Best Cinematography 2014

For the films of 2014

Of the 2014 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman)
Ida (Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski)
Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)
Unbroken (Roger Deakins)
No votes
Total votes: 18

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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:51 pm

I'd have nominated a largely different slate, putting in two movies already cited -- A Most Violent Year and The Immigrant -- and one I'm apparently alone in rating high: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the rare franchise effort to come up with a truly distinctive look.

Unbroken seems to have been nominated because "lots of outdoor shots", plus Deakins. There's nothing wrong with the film's look, but I think it's Deakins' least-merited nomination of the era.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is another in the line of "films whose look I liked a lot, but wasn't it mostly production design?" I'm not displeased by the nomination, but can't vote for it.

The wild enthusiasm for Birdman in this category -- at the Oscars and critics' groups -- seems primarily tied into the all-in-one-shot gimmick of the film. And I find myself arguing that what people are most honoring there is the directing. Not that Lubezki didn't enhance Innaritu's concept -- and provide perfect lighting for numerous sequences, particularly onstage moments. But, for me, the triumph of the continuous action is more Innaritu's achievement, and it puzzles me that so many seem to be primarily crediting Lubezki for it.

Ida is a yet another example of why black-and-white is such fertile visual territory for filmmakers to explore -- the film is not only striking-looking, but striking in a different way from such recent choices as Good Night and Good Luck or The White Ribbon. Ida tells a story that is narratively stark, and the film's visuals match that concept: taking place on a landscape that feels vast and empty and quietly threatening. This is a film whose look enhances the story it's telling.

Which can also be said of Mr. Turner, and, because that film's subject matter is itself visual, it has the ultimate advantage here. There's one shot in the film that encapsulates things for me: a view of the sky that looks for all the world like a Turner painting...which then pans down to show it's a live shot of Turner, lashed to a ship's mast, observing a real sky that he'll later turn into a painting. This moment illustrated the film's view of Turner: a man who was trying to catch the essence of nature in his painting, and very often succeeded. This film is beautiful-looking and has a purpose behind its beauty. This is plenty to get my vote in a fairly competitive year.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby Okri » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:39 pm

This was a fairly strong year for this category. I positive on most of the nominees, but would still try to find room for A Most Violent Year, Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, Wild, Winter Sleep, Under the Skin, and even Leviathan. I wouldn’t have succeeded, of course, but still would have tried.

Like everyone else, I’m dismissing Unbroken. From his most recent streak, easily his least interesting work. It’s certainly not bad, but not worthy.

I’ll get rid of Birdman next. My opinion about this film fluctuates, but even with my most enthusiasm, everything comes up as very stunty – the performances, the screenplay, the score and yes, the cinematography. It’s eye catching but exhausting.

Of the remaining three, all would make great winners. Ida is so beautiful and mysterious. Mr. Turner is jawdroppingly precise and gorgeous. I ended up choosing Grand Budapest Hotel. Yeoman is doing sterling work here. I think because of all the things we associate with Anderson – the production and costume design, the director-heavy framing – we’d underrate Yeoman here. But he manages to work in three aspect ratios while calling attention to the fact that he is without making it feel like a stunt. The most vivid feeling I remember about the film is it’s melancholy and I think Yeoman is key to that feeling. The final shot sequence(s) really gut me, actually. ‘It was an enchanting old ruin.”

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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:20 am

I'd wanted Bradford Young nominated for his impressive breakthrough year -- Selma was probably the more likely nominee (and would have been acceptable), but A Most Violent Year was the movie that really made me take note of his talent. I also think Nightcrawler, as in so many categories, would have been a worthy inclusion.

Unbroken isn't Deakins's worst nomination -- its sweeping vistas at least make this a more understandable nomination than, say, The Reader -- but I find it pretty antiseptic work, glossy in a very tradition-of-quality manner, but lacking any kind of artistic personality.

I'm fine with the fact that the precise compositions and energetic camera moves of Robert Yeoman's work for Wes Anderson finally scored a nomination in this category. But I'd probably say that production and costume design were the more notable visual achievements from The Grand Budapest Hotel -- though not unworthy a citation, I think general enthusiasm for the movie really helped carry it along in this category, which I hadn't considered a possibility until pretty late in the season.

Although I've enjoyed many Mike Leigh films, I haven't thought of too many of them as first-rate visual triumphs (at least beyond the impressive period detail of Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake). But in the photography department, Mr. Turner is a cut way above, with beautiful uses of light, and images so painterly you sometimes can't tell at first if you're looking at one of Turner's art works or the film's. A strong nominee (and one I'll always fondly associate with that laugh-out-loud "Dick Poop" moment.)

Ida's nomination here was one of my happiest surprises of this year. I was quite a fan of the movie, and thought the cold, clinical compositions had just the right amount of harshness for this bleak, sad story. The lighting throughout is pretty exquisite -- from the nunnery to that jazzy hotel -- and the perfectly crafted precision of individual images has kept many of them burned into my memory. (Especially the film's most shocking shot -- you know the one.) Another very impressive nominee.

But once again, Lubezki's astounding technical achievement is just too impressive to ignore. Birdman's (mostly) one take wonder is a marvel, but what's most dazzling about the photography is what's most effective about the movie: it doesn't feel like a stunt. The technique is perfectly utilized to tell the movie's story, and never feels like bravura for bravura's sake. And though not perhaps as traditionally "beautiful" as many winners, it does have individual shots that stand out as gorgeously crafted (Keaton surrounded by the colorful lights in the liquor store, Keaton floating in his underwear). Another easy vote for Lubezki.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:22 am

Well, four highly impressive nominees that were well deserved. I voted for Mr. Turner.

