Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2011: Best Cinematography

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.


1. Black Swan

2. True Grit

3. Inception

4. The Social Network

5. The King’s Speech

Inception has a lot of nifty handheld, 360-degree camera work; The Social Network nicely melds together David Fincher’s dark grittiness with the lush, historical setting of Cambridge, MA; The King’s Speech utilizes lots of wide lenses super-close to the actors’ faces to manipulate a greater emotional connection between the characters and the film’s audience.

But just watch the video below, and you’ll see why True Grit is going to come out on top. The use of light in the courtroom scene alone should win Roger Deakins his first Oscar, and it’s about time too: this makes his ninth nomination following tremendous work on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, and The Shawshank Redemption, among others. While most agree True Grit is not his best work, the fact that he is one of the most respected in the industry and has not yet won, makes this his year. But honestly, it’s hard to argue with this win — his restraint and eye for stunning camera angles is breathtaking. Who knew a curmudgeonly comical Western could be this beautiful?

As vital and extraordinarily effective as Black Swan‘s cinematography is, first-time nominee Matthew Libatique is not going to go home with a statue, though I wish he would. Going from big-budget glossy comic book flick Iron Man (he was cinematographer for both the first and second films) to the low-budget, lurid thriller Black Swan demonstrates his dedication to creating the best visual atmosphere for whatever project is on-hand. Where Deakins shows restraint and slowly panning vistas, Libatique’s work is shockingly in your face, jolting you into Nina’s claustrophobic paranoia. Keeping everything so dark and monochromatic, all use of color is symbolic; he plays with mirrors and meaning — their light and reflections; and on top of all that, he films the choreography in 360 degrees, a major challenge. While his work may not be the prettiest, it’s not supposed to be. The fact that it’s dark and oppressive is exactly the effect the film required, and Libatique deserves recognition for it.


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This entry was posted on February 13, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Cinematography, Oscar-Nominated.



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