where he lost that year to Emmanuel Lubezki and Gravity, the beginning of Lubezki’s historic three-year run of Academy Award wins. Some of Phedon’s most high-profile credits in his over thirty-year career include Ford v Ferrari (2019), The Ides of March (2011), The Descendants (2011), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Walk the Line (2005), Sideways (2004), and Identity (2003). Like Judas and the Black Messiah Sorkin and Papamichael recreate late ‘60s Chicago, including the infamous riots around the Democratic National Convention and of course the resulting trial. Of the two projects, personally I give the edge to Judas and the Black Messiah. But we’ll see how the Oscar voting pool feels and if maybe these two essentially cancel each other out?




Since the Academy dispensed with giving separate awards for color and black & white cinematography after the 1967 ceremony, in those fifty-three years there have only been fourteen primarily black & white features nominated: In Cold Blood (1967), The Last Picture Show (1971), Lenny (1974), Raging Bull (1980), Schindler’s List (1993), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), The White Ribbon (2009), Nebraska (2013), Ida (2014), Cold War (2018), Roma (2018), The Lighthouse (2019), and now Mank (2020). It is definitely trending upwards as half of those noms have come in the last eleven years. The only two wins thus far are Janusz Kamiński for Schindler’s List and Alfonso Cuarón shooting his own Roma.

David Fincher is one of the most visually influential directors of his generation. Perhaps surprisingly given that calling card this is only the fourth of his movies to get a nomination in this category. Claudio Miranda was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Slumdog Millionaire won) and Jeff Cronenweth was nominated in back-to-back years for both The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Inception and Hugo took the Oscars). Mank has a fever dream quality to it while also hitting some of the visual tropes that Gregg Toland and Welles invented for Citizen Kane (1941). That collaboration was incredibly influential right from the get-go, though it did not win the Oscar that year. With ten films nominated for their black & white photography it was Arthur C. Miller’s work on John Ford’s Best Picture winner How Green Was My Valley that bested Kane.

Erik Messerschmidt worked his way up the old-fashioned way, from grip and gaffer and lighting technician to shooting some second until footage. One of these jobs included being gaffer on Gone Girl. Apparently Fincher saw something he liked a whole heck of a lot because he promoted him to director of photography for his Netflix series ”Mindhunter” and now Erik makes his proper feature debut as a cinematographer with Mank. It is certainly the most ambitious and complex of the five nominees. Will that translate into an Oscar statue?



Mank hands down. The whole movie felt hand painted!
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Erik Messerschmidt and Mank became just the third black & white film to win here in the past fifty-four years joining Schindler's List and Roma. He also won the American Society of Cinematographers Award. That was their fourth B&W winner since their inception in 1986, and their winners differed from Oscar's: The Man Who Wasn't There (Roger Deakins), The White Ribbon (Christian Berger), and Cold War (Łukasz Żal).



Glad to see Erik Messerschmidt win it for Mank. His work was stunning. He's a comparatively young DP, and we can be sure of seeing him on major feature films in the future.