Cinematography is the most underrated part of filmmaking. A director’s vision for a script could not be realized without the specialized skills of a cinematographer. It’s a job so precise and difficult that it’s probably unfair to judge who is the best. Yet, this is where we find ourselves.
I think that I should mention that while I may know more than the average person, I am no expert in cinematography. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let that stop me from deciding who I think deserves to be on the shortlist for the world’s top award for it.
Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
If there is a face for the visual art of cinematography, it’s Roger Deakins. The Englishman has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, starting in 1994 with The Shawshank Redemption.
Last year, Deakins worked on the visually stunning science-fiction epic Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic.
The film itself was well-received by critics, but not at the box-office. Some have lauded it as one of the best films of 2017, while others have criticized its nearly three-hour runtime and the needlessness of a Blade Runner sequel.
Still, Deakins proves himself a master of his art form in this film. His use of unique stylism to create a gorgeous yet unsettling futuristic world for Ryan Gosling character to do his sleuthing.
Dan Lausten for The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen, and this is in no small part due to the look and feel created by cinematographer Dan Lausten.
This is an instance where I feel that a director, Guillermo del Toro, and cinematographer in total sync in terms of a vision for a film and how to convey it.
There are so many calculated measures, such as the ever-moving camera, that make the atmosphere of the film feel so much more unique than anything else that came out this year.
Hoyte van Hoytema for Dunkirk
The first thing that comes to mind for me is how difficult this must have been to shoot. Almost all of the film takes place in the water or on a beach, and still Hoytema manages to make Dunkirk look absolutely gorgeous while also conveying what the terror must have been like for the 300,000 British soldiers trapped there.
The dogfight scenes are also tremendously thrilling, as are scenes of chaos as German bombers reign fire on the British navy. And I can’t think of a time that Mark Rylance has looked better in a sweater than under the eye of Hoytema.
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Call Me By Your Name
Never have I fantasi\ed so hard about reading a book by a creek or eating a peach (and only eating a peach, mind you) than when I watched the magnificent Call Me By Your Name.
Mukdeeprom shoots an absolutely beautiful film, capturing not only the beauty of the Italian countryside, but the beauty of the characters in it. Everybody in this film looks so damn good all the time, and the look of the way that they play and eat and live makes the viewer want to jump into the screen and do it alongside them. The sense of fantasy in the film, like the characters face their conflicts in a paradise, is breathtaking.
Bruno Delbonnel for Darkest Hour
I could make the argument that Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is just as sexy as Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name, but that might only be because I find stiff, inspiring English leadership to be incredible sexy.
A lot of the scenes in Darkest Hour are between people who either don’t trust or downright despise each other, and there is something about the way these scenes are shot that you don’t need any exposition to understand this.
The lighting is always dim, befitting of the title, and it is expertly used in the particular scenes of Churchill speaking with King George VI and at the House of Commons.