Welcome to the first installment of my series on the Oscars. The category I'll be review this time will be Cinematography. I think a lot of people who watch the Oscars just as people who see movies without any background in the technical side of movies hear "cinematography" and simply think camera work. This is true to some extent, but not the whole story. Sure, nice camera moves and composition are important to cinematography but some of the other key aspects include extensive lighting, choice and implementation of film stock, and use of depth of field. All of these factor in to how the image is going to look and is perceived by the audience. With that being said I'll get to my analysis.
Personally, this could be my favorite of the year's films as far as cinematography goes. That being said, I'm kind of a sucker for shallow depth of field, so I don't know if my opinions would reflect the Academy's very well. The camera work was done in such a way that any time there was a shot of a single person, their face was very sharply in focus, and the rest of the image, including the rest of the head many times, was out of focus. I think in order to do this and well it takes a lot of precision, especially considering there were some crane and dolly shots that even carried that out well. Very well done, but I'm not sure it will win.
This was another example of fine cinematography from my point of view. The use of intense film grain, which is a product of the choice of film stock, really reflected the mood of the film, as well very dim lighting. These things really helped to maintain the grittiness and intense pressure portrayed throughout the movie. I also think using primarily hand-held camerawork was a good choice. To me it seemed through the hand-held, the audience was able to feel off-balance, even though as a ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman) you would think have a great sense of balance. This film was a buffet of good cinematographic choices, but, I think it, too, will unlikely win.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what this movie is doing nominated in this category. Sure, the scenes where they are floating in the hallways took very intricate camera movements, but really, there wasn't much besides that and some of the super slow motion stuff that I thought was exceptional. The cinematography was pretty good in this movie, but not great, and certainly, as far as I'm concerned, not worthy of an Oscar nomination. I'm certain it won't win but I really am uncertain why it was nominated.
Unlike Inception, I do understand the choice of True Grit as a Best Cinematography nominee. I'm sure part of this is because of the era, but some of this film's cinematography reminded me of that in There Will Be Blood. There was a lot of very nice camera choreography, and very nice use of the natural light in exposing the images. The work done in this department was probably worth the nomination, but I would be very surprised if it won the award.
This all of course leaves The Social Network. While this wasn't my favorite film of the year, I think it will probably win the Oscar, and will probably deserve it. This film had a very nice usage of several cinematographic elements, especially depth of field and film stock. These two things combined gave the film a look to the movie I feel I've never seen before, which I think is great for it in its attempt to be a zeitgeist film, making visuals from the film very memorable. Even the lighting was done in such a way so that it didn't seem unnatural, but at the same time gloomy and foreboding. A big "well done" to the Director of Photography.
Other Deserving Films
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One
I was actually really surprised to see that this film wasn't nominated. It incorporated great composition, very smooth and fitting camera moves, along with a very bleak overall look of the film, coming together beautifully, and contained some shots that actually left me in awe. If I had made the list of nominees I would have replaced Inception with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the blink of an eye. Hopefully Part Two is just as good visually as Part One, and can be redeemed at next years Oscars.
I would probably compare the cinematography in this film to that in True Grit, the highlight of which being the use of natural lighting and creating decent lighting with home fires and candles being the source light. I'm not heartbroken that it wasn't nominated, but I think if it would have been nominated it would have definitely deserved it, because it really was a beautiful film, and a large amount of the credit for that goes to the cinematography.
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