Whilst I can appreciate Unbroken looks impressive but Deakins could not disguise the fact that the film was shot in Australia to my eyes anyway as the light 'down under' is different to others parts of the world. The visuals of the film which are very Australian kept throwing me out of the film - the fact that the film is not too good didn't help me to notice this quirk with the cinematography. Hacksaw Ridge had the same problem. Memo to filmmakers: only films set in Australia should be filmed in Australia unless you are talented enough to manipulate the lighting to that of the area of the world that your film is set.

Omissions abound in a stellar year: Miss Julie, Amour Fou (virtually any frame from these two films could be hung on the wall as a piece of art), Gone Girl, The Beloved Sisters, Hard to Be a God, Stations of the Cross, White God, Winter Sleep, Timbuktu & Begin Again.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Aug 28, 2018 3:28 am

A Most Wanted Man , Nightcrawler and Snowpiercer are my omissions.

The actual nominees were all strong.

Unbroken was oversold as a directorial breakthrough for Angelina Jolie - it wasn't, but Roger Deakins' cinematography is once again flawless.

Mr. Turner is probably the best photographed of all of Mike Leigh's films.

Ida is achingly beautiful.

Birdman gets my vote for the second most original film of the year behind Boyhood, but the eye-popping delights of The Grand Budapest Hotel were the most pleasing to my eye so I happily cast my vote for the under-appreciated Robert D. Yeoman who has been doing lovely work for over three decades now. Drugstore Cowboy, The Rainmaker, The Squid and the Whale and Love & Mercy are some of his non-Wes Anderson films. Of course there was also the asinine Bridesmaids, but then nobody's perfect.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2014

Postby dws1982 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:14 pm

It's a really solid year. I might be less-inclined to vote for The Grand Budapest Hotel than any of the others, but I've also been meaning to rewatch that one for a few years now. Birdman is another one that I won't vote for. I respect the achievement, but I don't much like the movie, and I probably do default more towards the pretty nominees.

I said at the time that Unbroken, while a good movie (and I think it was), was an incomplete one--it quite literally ends as soon as he gets off the airplane back in the US, when there was a major story that followed--years of anger, alcohol, and depression, followed by redemption and forgiveness. I understand that they probably didn't want to deal too much with the religious aspect, but they missed an opportunity there. It's a good-looking movie, well-shot. Not necessarily the movie I would want to give Deakins an Oscar for, but it's a worthy enough nomination.

Ida was a nomination that I saw as a possibility ever since I saw it in theaters in summer of 2014, and I think it's a really deserving nominee. Pawlikowski is a bit like a more-talented Tom Hooper in the way he frequently places actors and objects in odd spaces (the corners of the frame), but unlike with Hooper, I think there's more to it than just trying to be different. A worthy runner-up. After loving Another Year, I was a bit disappointed with Mr. Turner as a movie (again, I need to rewatch), but I thought the cinematography was just excellent. There are so many stunning shots in the film--Turner seeing the Temeraire being towed up the Thames was one, and my favorite must have been that shot of Turner fishing in a rowboat. Easy vote for me.

If it had been nominated I probably would've gone with The Immigrant--James Gray's films before this were all strong visually, but this was a giant leap beyond that. Also would've nominated American Sniper, and would've certainly considered The Homesman, Selma, A Most Violent Year, The Last Sentence, The Theory of Everything, A Most Wanted Man, and The Better Angels. Very strong year.

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Best Cinematography 2014

Postby Sabin » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:22 am

I think I can get away with voting despite the fact that I haven’t seen Unbroken because I think I can safely say that the remaining nominees make for a pretty stellar lineup. And yet there’s a stunt quality to each of them.

It’s saying something that my least favorite nominee is Robert Yeoman for his first (and possibly only) nomination for his remarkable collaboration with Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the only nominee this year shot on film (a first) and it’s a playful mix of aspect ratios, grain, and image design. There’s a freewheeling joy to the film that I haven’t seen in Wes Anderson’s work since The Royal Tenenbaums. Once again: good lineup.

I was going to start this post by making the case for Mr. Turner or Ida, but strangely enough I find I have very little to say about both of these incredible technical achievements. They’re studied, powerfully, powerfully studied works of gorgeous visual filmmaking. I find I’d rather write more about Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Birdman. While I’m not over the moon for the film as a whole, it’s worth crediting Inarritu and Lubezki for using this single shot illusion to build tension, rarely call attention to itself, and it only jars and comes across as a stunt when it leaps forward in time. What keeps me perennially in awe in Birdman on a surface level is how it always seems to capture the right facial expression at the right time in the right pool of expressionistic light. During this three year period, Emmanuel Lubezki was as high-profile a cinematographer as any during my life. His Oscars weren’t just foregone conclusions. They felt like coronations. I didn’t honor him last year and I won’t the next, so giving him one for Birdman doesn’t feel like a betrayal.

I’m not sure what the big, shocking omission would be in this lineup. Probably The Immigrant, but there’s nothing shocking about it. I had misremembered that Dick Pope made a clean sweep for his Cinematography for Mr. Turner, but in reality he only won for The National Society of Film Critics. LA went for Birdman and New York went for Darius Khonji for The Immigrant. The American Society of Cinematographers nominated Oscar Faura for The Imitation Game, but I have to believe that is only because Ida was ineligible (I think). For example, the Baftas gave The Imitation Game nine nominations but passed on its uninspired cinematography for Hoyte van Hoytema for Insterstellar. I remember thinking that The Imitation Game’s star was sinking pretty quickly come Oscar morning and in fact its nominations for Best Director and Best Film Editing surprised me.

Also worthy of consideration would be Bradford Young, who had a remarkable breakthrough year for both Selma and A Most Violent Year.
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