Best Cinematography – 1982

Official Nominations: Gandhi. Das Boot. ET. Sophie’s Choice. Tootsie.

Gandhi is your obvious and official winner this year – none of the other candidates come close in terms of visual scope and spacing. It helps that the films it goes up against are far from the strongest of the year – Das Boot being a 1981 movie and immediately dismissed. ET would be my second pick, and while it would be unfair to compare it to Spielberg’s previous work, those comparisons nevertheless come and the film seems less impressive. Sophie’s Choice is a fine nomination, but there always seemed to me something a little too glossy, too greased lens about its appearance for the subject matter, while Tootsie feels like less of a genuine nomination for the work as much as getting another notch on the belt for the film’s resumé.

My Winner: Gandhi

The Film Sufi: “Gandhi” - Richard Attenborough (1982)

My Nominations: Gandhi. Conan The Barbarian. Blade Runner. Koyaanisqatsi. Liquid Sky. Poltergeist. Tenebrae. The Thing.

This is a much more interesting list, and one which more accurately shows the quality of 1982. Few of my films were likely going to get a genuine nomination, but out of them all Blade Runner seems like the one with the best shot. Does anyone seriously argue that Tootsie should be nominated above Blade Runner? If you drop Das Boot and Tootsie from the Official Nominations, one of those places would be picked up by Blade Runner. Jordan Cronenweth did pick up a BAFTA for his stunning work, and while influence is difficult to determine at the time of release, we now know just how influential him and the film have become.

Koyaanisqatsi had an outside shot of being nominated – every so often an indie or experimental film will grab a random nomination and while this no longer has the impact it once would have had, it still makes an impression on first time viewers. Similarly Liquid Sky will leave a lasting impression with its weird concoction of visual and audio assault techniques, but it’s far too offbeat to ever be spoken of in polite Academy circles.

I can sympathize with an argument for Poltergeist being nominated if ET is – or at least there being a 50/50 choice between the two. While ET may have the more iconic images, I think Poltergeist uses its visuals in a more impactful way on the viewer and on the story. Tenebrae is stunning – we’re at peak Argento and Tovoli here and aside from the colouring and lighting, the technical feats throughout the film exceed any of the Official Nominations.

My final picks, while unashamedly biased, are also wonderful examples of making a film’s look and feel an integral part of its overall tone. Conan The Barbarian is a gorgeous movie from start to finish with a sense of the epic to suit its tales of high adventure sensibility, while The Thing – a film almost purely about paranoia and tension – is suitably with low angles, from around corners, and from within shadows.

My Winner: Blade Runner

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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!

Best Cinematography – 1980

Official Nominations: Tess. The Blue Lagoon. The Coal Miner’s Daughter. The Formula. Raging Bull

Another instance of a fairly hefty snub. We all know Raging Bull should be winning this one, by some distance. Tess looks great, The Blue Lagoon actually doesn’t look that great especially in retrospect, and The Coal Miner’s Daughter is more a case of the movie needing to be nominated because it’s also in the bigger categories. The Formula is a long forgotten John G Avildsen movie which also features John Gielgud, George C Scott, and Marlon Brando. It’s not great, but with that list of names you have to give it a go. It looks fine, doesn’t need to be nominated, hasn’t a chance to win, and look at the films which were missed.

My Winner: Raging Bull

Michael Chapman, Cinematographer of 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver,' Dies at 84 — World of Reel

My Nominations: Raging Bull. The Empire Strikes Back. Altered States. The Big Red One. The Elephant Man. The Fog. Heaven’s Gate. Inferno. Kagemusha. The Shining.

What a banging list, all worthy, but only one an Official Nominee. I still think Raging Bull wins this so it’s of no consequence, but some of these come close and have stood the test of time. Altered States sees Russell and Jordan Cronenweth pulling out all the stops as reality blurs, while The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best looking, best shot Star Wars movie. Adam Greenberg – known for his moody sci-fi work – cut his teeth in the big time many years into his career on The Big Red One, a downbeat grizzled war movie. The Elephant Man not getting a nomination is ridiculous, Heaven’s Gate was so destroyed critically and commercially that it was never going to get nominated (even though time has shown it to be a gorgeous movie), and Kagemusha deserved a nomination given the Western Producing influence (beyond the quality of the movie). My final three picks fall to the Horror genre – Inferno isn’t quite on the level of Suspiria but it’s only a slight notch down, The Shining is cold, distant, spacious and claustrophobic, and The Fog is one of the most underrated Horror movies in terms of how it looks, which is unfortunate because it nails the look of a campfire ghost story better than anything else I’ve ever seen.

My Winner: Raging Bull.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1979

Official Nominations: Apocalypse Now. 1941. All That Jazz. The Black Hole. Kramer Vs Kramer.

