Best Cinematography 2003

1998 through 2007

Best Cinematography of 2003

Russell Boyle (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)
Cesar Charlone (City of God)
John Schwartzman (Seabiscuit)
No votes
John Seale (Cold Mountain)
Eduardo Serra (The Girl with the Pearl Earring)
Total votes: 20

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Re: Best Cinematography 2003

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:05 pm

I voted for City of God, which has so much more life in its camerawork than the other four dull nominees put together. This is a lackluster group.

As for also-rans, I will go with Sabin's citing of Elephant and Kill Bill. I would also throw a nomination towards The Company, a movie which most seem to have forgot existed but which captures dance on film better than most any other film I've seen.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2003

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:12 pm

Not a very strong year for this category. The Return of the King is probably the only omission that really disappoints me, and even that is tempered by the fact that the series had already been rewarded here.

Seabiscuit is a pretty paint-by-numbers affair across the board, and I find its goopy Depression-era images to be fairly generic stuff. After the ASC prize, I was relieved it didn't prevail here.

I think The Return of the King would have won this category (and Sound Editing) had the nominators in those branches not excluded it; it was to Master and Commander's good luck that these omissions came in two categories where it could easily make a case for itself as the next-best epic choice. I like that Master and Commander went for a less slick look than many contemporaneous epics -- it clearly isn't just trying to be Gladiator on the high seas -- but I find it ultimately more proficient technically than anything genuinely artful.

Cold Mountain has some strong moments -- the early-film battle scenes are evocatively shot, and I'd say the movie makes the landscape feel like a more lived-in environment than many postcard-perfect historical pieces, conveying the gloomy feeling of a nation at war both on the battle field and the home front. It is not, though, an achievement to rival Seale's work on The English Patient, or even The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I almost wanted to throw another vote to City of God, which I think is a very good nominee, all the more exciting for being so thoroughly unexpected. The photography captures the grit of Brazil's favelas but also the hypnotic beauty of the film's urban and natural environments, with energetic camerawork that carries the story along quite dynamically. As a fan of the movie, I admire its accomplishment in this category.

But my honest vote would have to be with the majority for Girl With a Pearl Earring. Yes, it's a bit cliche to say that a film about a painter looks "painterly," but the elegant use of light and color here makes the whole movie feel like a Vermeer come to life. This is definitely a more old-fashioned choice -- it doesn't feel quite as cinematically daring as some of my favorites in other years this decade -- but a decade and a half later, I can still recall how ravishingly beautiful specific images looked, and I think it merits the award here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2003

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:47 pm

Racing in to quickly comment on this uninspiring year, before we move on to the next.

Not much in the way of exciting alternates. I see I had Lost in Translation down, but can't really remember why.

Seabiscuit had a sunny glow. That's pretty much all I recall from that mediocrity. Its nomination isn't anything to get me to throw things at the screen, but it's hard to believe the ASC went for it.

I can agree with Sabin's take, that the surprise showing for City of God on nominations morning was a kick (it got editing, too, right?). But, on the other hand, I wasn't much a fan of the film. It seemed to me a movie that was imitative of many other films -- Goodfellas, above all -- and people who were enthusiastic about it seemed dazzled by the flash, not any substance.

Master and Commander had a distinctive look, but I think -- as I did at the time -- that that look was all wrong for the film. The story is, like the whole O'Brian series, strictly potboiler stuff -- a yarn. Yet the cinematography grounds it all in a murky, serious-looking environment...more suitable to a movie like Breaker Morant or Conduct Unbecoming. Obviously Academy voters disagreed with me, but I think this film's visual look is a key reason why the film fails (and maybe why it died at the box office).

Cold Mountain was a victim of the Oscar expectations game. As December rolled around, it was clear that the third Rings movie was going to win, unless one of the yet-unseen late-year openers were to challenge it. Cold Mountain, based on a best-selling and well-regarded novel, with a top-tier cast directed by Oscar-winner Anthony Minghella, shepherded through by awards magnet Miramax, was the prime hope. The film, it's almost forgotten, got good reviews -- just not great enough reviews to stop the Rings putsch. And somehow this doomed Minghella's fim to a "loser" reputation -- it suffered numerous snubs at the Guilds, and ultimately was overlooked for best picture in favor of far worse movies (especially Seabiscuit). All of which is to say, I think the movie deserves better, even just in this discussion. The film had a varied, textured look -- showing us the lackadaisical sunny south, battlefield carnage, and bitter snow-scapes. That's quite a range, and all of it was immaculately lit by Seale. I'm not voting for it...but I think it deserves respect.

