Best Cinematography 1988

1927/28 through 1997

What film among the 1988 nominees had the best cinematography?

Mississippi Burning (Peter Bisiou)
Rain Man (John Seale)
No votes
Tequila Sunrise (Conrad T. Hall)
No votes
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Sven Nykvist)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Dean Cundey)
Total votes: 16

Mister Tee
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Re: Best Cinematography 1988

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:47 pm

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to commenting on this batch. Maybe because lots of people have already said whatever I was going to say.

In addition to other alternatives people have thrown around, I'd mention A Cry in the Dark -- the shots of people doing a candlelight search have stuck in my brain. Gorillas n the Mist would seem to also be in general Academy range.

So, as noted previously: the branch was still clannish, but they upped their game a bit by singling out minor work by better practitioners. Tequila Sunrise is a disposable film (disappointing for those of us who hoped Robert Towne had another Chinatown in him), but it looks pretty good (I disagree with BJ here). It was clearly the Conrad Hall signature, though, that got it nominated, and, god help us, enabled it to win the Guild award that year.

Rain Man's citation was clearly part of the overall best picture campaign. It wasn't bad-looking, but a less-touted contender with the same achievement would never have made the cut.

I see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as mostly a production design/visual effects effort, but the overall look of the film was seamless enough that I guess you can't dismiss the nomination.

Because this year's field was on the whole lackluster, I'd held out hope my long-shot favorite might slip through, so Mississippi Burning's victory was one of my bigger disappointments that night. But I can see how, if you're limiting yourself to highest-profile contenders -- i.e., best picture nominees -- the film would seem an acceptable winner. However shrill the film's narrative might be, the visuals capture the hazy feel of Southern small-towns pretty well.

But The Unbearable Lightness of Being is in another league, as both a film and a work of cinematography. There are so many great images n the film -- the scenes in the pool, the peek-a-boo game in Sabina's studio, the extraordinary crushing of the Prague rebellion. This is truly the only real choice.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1988

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:45 pm

Not as bad a slate overall as some of the 70's lineups, but still one where I think one nominee runs WAY ahead of the rest.

Magilla listed a lot of good alternates -- Dangerous Liaisons, The Last Temptation of Christ, Wings of Desire. (Though the latter was certainly too out-there for the Academy, and sadly Scorsese's film likely was as well. Not really sure why Liaisons missed, though, given its overall strength.)

Cronyism is the only way to explain the nomination for Tequila Sunrise. Conrad Hall has done a lot of estimable work elsewhere, but this has a totally standard 80's cop movie look (with, frankly, a '30's cop movie plot). Which is to say, it's thoroughly mundane visually, and maybe even less than that in that ridiculously shot Skinemax-level sex scene.

Rain Man's nod at least makes more sense given general enthusiasm for the movie, but despite the variety of road trip movie locales, I don't find the camerawork much more than perfunctory. Even if you're a big fan of the movie, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue its strengths were primarily visual.

Mississippi Burning isn't inexplicable as a winner -- the titular fires, flashlight-illuminated night shots, and handsomely photographed images of the rural South's environs give the movie a decent amount of visual flair. But I wouldn't say it rises to the level of a great aesthetic achievement either -- portions of the film feel like 80's cop movie schlock in social issue movie drag, and the images aren't always artful enough to overcome this hurdle.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the first movie I ever saw, and though I may be speaking partly from nostalgia, I do continue to find it an enormously entertaining pop pleasure. The movie has a lot of fun with its visual conceit -- the photography goes for a film noir look, but a more cartoonish version of film noir. Of course, the frame is often filled with literal cartoons, but the live action portions are inventively shot as well, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I don't think this category represents the movie's highest area of technical achievement, but it's a solid nominee.

But The Unbearable Lightness of Being just crushes the field. It's probably unsurprising that a film about a photographer would incorporate its own photography to such a lyrical and emotionally attuned degree, but this film is a visual wow throughout. The shots of individual characters are full of swoony romanticism (Binoche in the pool, Olin on the mirror), the newsreel-style footage of the Prague uprising is harrowing and dynamic, and the gloomy weather haunts the film's landscapes (especially in that final shot) in a manner that makes this by far the most artfully rendered nominee on the ballot. Sven Nykvist all the way in this race.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1988

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Oct 25, 2017 6:55 am

I don't think in itself this is such a bad line-up, actually reasonably good. But there were omissions that deserved nomination before some of the actual nominees including Distant Voices Still Lives, Dead Ringers, The Big Blue and the Russian film Days of Eclipse which I don't think has ever been released in the U.S. (an early work of Aleksandr Sokurov).

My vote is as easy one: The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
“Those Koreans. They’re so suspicious, you know, ever since Hiroshima.” Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) from American Horror Story: Season One

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Best Cinematography 1988

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:30 pm

We go from a year in which all five nominees were deserving to one in which only one of the nominees was truly outstanding, and it wasn't the winner.

The camera got a workout in Missisippi Burning, but I can't really think of a single truly impressive shot. The same is true of Rain Man.

I guess it was the blending of live action and animation that impressed them in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the name of Conrad Hall that excited them about Tequila Sunrise.

Among the nominees, the only one I find truly impressive is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's not that there weren't strong contenders in a year that also gave us Wings of Desire, The Last Temptation of Christ, Au Revoir, les Enfants, Die Hard, Dangerous Liaisons, A World Apart and Pelle the Conqueror, any four of which would have made better nominees than the four alternate choices the Academy gave us.

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