While there are notable films here, it’s not even close – the winner is Apocalypse Now. Even disregarding the conditions and hardships which went hand in hand with the shoot, the film stands alone as maybe the most stunning looking war film of its era. From the hyper-real napalm flames against the ghastly greens, to Kurtz and Willard’s shadow encased scenes at the other end, Vittorio Storaro vision perfectly encapsulates the madness and horror of that particular war. 1941 is an altogether different war movie, a forgotten ensemble comedy directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s memorable for certain action and effects sequences and feels like a worthy nomination for Fraker who continued his late 70s run of nominations. All That Jazz looks authentic, The Black Hole throws a lot of tricks into a fancy 2001 esque ending, while Kramer Versus Kramer probably doesn’t warrant a nomination alongside the more uniquely shot films here.

Official Winner: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now Final Cut Release Date Set for August – /Film

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Alien. All That Jazz. Dracula. Mad Max. Nosferatu. Star Trek. The Warriors.

Two of the official picks make it over to my list where I add a few brazen oversights. Alien is one of the most visually stunning films of the year, and of the decade. Derek Vanlint didn’t work on many movies in his career, but his work on Alien has stood the test of time, offering a tasteful impression of true isolation and the terror which can creep from such. Gilbert Taylor’s work on Dracula serves to highlight the enticing and seductive nature of the character with brighter splashes of decadent colour stepping away from the more Gothic or bleak visuals of past adaptations.

As I’ve mentioned on other posts regarding Mad Max, the film holds a unique place in my mind as being this bizarre assault on the senses and an unnerving, crazed look at a potential future. David Eggby’s work is one of the central forces behind the atmosphere this film instils and exudes, with the film existing in this strange place between epic and low budget grime. Nosferatu does more than ape the original, with long-term Herzog collaborator Jorg Schmidt-Reinwein heightening the contrast between darkness and shadow and the misty, dying light. Star Trek repeats the trick Star Wars pulled a couple of years earlier, while The Warriors elevates a B movie action story to cult status thanks in part to Andrew Laszlo’s filming notable for the subway lighting and haunted street imagery which for years made me think that’s exactly what New York looked like.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

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!

Best Cinematography – 1977

Official Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Islands In The Stream. Julia. Looking For Mr. Goodbar. The Turning Point.

Movies about dance, or Musicals and Costume Dramas in general historically tend to do well in this category but I find them often too stage driven rather than using the camera in innovate ways or truly capturing a landscape or a scene – for that reason The Turning Point is out, even it was shot by a guy who knew his stuff, also shooting Ben Hur and The Sting. Julia fares bettershot by the great Douglas Slocombe who worked on everything from The Lavender Hill Mob to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Looking For Mr Goodbar seems like an odd choice in this category and more of an apology to Fraker for missing out on Bullitt and Rosemary’s Baby. Islands In The Stream (that is what we are) is more in line with what I think of when discussing cinematography, what with it and its protagonist’s obsession with the sea. My winner of course has to be the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond who reunites with Spielberg for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – that rare sci-fi movie which is both set on Earth yet features stunning visuals and iconic shots.

My Winner: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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My Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Star Wars. A Bridge Too Far. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. Saturday Night Fever. Sorcerer. Suspiria.

Only my winner makes it over to the list and would be a good pick for winner here too, but I think I’ll change it up and spread the love. Star Wars, beyond the scenes in space and on ships, showcases a number of planets and places portraying a varied and vibrant universe. Scenes on Tattooine and beyond have become iconic and often mimicked. A Bridge To Far is a war epic in every sense and Geoffrey Unsworth uses his vast experience of battle work and innovation here. Cross Of Iron takes a more violent approach with John Coquillon’s exterior work being particularly notable. The Duellists is often, justifiably, compared to Barry Lyndon in terms of story and filming look and tone and much of that is due to Frank Tidy’s contribution while Saturday Night Fever paints an accurate depiction of the neon sleaze and pumped up momentary glory of the late 70s Disco scene.

Sorceror relies heavily on its taught direction and tight performances but also on its depiction of overbearing cities, rain and sweat drenched forests, and a camera that never wants to rest. Finally, Dario Argento and Luciano Tovoli create a horror film like no other with his dreamlike Suspiria, a film with a visual palette of extremes which never fails to startle newcomers and continually impress critics.

My Winner: Suspiria

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1975

Official Nominations: Barry Lyndon. The Day Of The Locust. Funny Lady. The Hindenburg. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

One of these is not like the others. The Academy just had to nominate a Streisand movie for something so Funny Lady gets five nominations, this the least deserved. I don’t know if One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest really needs to be here either, but The Hindenburg is worthy even if it isn’t all that great a film. The Day Of The Locust is the only real competition here – while the set design is the highlight, the overall look of the film is strong enough to stand out. Barry Lyndon is the only choice here, with John Alcott and Kubrick working in tandem to create one of the most beautiful looking films of all time – from gorgeous interior lighting to the wide exteriors of various locations it’s of the easiest wins in this category.

My Winner: Barry Lyndon

My Nominations: Bite The Bullet. The Passenger. Barry Lyndon. Jaws. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Deep Red.