I'm voting, like most, for Girl with a Pearl Earring. I honestly thought this fim's look was an enthusiasm unique to me -- I'm surprised to find so many in my corner. Though, after a moment's thought, I suppose not. As Sabin notes, drawing from Vermeer's paintings gives one a leg up in the visuals department. But, an achievement is an achievement: to capture that look so well, to come out with such impressive pictures, and to integrate them into the narrative...that's pretty much what this category is about. Serra was a tough-luck loser in 1997; here I'm happy to give him at least my version of the prize.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2003

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:14 am

Voted for City of Gold for which the photography plays such an integral part of the films success.

The other nominees were pretty blah.

Omissions include In the Cut, Strayed, A Tale of Two Sisters, Last Life in the Universe & Lost in Translation.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2003

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:43 pm

I'd cite Lost in Translation, 21 Grams and Whale Rider as possible alternatives to Cold Mountain and Seabiscuit.

They as well as City of God and Master and Commander are all strong runners-up for me, but I have to go with the undervalued Eduardo Serra for the beautifully photographed Girl with a Pearl Earring.
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Best Cinematography 2003

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:42 am

Imagine for a moment that it’s Oscar morning and you discovery that In the Mood for Love got four major nominations? Or 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days? I may not love City of God, but I’m happy for the joy that it brought to those who loved that film and didn’t think it had a shot in hell. I can’t imagine what that must be like. I’d be on cloud nine. Cesar Charlone’s flashy, tricky cinematography was integral to the film’s success. I’m not voting for it, but every time I look at those nominations I smile a little. If only it boosted the career of a filmmaker I liked.

This race was supposed to be Cold Mountain vs. The Return of the King. There were probably conversations on this board about how Cold Mountain was going to break the fourteen nomination record. And then we saw it. I think the film has some fans on this board (and I liked it enough), it completely failed as what it was intended to be: a historical romantic melodrama. Blame the casting of Nicole Kidman. Or maybe Harvey Weinstein just never really understood the source material. I vaguely recall articles proclaiming that “Anthony Minghella is going to do for snow what he did for sand in ‘The English Patient.’” John Seale most certainly did not accomplish that feat. My memory of the film is that I was not terribly impressed by the look.

I thought Seabiscuit was going to win this award. Although the film makes substantially better use of John Schwartzman’s postcard visuals than Pearl Harbor, I can’t give it my vote. I don’t really like the film but I do want to give it credit for being an incredibly unlikely hit. Seabiscuit ushered back in a small era of “August Adult Films.” And much of the film’s success is owed to Gary Ross and the cinematography for making a Great Depression sports film at least intermittently exciting. I can’t say for sure if Cinderella Man was fast-tracked into production after its success but it wouldn’t surprise me.

When I started this, I expected to vote for The Girl with the Pearl Earring, as I passed up the opportunity to cast my vote for Eduardo Serra. He picked up awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critic’s Association. My vaguest recollection of this film was that it courted the word “painterly.” Drawing inspiration from a painting will do that. I barely remember this thing. I’m sure it deserves the award. I don’t know what else to say…

So instead I don’t see a reason to take this away from Master and Commander. 2003 was a great year for epics. The two big misses of this bunch had to have been Andrew Lesnie for The Return of the King and John Toll for The Last Samurai. Master and Commander’s success always surprised me. Not because it’s not a good film. It’s very good. But because it’s such an unemotional film. It has more in common with today’s eye candy epics like The Revenant or Gravity. I think I bet against it until the very end… and then it pulled in ten nominations. The cinematography of this film is excellent. Something I will never forget: In addition to creative angles and lensing (which Peter Weir knows very well), my body temperature changed. I felt cold in the ocean shots and warm in the sun. When that happens, the cinematographer is doing something right.

Left off the list were ASC nominees John Toll for The Last Samurai, and the late Andrew Lesnie for Return of the King. I was pleasantly surprised to see Lance Acord nominated for a BAFTA for Lost in Translation, a small film of diminished reputation with a lovely look and feel to it inspired by Claire Denis. When discussing the remarkable Director/DP collaborations of 2003, one must mention Gus Van Sant and the late Harris Savides with both Gerry and Elephant. Also, it’s crazy to think that the only Quentin Tarantino film (well, films) that Robert Richardson was not nominated for was Kill Bill: Vol 1 (and 2).
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