Best Cinematography 2002

1998 through 2007

Best Cinematography of 2002

Chicago (Dion Beebe)
0
No votes
Far From Heaven (Ed Lachman)
11
79%
Gangs of New York (Michael Ballhaus)
1
7%
The Pianist (Pawel Edelman)
2
14%
Road to Perdition (Conrad H. Hall)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 14

Mister Tee
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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:43 pm

I keep falling behind here, and I guess the reason is I feel I've already spoken my piece on all these issues over the years I've been posting. Yes, this is now a shocking 16 years ago, but it still feels like a stale conversation. So, a quick blast through:

I see in my notebooks that I highlighted The Quiet American and Rabbit-Proof Fence, but I can't say either was robbed.

I'll go to my grave wondering what people saw in The Pianist beyond a decent retread of mostly familiar subject matter. That goes for all aspects of the film, including here.

I can't say I loved the look of Gangs of New York, despite a general affection for Ballhaus' work.

Chicago looks fine, but the other design awards it won were plenty (actually more than enough, as Gangs should have won set design).

I'm on Team Sabin here: Road to Perdition had all the elements to win even minus Hall's untimely death. I can understand, if not endorse, the voters' choice.

But the cinematography in Far from Heave is an active collaborator in an essential work of film art. It's not just beautiful, but beautiful in a heightened, knowing style -- one that fits perfectly with Haynes' overall concept, filtering modern sensibility through the lens of Sirk's 50s melodramas. The specific scenes BJ highlights are all reasons to give Lachman this prize, but, truly, the film from end to end is deserving. As we've noted: many times in this millennium, a good choice has triumphed while leaving the absolute best unrewarded. This year, for me, is the prime example of that trend, and I'm happy to do my small bit to offset it.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:07 pm

I was a bit surprised this branch decided they were over the Rings films after the first installment. Although The Two Towers was shot in a similar style as its predecessor, it was still quite an impressive visual achievement, and the work here wasn't nearly as much of a retread as in other areas that did reap multiple nominations (Score and Makeup especially). I also rate Y Tu Mamá También and Talk to Her very highly.

But this is another thoroughly worthy lineup, with none really qualifying as "the worst." Although, like the film as a whole, I'm not quite as high on the cinematography in The Pianist as some of you. I think it's a well-photographed film throughout -- the long shot of Szpilman making his way through the bombed-out wreckage of a war-torn city is especially stunning -- but it lacks the kind of singular visual panache I'd want in a winner.

Gangs of New York perhaps errs in the opposite direction -- its visuals can get a little frenetic at times, in ways that seem to distract from, rather than serve, the story. But I would definitely disagree with Magilla's take that the film looks ugly -- I think it has plenty of gorgeous moments, from the fireworks exploding behind Day-Lewis in the night sky, to the almost blinding whiteness of the snow in that battle scene, to that graceful crane shot of the men heading off to war as the coffins return. But I'd say the production/costume design were even more invaluable to the film's creation of its world.

Chicago certainly has a lot of flashy images, with the fantasy musical numbers providing an opportunity for some really theatrical, striking source lighting that helps make so many of those songs pop. I think Chicago is still the most visually nimble screen musical of this millennium, and credit has to go to the cinematographer for making it move so dynamically when so many others have failed (including himself, a few years later on with Nine). But as fun as the photography can be, I don't think it nearly reaches the aesthetic highs of the remaining two nominees.

Road to Perdition is another of those stellar choices that I'm still a bit bummed managed to win. Because this is quite a capper to Conrad Hall's career, with images that are almost postcard beautiful (the establishing shots of Chicago, riding the car through the countryside) as well as ones that seem plucked right from a graphic crime novel (the shadows of the blinds over Hanks's face, the crowd all reading the newspapers as the light streams in, the evocative rain-soaked shoot-out). One could certainly argue that the film is a fairly thin crime story glossed up to appear more prestigious... but what a gloss! As a visual experience, it's completely transporting...

...but not quite as transporting as Far From Heaven, which might well have had my vote after that gorgeous opening crane shot alone. This is a film with simply impeccably crafted images -- every visual choice envelops the viewer with its beauty, reveals details about the characters' moods and psychology, and works on a purely emotional level as well. (I can still remember the first time I saw Moore and Haysbert walking along the path, surrounded by that fall foliage -- my heart soared it was so beautiful). A few years back I saw the musical adaptation at Playwrights Horizons, and while it followed the film's narrative very closely -- not a weak narrative by any means -- something felt missing. And I think it was simply that a stage rendition just couldn't capture an element that was so intrinsic to this piece's success -- the artistry of the camerawork that made the film such a knockout piece of cinema. The clear choice in this category for me.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:15 am

It's OK. You're doing a good job with this. Keep it up!
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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:19 pm

Sorry, I completely missed that.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:52 pm

Sabin wrote:
Big Magilla wrote
Second to go has to be Road to Perdition for which Conrad Hall's posthumous Oscar was more a tribute to him than it was to anything he put on film.

