The award for cinematography has remained pretty much unchanged since the first Academy Awards, focusing on the camerawork and lighting that sets the mood and tone of every particular scene. Every nominee this year features experience cinematographers and each one used intentional techniques to set a stylistic tone that varied wildly this year. Every film this year has one thing in common, each one is set outside of the present and requires a unique take to set the period of the film.
The nominees for Best Cinematography are:
- Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins has been in cinematography for many years and has been nominated for this award over a dozen times. Here he sets the tone for the futuristic world of Blade Runner using a lot of bleak lighting and long exterior shots that establish the state of this dark world. He paints with a broad brush and, though not his best work, mimics the tone of the original well.
- Darkest Hour – Creating the urgency of World War II in the confines of British Parliament is a daunting task, but Delbonnel is up to the task. The claustrophobic way that much of this is filmed puts a lot of pressure on the viewer and allows the film to build very quickly. The film does a good job of matching the lighting of the time, with most scenes seeming a little dark, never engulfing the film in shadow.
- Dunkirk – There is no way to look at this film as anything other than three separate segments, each filmed in a completely unique way and entirely isolated from each other. Hoyte van Hoytema has got quite a few films under his belt, but none as cold and intense as this one. The film’s three sections are each grey and empty, but the way they blend together is a credit to his skill as a cinematographer.
- Mudbound – While the other films this year are all dark and grey, this film is bleak in a different, more sepia-toned way. Rachel Morrison does a great job of emulating the overly bright, but oddly bleak world of post-dust bowl Mississippi. Using as much natural light as possible, Morrison captures the feel of the South and creates a wide berth within which the actors get to feel comfortable in their roles.
- The Shape of Water – This film is arguably the most complex to film, since it featured so many different settings and unique locations. The tone of this film is oddly hopeful, but set in a world that is completely hopeless and while not as dark as others on this list, Dan Laustsen does a great job of telling the story by focusing on the right moments at the right time, never spending too much time in one place.
My Prediction to win is…