Best Cinematography 1994

1927/28 through 1997

Which of the 1994 nominees for Best Cinematography was the best?

Forrest Gump (Don Burgess)
2
12%
Legends of the Fall (John Toll)
1
6%
Red (Piotr Sobocinski)
12
71%
The Shawshank Redemption (Roger Deakins)
2
12%
Wyatt Earp (Owen Roizman)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 17

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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Sabin » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:39 pm

Greg wrote
The films that won joint visual effects/cinematography awards used their effects to create unique worlds where the effects and cinematography would work together, for example all the dream worlds in Inception. In Forrest Gump, the effects were used to transport Gump into conventional worlds, so in this case the effects worked jointly with the editing, not cinematography; and, Forrest Gump did also win an Oscar for film editing.

I think we're splitting hairs here.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Greg » Sat Apr 14, 2018 4:47 pm

Sabin wrote:Forrest Gump's defeat in this category makes less and less sense with every passing year. These days, a victory for state of the art visual effects goes hand in hand with a victory for cinematography. For example: Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, and Gravity.


The films that won joint visual effects/cinematography awards used their effects to create unique worlds where the effects and cinematography would work together, for example all the dream worlds in Inception. In Forrest Gump, the effects were used to transport Gump into conventional worlds, so in this case the effects worked jointly with the editing, not cinematography; and, Forrest Gump did also win an Oscar for film editing.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Sabin » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:45 am

dws1982 wrote
Sabin's point about Forrest Gump is a good one. Although since Gump tries to use its visual effects in a realistic manner, I wonder if it would impress voters the way Inception and Life of Pi--which put their visual effects front and center--did. I will say that for a movie that covers this much visual ground--Alabama, Vietnam, various places all over the country--very little about the movie that's memorable comes from its visuals.

Thanks!

A thought just occurs to me about Forrest Gump...

When I try to think of the beautiful visuals in the film, very few spring to mind. For instance, the firebombing shot of Vietnam. I think of a shot with incredibly high head-space over Hanks as he runs, carrying Sinise, almost to exaggerate the destruction for comedic effect. I think of the shots of the different "Sinises" through history dying in every single American war. Or the close up on Hanks' face as he says "YES, DRILL SERGEANT!" Occasionally, I think of a Hallmark-type shot of Hanks and Wright reunited in the fountain, etc, (which are the easiest way to rebound the film from comedy back to emotion) but for the most part, I think of visuals that suggest comedy. There are very few high-profile American comedy directors who are confident visual stylists. Robert Zemeckis isn't one of them (though to be fair, Back to the Future is a much better shot film). In retrospect, maybe Forrest Gump was never going to win this one because many of his shots foreground comedic timing.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby dws1982 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:50 am

Kind of in-between Tee and the others on Ed Wood. I think it would've been a deserving nominee, better than many of the nominees in this lineup, but I don't see it as a must-have nominee either. Honestly can't think of a lot of must-have replacements. Most of my favorites of the year aren't exactly cinematography contenders: Vanya on 42nd Street, Barcelona, What Happened Was...

I wouldn't have had a huge problem with Natural Born Killers making the lineup, but I like what Stone and Richardson did the next year on Nixon even more. Heavenly Creatures wouldn't have been a bad nominee, and Interview With the Vampire does look pretty good.

Sabin's point about Forrest Gump is a good one. Although since Gump tries to use its visual effects in a realistic manner, I wonder if it would impress voters the way Inception and Life of Pi--which put their visual effects front and center--did. I will say that for a movie that covers this much visual ground--Alabama, Vietnam, various places all over the country--very little about the movie that's memorable comes from its visuals.

Like most, I wouldn't consider Wyatt Earp. I like that Kevin Costner has always gone back to the western genre, but this is probably the worst western he's made. Also in western land, I won't be voting for Legends of the Fall, although I'm okay with the fact that John Toll has two Oscars. Two Oscars is about right for his work on The Thin Red Line. I've always thought it was interesting that Legends of the Fall uses the 1.85:1 ratio, when 2.35:1 seems a much more natural fit for the expansive vistas. Apparently this was a matter of necessity for Zwick and Toll, who wanted to use the wider ratio, but weren't able to access the necessary lenses for their filming schedule. Not my vote, but it's a very good-looking movie, an impressive achievement, and I'm not grumpy about it. Also, I found the movie completely ridiculous, but apparently some people absolutely swear by Jim Harrison. Has anyone ever read anything by him?

The Shawshank Redemption wouldn't have been a bad winner. I think Sabin is right that it has a really good atmosphere that Deakins deserves credit for. And I think the final shot is very moving.

But I'm following the crowd and voting for Red. Just a great looking film. I really do hate that Sobocinski died so young, because I think he might have gone on to a major career.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:25 pm

Sabin wrote:
Mister Tee wrote
So glad Pulp Fiction didn't get a nomination. I haven't watched the film since it's cinema release but there was nothing visually impressive about it as I recall.

How'd my name get in there attached to Precious Doll's quote?

