Thursday, December 11, 2014

By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood

Regardless of how the Oscar nominations shake out, here are the fabulous five in the Cinematography race.

Will Roger Deakins ("Unbroken") finally win his elusive Oscar after 11 nominations? Or will Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki ("Birdman") earn two in a row? Will Dick Pope ("Mr. Turner") grab his first Academy Award on the 10th film with Mike Leigh, or will Jeff Cronenweth ("Gone Girl") finally strike gold with David Fincher? Can the very hot Hoyte van Hoytema ("Interstellar") take home his first prize as the lone film practitioner (primarily using IMAX)? All of the work is extraordinary as cinematography once again signifies the most exciting of the craft races.

1. Deakins, the guru of naturalism, provides his most beautiful work for Angelina Jolie's powerful "Unbroken," the biopic about Olympic runner turned war hero Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell).  Utilizing Oswald Morris' work on Sidney Lumet's 1965 "The Hill" as a searing benchmark for World War II melodrama, Deakins achieves a classical look, packing the frame with intensity. From the ethereal opening of Zamp's B24 ascending the clouds to the bleached out claustrophobia of surviving 47 days in a raft in the Pacific, and the agonies of enduring POW torture porn in the Omori and Naoetsu camps, Deakins creates a masterful dance of light and dark that serves as the primary metaphor of miraculous survival and spiritual transcendence.

The contrast between the two camps, for instance, couldn't be more visually striking: the wooden Omori has a warm, dustiness while Naoetsu, a Steel mill labor camp, is drenched in black coal. Deakins, of course, is long overdue ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Man Who Wasn't There,"  "No Country for Old Men," and "The Assassination of Jesse James").


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