Best Cinematography 2010

Of the 2010 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
10
63%
Inception (Wally Pfister)
5
31%
The King's Speech (Danny Cohen)
0
No votes
The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth)
0
No votes
True Grit (Roger Deakins)
1
6%
 
Total votes: 16

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 2010

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:56 pm

This is a good list, but the bench this year wasn't very deep -- 127 Hours is just about the only other movie I could have imagined breaking into this lineup.

The nominee I'd replace would be The King's Speech, as this is one of its least impressive areas of achievement. There just isn't much visual imagination in the film's conventionally shot dialogue scenes, and the excessive use of fish-eye lenses even becomes distracting.

The other four nominees represent the slate I'd have chosen, and I don't see a ton of difference in quality between them. The Social Network is another pretty talky film, but here I thought the sleekness of the cinematography -- the way the film's environments feel so cold and alienating -- made what could have been a predominately verbal experience into an impressively visual one as well. It's perhaps not quite flashy enough to win, though.

I found Inception an almost endlessly imaginative visual dazzler, full of shots that quickly became iconic (the characters walking on the walls, the car frozen in time plunging into the water). I'd probably say that the visual effects and production design were even more crucial elements to the film's success, but unlike in the more workmanlike Avatar, I think there's plenty of artistry to the photography as well.

I was sort of rooting for True Grit to win this on Oscar night, mostly because I'd hoped Deakins would finally prevail. Had it won, it would have been more than simply a prize based on overdue status, as there are numerous beautiful images that I can easily recall -- the opening tableau, Rooster riding across the horizon to save his snake-bitten comrade, the final moment at the grave site. But I wouldn't say the visuals were quite as inventive as those (numerous) times when I'd have given him my vote, so I'll vote elsewhere here.

So, Black Swan. It's got a striking, haunting look to it that's elegant enough for a film about ballet, and ragged enough to fit right in with the film's more horrific elements. And the technical challenges here -- in-camera effects, shooting around all those mirrors in the dance studio, capturing the dance sequences while obscuring body doubles -- mark this as a real feat of craft, albeit one in which the technical elements are completely in sync with the film's story and mood. I find this the most visually singular work of photography on offer, and it gets my vote.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2010

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:22 pm

All my prime substitution candidates have already been mentioned: I Am Love, Shutter Island and 127 Hours.

The King's Speech was beneficiary of the ever-popular "we love EVERYTHING about you" best picture nomination sweep. I think this might be something of a dying tradition -- though La La Land's sound editing nomination suggests it's occasionally subject to revival (strange, that both La La and King's Speech ended up lesser juggernauts than their unseemly nomination haul seemed to promise). Except for a few outdoor fog shots, there was nothing memorable about Hooper's film's look.

I think the reason many of us thought Deakins would win this time around was a combination of 1) growing awareness of his always-a-bridesmaid status and 2) the fact that True Grit offered the kind of open-air vistas that, at that point, was more the norm for cinematography wins. Yes, it turned out we were in the midst of a visual effects = cinematography stretch, but we didn't know that at the time: Avatar, for all we knew, might have been a one-off (connected to its highest-grossing-film-ever profile); the years just prior had offered winners like There Will Be Blood, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Aviator -- a group within which True Grit would have fit without obvious discomfort. It wouldn't have been an awful winner -- there were some striking night-time visuals. But Deakins' ultimate win was for far more impressive work.

I was one of Inception's admirers here -- not to say I took it seriously, but I really enjoyed it. And there were certainly plenty of impressive pictures that were part of the fun. But I think of the film as more notable for the imagination of its effects than the beauty of its visuals.

An awful lot of The Social Network takes place in cramped interiors, and Cronenweth finds lots of ways to make these interiors varied and interesting to look at. The academic halls and law offices have both a majesty and a pretension to them, in keeping with Zuckerberg's mixed emotions (both resenting them and desperately craving their acceptance). The film doesn't have the obvious visual panache of some winning films in this era, but it's a worthy contender.