I'm not quite sure why everybody's so lament-y about Ed Wood. I thought its critics' sweep was pretty much a "we just LOVE black-and-white" endorsement; I didn't see it as among the more special uses of the format.

I do agree on Heavenly Creatures (I was for Peter Jackson before it was cool), and will endorse Sabin's expectation that Interview with the Vampire would have made the cut. Vampire -- a $100 million grosser, not so common that year among serious movies -- seemed in line for at least multiple below-the-line nods (cinematography, art direction, costumes, make-up, maybe score), but got only the one, suggesting a real animus toward the film. (It might well have won make-up, if cited.)

I also never felt Pulp Fiction was visually memorable. If another best picture contender was to be squeezed in, Quiz Show was more notable.

The three-hour-ness of Wyatt Earp kept me from watching the film until just a few months ago, in prep for this discussion. It's hard to know just what the idea behind the film was -- being revisionist, certainly, but that mainly amounted to making Wyatt a snarly, ornery cuss for much of the running time, and reducing the legendary gunfight to a back alley exchange of gunfire. (That was the OK Corral? Why did it even have a name?) Roizman has some pretty shots, but in the service of little.

I guess Sabin makes a decent point that Gump, with its visual effects trickery, would have been in the mode of late aughts/early teens winners, but at the time I didn't even consider it as a possibility. I've always landed in the middle of the bi-polar reactions to the film, neither loving nor reviling it, but as a visual matter I didn't think it showed any distinction.

Legends of the Fall was another "I called it!" for me back in that era, and BJ is correct, it seemed right in the mode of recent winner A River Runs Through It. (Only, a bigger financial success.) It was easily the more impressive of John Toll's back-to-back wins, but miles short of the achievement for which he SHOULD have won a few years down the pile.

ASC got aboard the Deakins bandwagon way early by choosing him here. I don't think Shawshank should be dismissed cavalierly here -- there are some famous shots, and the film has an impressive look overall. I'm not voting for it, but I honor its work.

Like most, though, I've found it an easy choice to go with Red. The Three Colors trilogy is, in the end, a major achievement, and Red is much of the reason (Blue is a decent but maybe second-tier art film; White is surprisingly prosaic, though engaging -- yet I was glad I'd seen the other two prior to seeing the culminating work that is Red). I haven't seen the film in almost a quarter-century, and my memories of it are shimmery -- the feelings it evoked are fresher in my mind than much about the plot. And, as BJ recounts, the visuals are very much a reason for this -- you have a sense of Kieslowski and Sobocinski working hand-in-hand to create a near-surreal environment. The film was never likely to win at the Oscars, but I'm happy to see that here we're giving it its due here.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Sabin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:31 am

Precious Doll wrote
So glad Pulp Fiction didn't get a nomination. I haven't watched the film since it's cinema release but there was nothing visually impressive about it as I recall.

I can't imagine it was ever in the conversation seriously, although it's curious for me to learn it actually was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Cinematography. When I was a teenager, I remember loving Pulp Fiction but thinking that it looked "weird." Watched today, it's a product of its time. It actually has a nice LA look to it.

But I would imagine that the likeliest nominees on Oscar morning would have included Ed Wood, Forrest Gump, Interview with the Vampire, Legends of the Fall, and The Shawshank Redemption. I would never have included ASC nominees Love Affair or Wyatt Earp...but there ya go.

EDITED.
Last edited by Sabin on Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:18 am

Piotr Sobocinski's work on Three Colours: Red is so far ahead of the other nominees. I re-watched the Three Colours trilogy in March last year and Blue and particularly Red hold up so well in every respect. And visually are as impressive on my TV screen on Blu Ray as they were at the cinema over 20 years earlier. White wasn't in their league back in 1993/94 and that hasn't changed I'm afraid.

The other four are standard Hollywood stuff, though The Shawshank Redemption is the most worthy of the four. Despite a relative weak year there were some pretty impressive omissions in this category, though some may not have been eligible until 1995: Heavenly Creatures, Queen Margot, Chungking Express (to think the Academy has never nominated Christopher Doyle - shame on them), Ed Wood & To Love.

So glad Pulp Fiction didn't get a nomination. I haven't watched the film since it's cinema release but there was nothing visually impressive about it as I recall.
Last edited by Precious Doll on Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Sabin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:31 am

Yes, the Oscar should go to Red. It's worth noting that in "The Year of Gump," the Academy did a pretty good job of rectifying committee errors by giving Hoop Dreams a Film Editing nomination and three nominations to the ineligible Red.

Forrest Gump's defeat in this category makes less and less sense with every passing year. These days, a victory for state of the art visual effects goes hand in hand with a victory for cinematography. For example: Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, and Gravity. But it almost never means a victory for Best Picture. I wasn't cognizant for the Oscar conversation in '94/'95, but I'd have to imagine some kind of sweep was anticipated. I certainly would have predicted a win in in this category. The Academy was correct to pass over Don Burgess' work, but it still baffles me.

