This year's Oscar nominations are out, with the usual mix of surprises (Mad Max!) and disappointments (whitewashing across the board). But the one incontestable standout out on the list is the Achievement in Cinematography award. 2016's lineup might be one of the most competitive races ever.
It's too easy to lump cinematography in with the technical categories (which is what the Academy does), but this award is one of the most important to the filmmaking process. Directors receive all the credit for how a film looks, but skilled cinematographers are the ones who execute their vision. For examples, read The Beat's summary of famous directors and cinematographers who teamed up: when you watch a Christopher Nolan film, the tone and composition of those images were chosen by his cinematographer Wally Pfister. Don't underestimate a great cinematographer.
All five nominated films are outstanding, and a four in particular represent exceptional achievements and pedigrees.
- Robert Richardson's work on The Hateful Eight was famously the first Ultra Panavsion 70 production in decades, and the work shows.
- Mad Max: Fury Road has been considered one of the all-time greatest action movies thanks to John Seale's surreal camera work.
- Emmanuel Lubezki has won the cinematography Oscar for the past two years for good reason, and he stands a chance to repeat for his gripping work on The Revenant.
- Roger Deakins's nod for Sicario is his thirteenth nomination, but the legendary DP has never won an Academy Award yet (?!).