Best Cinematography 1998

1998 through 2007

Of the 1998 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

A Civil Action (Conrad Hall)
0
No votes
Elizabeth (Remi Adefarasin)
0
No votes
Saving Private Ryan (Janusz Kaminski)
4
18%
Shakespeare in Love (Richard Greatrex)
0
No votes
The Thin Red Line (John Toll)
18
82%
 
Total votes: 22

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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Sabin » Thu May 10, 2018 2:29 pm

Mister Tee wrote
Very happy to see people touting Pleasantville, which I thought I might be alone in mentioning. Sabin is probably right, that the branch saw it as a visual effects things -- though the VFX branch chose to nominate the immortal Mighty Joe Young over it.

Not only was it not nominated, it wasn't even short-listed. According to Wes' hopefuls page (which I consulted to ask myself just what the heck they might've left off), I saw that the short-listed VFX films were Armageddon, Babe: Pig in the City, Mighty Joe Young, Small Soldiers, The Truman Show, What Dreams May Come...and Godzilla, which was probably the most reviled visual effect of its year.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Mister Tee » Thu May 10, 2018 2:10 pm

I'm late getting to this due to "busy", and much of what I think has already been expressed.

Very happy to see people touting Pleasantville, which I thought I might be alone in mentioning. Sabin is probably right, that the branch saw it as a visual effects things -- though the VFX branch chose to nominate the immortal Mighty Joe Young over it. Pleasantville not only has an often-lyrical use of the black-and-white with traces of color, it accustoms our eyes to that look so well that, when the final moments occur in the full-color town square, it feels akin to the landing in Oz: a scene that's routine in many movies becomes like magic.

So, yeah, A Civil Action -- total surprise nominee till you look at the cinematographer credit. Hall as always does a good job, but he got this nod because he's Conrad Hall.

Elizabeth was kind of insistently visual -- the way the camera kept zooming around, highlighting the sets and costumes from odd angle, it felt like MTV history. (Apropos of which: Whatever happened to Shekhar Kapur?) It wasn't to my taste, but I guess more interesting than stodgy history a la Darkest Hour. Not a horrible nominee.

Nor was Shakespeare in Love, although its not-certain inclusion in this group was more a sign of its ultimate best picture strength than of its achievement in cinematography. Perfectly good-looking; no chance at the win.

As everyone says, it comes down to the two big war films, and I've decided the race the way nearly everyone else has. Kaminski's on-the-ground work is visceral, ground-breaking, and, as dws notes, influential, for good or ill. In many surrounding years, it'd be an easy winner here as well as at the Academy.

But The Thin Red Line goes it one better: making us drink in the environment even while watching it being despoiled by the carnage around it. The two films share concepts...even the visual of soldiers deploying from barges...and Malick/Toll's images manage to be more gorgeous than Spielberg/Kaminski's while equally textured. Sometimes a movie just looks too great to be denied. The Thin Red Line is one of those movies.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby dws1982 » Wed May 09, 2018 9:11 pm

The Thin Red Line easily takes this for me, and would in most years.

But I'll definitely acknowledge Saving Private Ryan for having what is undoubtedly one of the most influential (maybe the most influential) visual styles of any movie released in the past twenty-five years. I don't know if it was a great influence--so many movies tried what Spielberg/Kaminski did, to diminishing returns--but it absolutely works here. In many other years, it would be as easy a pick for me as The Thin Red Line was this year.

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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Sabin » Tue May 08, 2018 11:13 am

I definitely agree that Out of Sight deserves recognition for its cinematography. I just introduced this film to my girlfriend and once again marveled at how remarkable it is that we always know where in time we are without extensive use of chyrons. Soderbergh would get a little more ambitious with this technique over the next couple of years but for me, Out of Sight is where it started and it's the purer thing of beauty. And of course, there's that gorgeous scene between Gary and Celeste with snow dancing in the window behind them. Elliot Davis would have been a more worthy nominee than any save for Kaminski and Toll in this lineup.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue May 08, 2018 7:16 am

I'll join the crowd and vote for The Thin Red Line here. Not only is that cinematography gorgeous, but when it needs to it can be just as chillingly shot as a Saving Private Ryan, with Toll and Malick letting the camera linger, or letting little details preclude the doom that is coming just over that hill. Ryan is the only other nominee I would consider, for the first section of the film alone.