I can't get behind serious consideration for Legends of the Fall because the film is such a melodramatic turd, but it's a great-looking film and certainly the more deserving of John Toll's back to back victories. This is largely due to the fact that so much of Braveheart has aged poorly (which we will talk about next year/week).

I don't think Roger Deakins' work on The Shawshank Redemption is quite getting its due here. For a talky prison drama, it has such a powerful atmosphere. Contrast the mood of The Shawshank Redemption with that of The Green Mile. It's not on par with his work with The Coen Bros. There may not be a "wow" visual but there is a consistent sense of "whoa." I prefer Red for the win, but I wouldn't begrudge Deakins breaking the curse right out of the gate with this one.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Apr 10, 2018 11:13 am

The most outrageous exclusion is Ed Wood, which had all three critics prizes in its pocket, and still couldn’t overcome Oscar's resistance to black-and-white. I would also advocate for Heavenly Creatures, a film full of visual imagination.

I can’t say I rate this a spectacular lineup -- I don’t even hesitate for a second about which nominee to choose here.

The problem with Wyatt Earp is that, beyond one legendary incident, he just wasn’t an interesting enough historical figure to justify a three and a half hour movie, particularly given how often this ground has been covered throughout film history. I wouldn’t say the film is badly shot or anything -- it’s a handsome enough western -- but it’s a fairly pointless nomination for a dull movie.

The ASC was on a weird run in these years -- I can’t imagine too many thought some of their victors (Hoffa, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Shawshank Redemption) were terribly strong Oscar candidates in this category. Shawshank has a classy enough period look to it, with some memorable moments (two that leap to mind are James Whitmore's final scene and Robbins standing in the rain), but nothing approaching a wow.

Forrest Gump has a decent amount of visual scope across different types of environments, from the picturesque Southern town of Gump’s youth to the harsh beauty of the Vietnam War sequences, to the magical realist whimsy of the feather floating through the air in Savannah. It’s an unobjectionable nominee, but it’s another film that doesn’t approach knockout territory in this department.

Legends of the Fall is basically A River Runs Through It all over again -- photogenic Montana landscapes + photogenic Brad Pitt = Oscar. And once again, the cinematography all but rescues a pretty dreary, early twentieth-century melodrama. It’s a fairly obvious choice as a winner, and too bland a vehicle to give John Toll his peak as an artist, but its gorgeous vistas do provide the film with a good amount of beautiful images.

But Red simply outclasses the field. Blue and White are both well-shot films, but I think Red’s achievement is on a different level entirely. The entire movie has a mysterious, ethereal quality to it, conveyed through the delicacy of the compositions and the subtle roaming of the camera. The use of color is also hugely impressive, from the way the photography allows the red set pieces to pop, to the manner in which it gives certain scenes an almost under-the-radar reddish tint. This is a film whose aesthetic has been worked out to an exacting degree, and the result is cinematography that operates on far more artful terms than anything else on the ballot. I assume, even with major nominations, there was no real chance for this much of an arthouse candidate to prevail here with Oscar, but I’m happy to do my part to rectify that outcome in our poll.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1994

Postby mlrg » Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:53 am

John Toll

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Best Cinematography 1994

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:16 am

Well, this sucks. I had gotten to literally the last word of a rather long post and hit a wrong key, making it all disappear.

Here goes again.

This is one of those years in which I think BAFTA got it more right than either ASC or AMPAS, although all three somehow managed not to nominate the year's best, Ed Wood, which swept the critics' awards. Think about it. We might have had back-to-back black-and-white winners in the 1990s instead of back-to-back wins by John Toll, who won for Braveheart the year after winning for Legends of the Fall.

BAFTA nominated The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Interview with the Vampire and Pulp Fiction as well as Oscar nominee Forest Gump, giving the award to Interview with the Vampire. ASC nominated Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption, but then added three I wouldn't have thought of, Legends of the Fall, Love Affair and Wyatt Earp, giving the award to The Shawshank Redemption. AMPAS copied the ASC slate except for Love Affair, replacing it with Red.

Of the actual Oscar nominees, I find Wyatt Earp the least impressive of the nominees and the least impressive of Owen Roizman's five nominations. I liked the competing Tombstone, released at the end of 1993 better, although neither can hold a candle to My Darling Clementine or even Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

John Toll has an unerring eye. All of his films contain unforgettable shots, the film themselves tend to disappoint. Legends of the Fall is no exception.

Piotr Sobocinski was the second of three generations of award-winning Polish cinematographers. His work on Red is breathtaking. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at 43 in 2001. His father, still with us at 88, won an honorary ASC award two years after his son died. Piotr Jr. won his third Polish Film Award earlier this year.

In retrospect, had Roger Deakins won for The Shawshank Redemptionon his first of fourteen nominations instead of or in addition to winning on his fourteenth, it would have been great, but I have to go with Forrest Gump which everyone seemed to like enough to nominate at the time, but not enough to give it the prize. Oddly, Don Burgess has never been nominated again despite impressive work on such films as Contact and Cast Away. He's still working, represented last year by Wonder and this year by Aquaman.
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