Best Cinematography 1992

1927/28 through 1997

Which of the 1992 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography was best?

Hoffa (Stephen H. Burum)
No votes
Howards End (Tony Pierce-Roberts)
The Lover (Robert Fraisse)
A River Runs Through It (Phillipee Rousselot)
Unforgiven (Jack N. Green)
Total votes: 17

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Apr 08, 2018 3:58 pm

I'd passed on this thread initially because I thought, for honesty's sake, I needed to see The Lover, and it wasn't conveniently available. Then, however, I was looking through some old documents, and found that I apparently HAD seen the film (which'll give you an idea of the deep impression it made on me). So, at BJ's urging, I'll briefly chime in here.

Some films others of you have mentioned -- notably The Last of the Mohicans -- are on my list as well. I'll also advocate for Bram Stoker's Dracula -- a movie that managed to be fun almost entirely on visuals -- and A Midnight Clear, a little/obscure item I continue to remember as one of the few highlights of a dismal year.

I find it interesting so many of you are referring to The Lover as trashy. You're correct (I might add "softcore" as a preceding adjective), but this was not the critical take on it at the time -- the sainted Duras' name on the source material caused many people to put it in a somewhat higher category. (Especially since, though a novel, it was thought to be her dramatization of events from her early life.) As I say, I don't remember much about the movie, which would seem to disqualify it as a winner.

I'd liked Stephen H. Burum's work on the dePalma films, and thought Hoffa looked perfectly fine. But I have no idea why the branch felt he rated this nomination, much less what possessed the ASC to give him their award that year.

I think of Howards End as more a sets & costumes thing -- I particularly remember that resplendent department store setting. I don't recall the lighting as enhancing that in a particularly notable way, but of course it's now a quarter-century since I saw the film. In any case, the nomination is unobjectionable.

I DO recall notable lighting-enhanced visuals in Unforgiven -- shots of grizzled Eastwood out on the plain stick in my mind all this time later. I can certainly see why many of you have voted for the film, not least because it's so much better a film than most of its competition.

A River Runs Through It helped me win my Oscar pool that year -- most people had gone with Unforgiven on best picture momentum -- and it may be part nostalgia for my long-ago instinct that makes me stick with it here. But I also had great admiration for Rousselot's even-by-then impressive career, and for the vibrancy of his images in the film. Granted, it's a cliche to win cinematography prizes for lots of sunny outdoor shots, but I remember Rousselot's pictures as being unusually crisp -- catching the glint of the sun on fishing rods and fish as they broke through the water. Sometimes beauty is its own reward -- here it certainly was, redeeming a film that bordered on dead-dull throughout. It's an untrendy pick, but I'll make it anyway.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:34 pm

The Original BJ wrote:Should we figure out a schedule to start these up again?

I was thinking the first week in April.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:02 pm

Should we figure out a schedule to start these up again?

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:19 pm

I agree with Precious Doll that Raise the Red Lantern is the most ravishingly shot film of the year (though I assume it wasn't eligible here). I would also second the praise for The Last of the Mohicans (with its heavenly shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains), and also offer up The Player (with its great opening tracking shot).

Hoffa is a bit of a schizophrenic nominee, because it does have some shots -- mostly night exteriors, sometimes in the snow -- that look very good, giving the film a sense of scope as the camera captures large crowds of people in motion with an artful touch. But it's also got too many "exteriors" that were obviously shot on stages, and while the production design is to blame for a lot of the phoniness in those scenes, it's hard to avoid criticizing the cinematography as well, for contributing to the overall fake look of those moments.

The Lover is a movie I'd never heard of, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone mention it until I came to this thread. It's easy to understand why -- the film is a groaner, a glossed-up Harlequin romance with explicit sex thrown in for extra titillation. It's a pretty enough looking film, in the way that picturesque foreign locales are obviously photogenic, but it's not unique enough an achievement to consider, particularly given that it's in service of such banality.

A River Runs Through It also relies on Mother Nature to do some of its heavy lifting -- the natural beauty of Montana is almost hard to screw up -- but it at least has more aesthetic value within the context of its story, providing an old-fashioned nostalgic sheen that's genuinely transporting, in a way that even masks some of the thinness of the material. And the glimmer of the sun on the titular body of water in those fly fishing scenes offers up some truly beautiful images. Not my winner, but not an objectionable choice either.

