Film is of course a visual medium, so what could be more important than they guy who decides how a film looks: the cinematographer. There was a lot of good cinematography this year but not a ton of great cinematography, there were only a couple films that I would have tipped for the final award but a multitude of films that could have easily gotten the nomination under slightly different circumstances.
- Kill List: Low budget British horror movies aren’t generally expected to have great cinematography, so it’s always a nice surprise when such a movie has exactly that. Laurie Rose’s work as DP on Kill List really makes the film look a much grander production than it maybe was and it adds immensely to the film’s atmosphere, especially in the film’s second half when it takes a pretty dramatic turn in both plot and tone.
- The Master: I didn’t get a chance to see The Master projected in 70mm, but I did see it projected in a high end 4K digital presentation and it looked luscious. Anderson had to use cinematographer Mihai Malăimare, Jr. instead of his usual DP Robert Elswit, but he doesn’t seem to skip a beat. The cinematography here gives The Master a vivid look that perfectly captures its period while also just being beautiful.
- Prometheus: Much as it did in the Art Direction, Prometheus had the unenviable task of having to replicate the iconic look of the original Alien that was captured by the late Derek Vanlint back in 1979. Fortunately Dariusz Wolski is up to the task. He gives all the interiors an appropriately dark and brooding look and he also make the planetary landscapes an appropriately otherworldly look.
- Rust and Bone: Maybe J.J. Abrams has given deliberate lens flare a bad name, but in the hands of someone like Rust and Bone cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine it can be the backbone of an excellent visual aesthetic. Fontaine perfectly captures the humid heat of the resort town in which the film is set and gives the whole project a subtle unreality that really elevates it. The aesthetic is also malleable enough to feel just as natural when the film transitions into different settings late in its run time.
- Skyfall: Why does a James Bond movie need to be shot by someone as skilled as Roger Deakins? I don’t know, but it seems to have mostly worked out. I think the reason Deakins accepted this job is because Sam Mendes pretty much told him he could do whatever he wanted to do in order to make the film look as pretty as possible. The results are a bit masturbatory but the film does indeed look really good and I suspect that Deakins’ work has a lot to do with why this entry in the storied franchise is being taken so seriously.