But I went Black Swan way. The film is at least 30% silly (on a good day), and I wouldn't care to defend it as narrative. But Aronofsky knows something about providing strong visuals, and Libatique is very much his equal partner on that score. The films has many memorable images, whether at home, in rehearsal halls, or on stage, and Libatique lights them all to perfection. There are nearby years where this film would not win my prize for the year, but, from what 2010 had to offer, it's my clear choice.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2010

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:10 am

Inception was an easy choice for me. The others were all serviceable but hardly worthy of nominations.

I certainly agree it was a weak year all round. The only omissions (some of which are probably not eligible) for me are I Am Love, Never Let Me Got, White Material, The Princess of Montpensier, The Round Up and the best of the year Black Bread.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2010

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:25 pm

Granted, there weren't a lot of alternatives but Shutter Island (Robert Richardson), Never Let Me Go ( Adam Kimmel) and 127 Hours (Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle) were all better photographed than The King's Speech. One of them should have taken its place and the other two should have been considered as alternatives to the insufferable Black Swan and the overhyped remake of True Grit.

The only two nominees worth considering for me are Inception and The Social Network. The more inventive Inception gets my vote.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2010

Postby mlrg » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:19 pm

True Grit and Black Swan are two films that I absolutely loathe.

I revisited Social Network a couple of times, most recently just last week. It still leaves me completely cold.

The King’s Speech is a fine film, but not deserving of a win in this category.

Voted for Inception

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Best Cinematography 2010

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:03 pm

Our decade of Deakins-Watch began here when this film was perceived as his to lose, though in retrospect I’m not sure how we came to that conclusion. True Grit has its share of beautiful landscapes but it’s easily one of the Coens’ least visually inventive works. I think we overestimated the Academy’s desire to see Deakins win FOR a Coen Brothers film. We’ve overestimated sillier things in the past. Considering what Deakins had in store for us this decade, I’m perfectly fine with leaving this as one of the lesser disappointments on a truly disappointing Oscar night.

The eventual winner, Inception, seems a bit easier to predict. Pfister won the ASC Award and this was his third nomination. Even more telling, Inception would be the second of five films to win Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects in a row. For most people, Inception was the visual stunner of the year. I’ve seen it four times now and I’ll just never warm up to it. It should be so much more entertaining than it is and the blame falls squarely on Christopher Nolan’s writing. Wally Pfister’s murky cinematography is hardly to blame, although it should be said that this must be the most literal-minded film about dreams in film history.

Both of these remain acceptable nominations. At least they didn’t honor what is now a routine (and dreadful) collaboration between Director Tom Hooper and DP Danny Cohen. I’ve seen The King’s Speech a few times now and it remains a more disappointing Oscar winner than a film… except in the realm of cinematography. I read in an article that Hooper considered Stanley Kubrick’s usage of wide-angle lenses to be his inspiration in this and other films. Oh, how that explains so much. The shot-reverse shot rhythms in the meeting between Bertie and Lionel are so ruinous because they both blend into the background like paintings on the wall. For as many instances of true imagination (Bertie’s first approach to the microphone) there are just as many scenes where the damn camera pulls me out of the picture. In retrospect, a bit surprising that it didn’t win.

For me, this race is between Black Swan and The Social Network. We are now officially in a realm where digital is the new norm. At the time, I stumped for Matthew Libatique, who swept the critic’s awards. I’d love to think it was great taste that led the Academy to nominating such an unflashy film. Maybe it was simply that they couldn’t ignore the admittedly remarkable finale, or maybe it was that there just weren’t many films left off this year (Anthony Dod Mantel for 127 Hours? Robert Richardson for Shutter Island?). After almost a decade of watching the emergence of digital cinematography into the mainstream, Black Swan represented a new breed: the modern stealth digital indie. Here was this ingenious little thing filmed under the gun, with stolen locations, utilizing such a wide array of digital effects that nobody even noticed. The fact that it was snubbed in the Best Visual Effects category is a testament to its success.

I began this post with the intention of giving the award to The Social Network for several reasons. It represented a leap forward in The Fincher Look. It’s my only opportunity to honor a David Fincher film’s cinematography. It manages to make sitting at a computer riveting… But there are just as many other reasons why it’s riveting (the score, the editing, the words), and like I wrote with Deakins above there will be other opportunities to do so in the future. The Social Network remains my close runner-up but ultimately I think Black Swan is the higher tightrope to walk.
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