There are a number of notable snubs this year – Jaws being the most obvious  omission. When I was young, the visions of Amity, the visions of the beach and the ocean were my first glimpses of what North America Summers really looked like – in Northern Ireland it’s grey 90% of the year, so those hazy visuals were like  dream. Where the look truly excels from a technical standpoint is the variety of shots – not only the famous zoom to Brody, but the underwater creeping shots, the on the surface bobbing, the longer shots conveying the isolation of the three men in the ocean, and more. From a purely visual point of view, The Passenger may be the only film this year to rival Barry Lyndon, with long shots which are never less than stunning and make you wonder how they were achieved.

Bite The Bullet is all but forgotten now, a shame given it was directed by Richard Brooks and features Gene Hackman, James Coburn, Jan Michael Vincent, and Candice Bergen. It’s basically a bunch of different characters involved in a cross country horse race – think Cannonball Run but without the comedy and cars, but it looks great and showcases plenty of stunning locations. Deep Red, while not as visually stunning is certain later work, features Dario Argento honing his style alongside Luigi Kuveiller. Finally, Picnic At Hanging Rock dazzles not only because of its uncertain ending and chilling tone, but because of the way the cinematography complements the ambiguity, everything looking idyllic and dreamlike.

My Winner: Barry Lyndon

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1974

Official Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Earthquake. Chinatown. Lenny. Murder On The Orient Express

Three period pieces and two disaster movies make up the list this year, with Joseph Biroc and Fred J Koenekamp picking up a deserved win for The Towering Inferno. Earthquake is a fun, effects filled movie but pales to the winner in most aspects, while Lenny is the least interesting looking of the period films. Murder On The Orient Express uses all of the landscape and sets inherent in the story well, while Chinatown has an almost sepia touch throughout giving a subtle sense of age.

My Winner: The Towering Inferno

My Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Chinatown. Murder On The Orient Express. The Godfather II. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Blazing Saddles.

Three make it to my list, and joining them is The Godfather Part 2 – lets face it, it’s probably going to be nominated for every applicable category. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another unsurprising inclusion by me, a film with a look which has been mimicked countless times, but never matched – not even when Daniel Pearl returned for the remake decades later. Blazing Saddles gets on because it’s always nice to nominate when a comedy has a more or less unique look, while The Conversation has a moody, claustrophobic feel glimpsed through the narrowed lens of long distance shots. Finally, The Sugarland Express sees Spielberg make his first outing with the renowned Vilmos Zsigmond – a partnership which would eventually lead to an official win.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

Let us know in the comments which film you pick as winner!

Best Cinematography – 1973

Official Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The Sting. The Way We Were.

The official winner this year was Sven Nykvist for Cries And Whispers – arguably a career award for his overall work with Bergman, though there is no doubting that the transition to colour use is stunning here. The Exorcist isn’t a film I typically think of when I think of award-winning cinematography, though once again there are a range of shots which encapsulate claustrophobia and heighten tension. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is not good, but again no getting away from how good it looks at times, while The Sting is at least notable for looking good, even if I attribute this more to the authenticity of costumes, sets, and music. Finally, The Way We Were seems like an unnecessary inclusion to drum up support for Streisand, Pollack, and Redford.

My Winner: Cries And Whispers

My Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Enter The Dragon. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. High Plains Drifter. The Wicker Man.

Only two migrate to my list. Joining them is Bruce Lee’s biggest film Enter The Dragon, a film which still looks superb today with wonderful shots tracking the progress of the tournament from high above, interspersed with the close up work for the central fights. Malick’s debut Badlands is beautiful at regular intervals along with both Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man which showcase optimal usage of location. Finally, another film whose power is derived in a great part from location is High Plains Drifter. I’d be happy with any of those last four films picking up the win.

My Winner: Badlands

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think deserves the Best Cinematography award!

Best Cinematography – 1972

Official Nominations: Cabaret. 1776. Butterflies Are Free. The Poseidon Adventure. Travels With My Aunt.

Cabaret gets the expected nomination and win but there’s only one winner in this category for me. 1776 is not a film many will remember or know, a musical overshadowed by Minnelli, Fosse and co. It’s based around George Washington and all that stuff, but it’s a bit crap. I’ve no idea why Butterflies Are Free is nominated here and I could say the same for Travels With My Aunt.

My Winner: The Poseidon Adventure.

Poseidon-Adventure-1972.JPG

My Nominations: Cabaret. The Poseidon Adventure. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God. Cries And Whispers. Deliverance. The Way Of The Dragon. The Godfather. Images. The Last House On The Left.

Only the big two make it onto my list. Cries And Whispers would get the official win next year, but as it’s a 1972 film it makes my list here. The Godfather bizarrely was not nominated so we fix that mishap, The Way Of The Dragon deserves at least a nomination for Cinematography – maybe the only realistic category it deserved to get a shot in, and Aguirre is a gorgeous film underrepresented by The Academy. Images is a very interesting piece with an interesting look. The Last House On The Left is stark in imagery and tone but is a perfect example of making beauty out of something ugly. My win goes to Vilmos Zsignmond for Deliverance – he would get an official win later but his work here deserved attention.

My Winner: Deliverance

Let us know in the comments which film you pick as winner of the Best Cinematography of 1972!