Best Cinematography – 1978

Official Nominations: Days Of Heaven. The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait. Same Time, Next Year. The Wiz.

Two major front runners this year, with Nestor Almendros coming out on top for his glorious work on Days Of Heaven. Famed for his work with Truffaut his collaboration with Terence Malick recalls the natural beauty of Barry Lyndon with a preference for natural light over studio artificial and electronic lighting. I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but I love films which frequently are set during or show heavy usage of sunrise/sunsets, and Days Of Heaven is maybe the finest example of this with many key scenes filmed under those conditions. The legendary Vilmos Zsigmond followed up his 1977 win with another nomination, this time for The Deer Hunter, a film which finely balances the grotesque nature of war against the beauty of nature and the futility of the players who exist in both. From the dew and mist covered hills and sullen industry of the US, to the heightened colours and overcrowded chaos of Vietnam it drifts between sensory assault and introspective calm.

William A Fraker got his second nomination in a row – something which often happens in this category – for Heaven Can Wait. I’ve always found the Heaven scenes in this to be little different from all those standard tropes you’ve seen before in everything from Tom And Jerry to A Matter Of Life And Death and there isn’t anything out of the ordinary back on terra firma. Same Time Next Year gets nominated purely because it was nominated in other categories and as a veteran nomination for Robert Surtees, while The Wiz is notable for its staged musical numbers and transposing the world of Oz into our world but still feels like a veteran nod. It’s a tough call between the top two, and either is a worthy winner.

My Winner: Days Of Heaven

How 'Days of Heaven' Was Filmed With a Visually Impaired ...

My Nominations: Days Of Heaven. The Deer Hunter. Big Wednesday. Death On The Nile. Halloween. Superman.

Two make it over to my list, joining four personal choices. Of my personal choices, Death On The Nile seems like the most plausible possible nominee. The legendary Jack Cardiff was already a veteran and Oscar winner by this point, and with Death On The Nile he helped give the film a more authentic period feel while exploiting the usual Egyptian landmarks with typical flair. Big Wednesday is a frequently gorgeous film – most notably in the surfing and beach shots – with Bruce Surtees using his experience working with Leone and Eastwood to provide many memorable long shots. Frequent Carpenter collaborator got his first chance to work with John on Halloween – a film with a look so iconic that it remains to me what the Halloween season should look like – wide Autumnal streets which seem tame and ideal during the day, becoming a looming ominous maze under the cover of darkness. Finally, Superman saw Geoffrey Unsworth receive a posthumous BAFTA nom, but his work which laid the foundations for every Superhero movie which has followed, was overlooked by The Academy.

My Winner: Days Of Heaven

Let us know your winner in the comments!

One thought on “Best Cinematography – 1978

  1. John Charet July 2, 2020 / 3:13 am

    Can’t go wrong with Days of Heaven 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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