Best Cinematography – 1976

Official Nominations: Bound For Glory. King Kong. Logan’s Run. Network. A Star Is Born.

It’s a strange category this year. I’m probably biased when I think of cinematography as my first thoughts always go to wide shots, long shots, stunning locations – the sorts of work you tend to see in epics, Westerns, David Lean films etc. Obviously I’m dumbing that waay down but that’s my bias though The Academy generally nominates along similar lines of thought. This year there is precious little of that, at least in the official nominees. Bound For Glory isn’t that interesting a film, patriotic and based on a story I’m not really invested in, but it works as another one of those ‘fight for your dreams’ sagas that people love, USA dudes in particular. It does look good though, has a good cast, and probably got the win for its Steadicam work.

King Kong is the big and brash remake of the perfect original. It’s campy and fun but pretty dated now, though the location work still holds up, New York’s drenched neon’s in stark contrast to Kong’s home. Logan’s Run is a film I’ve always enjoyed – more Jenny Agutter is always a good thing in my book, but it’s campy and fun too. It’s interesting that it ever got nominated, even in this category, but it does have its moments. Network I don’t think really needs to be here, while A Star Is Born doesn’t earn a spot in my view either.

My Winner: King Kong

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My Nominations: Assault On Precinct 13. All The President’s Men. Kings Of The Road. The Man Who Fell To Earth. The Missouri Breaks. Rocky.

None of the official nominees make my list. We start out with Assault On Precinct 13 – a film which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, and this category would be a good place to start. As dirty, grim, and violent as the film is there are some gorgeous sunset shots and the change in styles from the scorching daylight to the hostile claustrophobic night should not go unrecognized. If you know me then you’ll know I love sunset or sunrise shots in movies – those seem to go hand in hand with a shift in tone or the film’s most poignant, thoughtful moments and the passing of day to night is something personal for me that I’ll always love.

Of all of the films I’ve selected, All The President’s Men seems like the most natural snub – the one which The Academy should have nominated. For a film set largely in one interior setting – not something which usually excites me from a cinematography perspective, Gordon Willis and Alan J Pakula give an intense fluorescent gleam to proceedings. The fact that they are able to overcome the inherent problems of this setting – the draw distance of the background office shots, the many glass and screen surfaces, the maze of floor space and cubicles to work around – is to their immense credit, but to do it with style and authentic voice is something else. Wim Wenders pops up with his nihilistic road movie Kings Of The Road – road movies are again a sub-genre which lends itself to interesting and captivating shots which strike me on a personal level. The Man Who Fell To Earth is one of those movies that you stumble upon late at night having no idea what it is, but get sucked in to and mesmerized by – the Cinematography has a large part in that.

Continuing the theme of personal stuff and bias, The Missouri Breaks offers a depiction of slow death – of a civilization, a place and time, a way of life crumbling away – you’ve guessed it, something which I’ve always had an interest in. Rocky is a bigger budget, bigger scale version of everything I love in Assault On Precinct 13, with the claustrophobia replaced by great in ring work. Taxi Driver you feel is the one film which was most glaringly overlooked in this category – the rain and neon soaked debauched mean streets of NYC never looking more poisonous.

My Winner: Assault On Precinct 13

Let us know your winner in the comments!

One thought on “Best Cinematography – 1976

  1. John Charet September 9, 2019 / 3:55 am

    Great alternate choices, but you should have also nominated Michael Chapman’s cinematography from Taxi Driver as well 🙂 Love all of your choices though 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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