I think Howards End is the peak achievement in the Merchant-Ivory canon, and a big reason for that is because it's easily the most visually impressive picture on their resume. The widescreen gives this film a visual richness that highlights its beautifully lit sets in majestic ways, the camera moves more gracefully than in a lot of stuffy Brit lit adaptations, and the cinematography captures the elements (the glow of sunlight, the gloom of rain) with great visual panache. I can absolutely understand why some of you have voted for it.

But for me, Unforgiven is the greater movie, and the best shot movie as well. The film takes as its thesis a demythologization of the Old West, and the images use the iconography of the genre (lonely men silhouetted against the expansive landscape, tight close-ups of faces during gunfights, individuals evocatively framed in doorways) to get at the bleakness that had often been a subtextual element of westerns, but had rarely been brought out to such a cynical and emotionally powerful degree. This is the movie here whose images seem most inextricably tied to its success as an artistic work, and I give it my enthusiastic vote.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:33 am

Big Magilla wrote:I've never watched Hoffa all the way through, so I can't comment on ASC's award to Stephen H. Burum (The Untouchables) or his subsequent Oscar nomination.

That's completely understandable as Hoffa is a complete admonition from start to finish. Though pretty to look at A River Runs Through & The Lover have nothing else to offer.

Only Unforgiven and Howard's End (my choice) deserved nominations.

Omissions: oddly enough more low key drama's like Leolo, Arizona Dream (I don't think neither were eligible), Lorenzo's Oil & Husbands and Wives.

However the two best were Edward II and what should have be an easy winner Raise the Red Lantern - one of the major omissions of the decade.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby mlrg » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:36 am

Voted for Unforgiven although I think A River Runs Trough is a very decent winner.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1992

Postby dws1982 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:49 am

Three very solid nominees, plus The Lover and Hoffa. Which aren't bad, but when you consider they got in over The Last of the Mohicans, they looks pretty weak. The Lover is trash but has that exotic/period gloss that makes for easy appeal to this branch. Hoffa is a little harder to understand (and it's been awhile since I've seen it); I mainly remember how it felt like such a weird passion project for DeVito, and the truly bizarre Nicholson performance.

A River Runs Through It is based off of a truly great short novel, and the movie is pretty faithful to it in terms of content. But it serves to illustrate the difference between film and books; as faithful as it is to the letter of the film, I don't think that content could've been translated more clumsily or uneasily into a film. The last voice-over of the film is taken directly from the last paragraph of the book, but what seemed beautiful and poetic in the book just seemed pretentious and trying-too-hard in the movie. But the movie does have some positives: Brad Pitt, in one of his early roles that showed what a magnetic presence he could be; the deservedly-nominated score; and the cinematography. Can't argue with the win, although I won't vote that way.

Howard's End is, from what I gather, a better adaptation--I haven't read the book, although I have a copy sitting here on my shelf. It definitely works better as a film than A River Runs Through It. I think the real visual achievement here is in the decision to photograph in widescreen; so many movies like it (including previous Merchant/Ivory productions) were photographed in much narrower ratios--usually 1.85:1, but sometimes 1.66:1. I think Howard's End makes really good use of that wider ratio, and it probably is the best photographed Merchant/Ivory film. But still, if I were going to vote it technical awards, I would vote it Production Design and Costumes first.

Plus, I can't pass up my one chance to honor Eastwood's great collaborator, Jack N. Green. Unforgiven is one of my all-time top movies, and I think it's just brilliantly photographed. The opening shot and final shot, with Eastwood's place silhouetted on the horizon; the shot of Eastwood and the kid after the shooting; the final shootout. I could go on with memorable shots and images from the film, but it's a great film, and brilliantly shot. It gets my easy vote.
Last edited by dws1982 on Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Best Cinematography 1992

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:55 am

I've never watched Hoffa all the way through, so I can't comment on ASC's award to Stephen H. Burum (The Untouchables) or his subsequent Oscar nomination.

The Lover I've seen only once, so long ago I barely remember it. The cinematography was impressive, making it an acceptable nominee.

The only baffling non-nominee is Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential) for The Last of the Mohicans, an ASC nominee and a BAFTA winner over both Howards End and Unforgiven.

BAFTA failed to nominate A River Runs Through It, which won the Oscar. It's a well-photographed film that hardly stands the test of time the way Howards End, Unforgiven and even The Last of the Mohicans do.

Having recently seen the restored version of Howards End and marveled anew at the amazing cinematography of Tony Pierce-Roberts (A Room with a View), I can't understand how it didn't win the Oscar, or even more baffling, how it could have lost the BAFTA. It easily gets my vote here.

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