Best Cinematography – 1981

Official Nominations: Reds. Excalibur. On Golden Pond. Ragtime. Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Vittorio Storaro picked up his second win in as many years, this time for Reds. It’s not exactly on par with Apocalypse Now – what is – but I’m happy for the recognition he was getting around this time after a couple of decades of excellent work before. It’s nice to see something like Excalibur in with a shout, the fantasy genre usually entirely dismissed by The Academy but Alex Thomson’s work elevating things in their eyes. On Golden Pond was always going get a nomination, Ragtime is a curious but justified pick, and Raiders never had a shot of winning but couldn’t be avoided. It’s Raiders which yet again gets my vote, with Douglas Slocombe never picking up an official win even after Academy favourites such as The Lion In Winter and British classics like The Italian Job. Slocombe’s hazy, sun-sweated vision is just as vital a part of the Indiana Jones saga as Ford, Spielberg, or Lucas are.

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark – [FILMGRAB]

My Nominations: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Blow Out. Chariots Of Fire. Clash Of The Titans. Escape From New York. For Your Eyes Only. Gallipoli. The Road Warrior. Quest For Fire. Southern Comfort.

I’ve only pulled Raiders over so that I could make room for the more interesting choices. Of my additions, only Chariots Of Fire realistically stood a chance of getting a nom due to its other noms and wins – David Watkin would win a few years later for Out Of Africa. Elsewhere, my choices range from the mumbling pseudo-history of Quest For Fire, which shoots Africa and Scotland to look otherworldly, to the outright fantasy of Clash Of The Titans giving me early fantasies of wanting to move to Greece when I grew up.

Gallipoli should have been in with a shot of receiving a genuine nomination, Russell Boyd continuing his stellar work with Peter Weir, while Blow Out is one of the more visually oppressive and chilling De Palma film’s, enhanced by Vilmos Zsigmond. For Your Eyes Only is one of the more chilling Bond movies, not least because of the snowy locales, but because it’s the most serious of the Moore flicks. From Cortina, to Greece, to England, locations are part and parcel of the Bond package but Alan Hume doesn’t allow the glitz and glamour to take central stage and instead play a role in grounding the story as more of a character piece than most Bond movies.

Southern Comfort even more impressively uses its location as a character, the smouldering and dense rivers and forests of the bayou, squeezing ever inwards to trap a group of National Guard members as they fight among themselves for survival after upsetting the locals. Escaping from dangerous locals is just a day in the life of Snake Plissken, with Dean Cundy’s shadow-drenched Escape From New York every bit as oppressive as Walter Hill’s swamps. Finally, The Road Warrior receives another nomination from me, showing the unending wasteland of the outback as a permanently sunlit purgatory.

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Let us know your winner in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Best Cinematography – 1981

  1. John Charet April 28, 2022 / 3:55 am

    Great post 🙂 I would have also nominated Gordon Willis work on Pennies from Heaven, but everything else is perfect 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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