I certainly understand not voting for Road to Perdition (i didn't) but... do you remember the cinematography of this film? It was full of almost distractingly beautiful shots. They didn't forward the story but it's a very pretty film. Conrad Hall's death sealed the deal but if he was alive I still think he would have won.


Why are you quoting me out of context?

I said further down that it had pretty pictures for the sake of being pretty as opposed to Far from Heaven and Hall's previous Oscar winner, American Beauty, which had pretty pictures for a purpose, which was to expose the rot underneath.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:37 pm

Big Magilla wrote
Second to go has to be Road to Perdition for which Conrad Hall's posthumous Oscar was more a tribute to him than it was to anything he put on film.

I certainly understand not voting for Road to Perdition (i didn't) but... do you remember the cinematography of this film? It was full of almost distractingly beautiful shots. They didn't forward the story but it's a very pretty film. Conrad Hall's death sealed the deal but if he was alive I still think he would have won.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:06 pm

First to go has to be the historically inaccurate, ugly, drab, Gangs of New York which shouldn't have been nominated for anything but sadly was.

Second to go has to be Road to Perdition for which Conrad Hall's posthumous Oscar was more a tribute to him than it was to anything he put on film.

Third to go has to be Chicago, the cinematography of which works well with the film's choreography and editing but on its own produces nothing outstanding.

That leaves The Pianist, which was the best and best photographed film about the Holocaust since Schindler's List, and Far from Heaven which was more in line with Conrad Hall's previous Oscar winner, American Beauty than Road to Perdition which gave us pretty pictures for the sake of giving us pretty pictures.

The pretty pictures in Hall's American Beauty and Edward Lachman's Far from Heaven were, like those in the generally unheralded beauty of Fredrick Elmes' Blue Velvet, there to show us the contrast between the outside beauty and the rot beneath the surface, not to mention its obvious tribute to Russell Metty's work on All That Heaven Allows.

It' comes down to a choice between something that is good on its own, Pawel Edelman's work on The Pianist, and something to matches and then surpasses the beauty of someone else's previous work, which is what Lachman gave us in Far from Heaven.

Lachman gets my vote.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:28 am

I'm not going to change my post below but I thought that Lord of the Rings 2 was nominated. I see that is was the good looking but forgettable Road to Perdition.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:23 am

It is a good line-up but so of it was a bit ho-hum for me really. The second Lord of the Rings film suffered for being, well the second - seen it all the year before....

I was so monumentally bored by Gangs of New York that looking great mattered very little to me and the cinematography of Far From Heaven was just like the film itself in that it felt to inferior to the work of Douglas Sirk.

The Pianist got my vote. Chicago a close second.

Omissions included Tuck Everlasting, Spider, Talk to Her, Minority Report & Nicholas Nickelby.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Best Cinematography 2002

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:54 am

Pretty solid lineup, although I easily give my vote to Ed Lachman for Far From Heaven. Even though I’ve never quite been able to fall in love with Todd Haynes’ Sirk homage, I have no such qualms about what he manages to pull off visually. This is a note-perfect homage that never gets in the way of the storytelling, which is more you can say for Road to Perdition. This would have been an easy win for Conrad Hall if he had been alive. Although the film’s reputation has upticked a bit over the years (at least among my friends), I think the rub at the time was pretty on point. It’s a story, un-engagingly told, with some stunning shots and sequences. But to be fair: it's just stunning stuff.

The only other film that I would consider a worthy winner would be The Pianist. Without drawing attention to itself, Pawel Edelman draws the focus of the story closer and closer to Szpilman as the film goes on. While I’ve always found Adrien Brody’s Oscar win meaningful, I think just as much credit goes to the lensing.

But first off the list would be Michael Ballhaus for Gangs of New York. I used to have a theory that when Martin Scorsese has a great script, he uses Michael Ballhaus and when he doesn’t he uses Robert Richardson. Well, he doesn’t have a great script and I would argue that Robert Richardson’s more expressionistic pools of light might have livened up this messy affair and given it a more memorable atmosphere.

Next off the list would be Dion Beebe for Chicago, curiously not nominated by the ASC (they went for Prieto for Frida instead). Coming off of writing about Moulin Rouge! last year, I’m not sure if Dion Beebe has a harder job than Don McAlpine per se. His chief responsibility is ensuring that the audience gets as much razzle dazzle during the fantasy sequences as possible… before cutting back to a real world of drab, warmly lit interiors. And yet, the best you can really say is “He pulls it off.”

The alternate nominees would have been Rodrigo Prieto for Frida or Andrew Lesnie for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. But I’m less interested in the movies that probably almost got nominated than the ones that never factored in but represented important collaborative leaps. Y Tu Mama Tambien may not be as dazzling as Children of Men or Gravity, but it still is a high water mark for Alfonso Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki. Punch-Drunk Love isn’t one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best films, it was the first moment where I felt like he was done aping other filmmakers and was truly being himself. Much of that is due to the cinematography by Robert Elswitt. And while I don’t think that Catch Me If You Can or Minority Report are quite up to the level of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, they do represent some of the most interesting filmmaking of Steven Spielbeg’s most interesting phase.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


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