We are one week away from Oscar night and I’ve decided to start a daily instalment dedicated to the Awards, before publishing my final Oscar Predictions in the eve of the ceremony, which will take place on Sunday, 7 March.
I start this Oscar Countdown series with an award usually undervalued in its contribution to the final artistic achievement of a film due to its inherent allegiance to the so called technical categories: Best Cinematography.
There is a wide misconception about the nature of the craft among the general public, which often confuses a good camera work with the “prettiness” of a film, or more precisely, of its images. Past Academy Award winners in the category, like Legends of the Fall, Braveheart or Dances with Wolves seem to indicate that Oscar voters are not immune to this misunderstanding of the cinematographer’s job.
This year’s competition, however, seems to be a neck-to-neck race between two worthy nominees: The White Ribbon’s Christian Berger and The Hurt Locker’s Barry Ackroyd.
When I watched The White Ribbon I was stunned by the beauty (nothing to do with the above mentioned “prettiness”) of the black-and-white cinematography. Berger doesn’t shoot, but paints the landscapes and the rural vignettes with astonishing effectiveness.
Barry Ackoroyd, who already worked in the terrific United 93, shows again his skills with his hand-held camera work in The Hurt Locker, which vividly captures the fear and the tension of every scene. The cinematography and the editing are, in fact, two of the key elements of the film’s ultimate artistic success.
One of these two films should win. The White Ribbon has just received top honours from the American Society of Cinematographers, in which many Oscar observers have called a shocker result, and has earned recognition from other critics associations.
Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker has reaped awards for this category from more mainstream-oriented associations, including the BAFTA.
Some American reviewers insist on Avatar being the frontrunner, but any achievement in that film is due to its visual effects, but not to its cinematography. It shouldn’t win, and it won’t, unless the Academy members decide to make it sweep all the technical categories as a compensation for a potential double picture/directing loss to The Hurt Locker.
Robert Richardson’s work in Inglorious Basterds is fine, but not good enough to pull an upset, while Harry Potter and Whatever (which part are they in?) is simply the fifth nominee.
So, what’s gonna happen? The win at the ASC certainly places The White Ribbon in the first rank of the race, but I think the voters will go for The Hurt Locker, a worthy winner that, moreover, must get some awards in case the much feared (by me) Avatar’s victory scenario in the main categories finally comes true.
WILL WIN: Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker
SHOULD WIN: Christian Berger for The White Ribbon
POSSIBLE UPSET: Mauro Fione for Avatar