As for the others, they are all fine, serviceable jobs, but nothing from them stands out to me at all. I would have much rather they nominated Pleasantville, Out of Sight, and Gods and Monsters.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Precious Doll » Tue May 08, 2018 3:13 am

I voted for the same film that just about everyone else, though aside from The Thin Red Line & Saving Private Ryan the other nominees are pretty standard. 1998 was a premier year for cinematography (again) and my choice for best of the year was the never nominated Walter Carvalho for Central Station. He ad shot Salle's earlier Foreign Land and would go to to shoot Salle's Behind the Sun three year later. Other notables for me were Out of Sight and A Simple Plan.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Big Magilla » Mon May 07, 2018 8:13 pm

The Thin Red Line was nothing if not beautiful to look at, but the idea of soldiers stopping on their way up a hill in the middle of a battle to look at treetops still grates on me all these years later.

There was little that was pretty about Saving Private Ryan but it was realistic, well done and quite an accomplishment. It gets my vote.

The now pretty much forgotten The Horse Whisperer was the only other film that year that seems like it belonged in the same class as the two war movies, although Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth, which were neither better nor worse choices than either The Truman Show or Pleasantville were not bad also-rans. A Civil Action, on the other hand, was one of the most ridiculous nondescript nominees of the era.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Sabin » Mon May 07, 2018 1:58 pm

I think this is going to be our most misleading poll results ever. The Thin Red Line is going to win in a landslide, probably equal to Vanessa Redgrave in Julia. I'm trying to think of any recent year that Saving Private Ryan wouldn't crush the competition.
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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby mlrg » Mon May 07, 2018 1:54 pm

Thin Red line

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Re: Best Cinematography 1998

Postby The Original BJ » Mon May 07, 2018 12:47 pm

I think Sabin's analysis pretty much nailed it. I'm fond of the alternates he listed -- the inventive show-within-a-show camerawork of The Truman Show, the pops of Technicolor through B&W in Pleasantville. And I, too, would offer up Beloved, a film which isn't up to the extraordinary level of the novel, but which I think is a noble effort, with some appropriately haunting images.

A Civil Action fits pretty firmly within the trend of Conrad Hall's default nominations -- it's solidly shot, with some moody wintry images, but it's hard to justify it as top-five material for the year. I'm glad Hall's final two nominations up ahead came for more genuinely impressive work.

Both of the Elizabethan pictures are good-looking films, but I'd say far more because of triumphs in set/costume design than cinematography. Elizabeth certainly has some flashy lighting -- I can vividly recall the image of backlit Blanchett in full queen regalia -- but I don't think its look is especially distinctive. Its images mostly feel of a piece with plenty of similar period dramas.

Shakespeare in Love has a nice glow to it -- some of the candlelit scenes have a sweet romanticism to them -- but this is one category where I think an Oscar would definitely be over-rewarding the achievement. There just isn't enough creativity in the photography, or honestly even much in the way of striking visual panache, to merit consideration for the win.

The race is clearly between the WWII efforts, and though my hunch is we'll vote pretty strongly against the Academy's decision, the race hardly deserves to be a blowout, because Saving Private Ryan's cinematography is outstanding. My general opinion of the film is that it's a moving memory piece that remains pretty clear-eyed throughout (at least until the mawkish finale), and I think the images are a crucial part of conveying those ideas. The opening images of the cemetery, as well as the selected moments from the homefront, have a stately, faded quality to them that's obviously nostalgic, but they're balanced by the gritty, herky-jerk images of the battle scenes, from the now-legendary Normandy Beach fight, up through the climactic battle in the ruins. This film is fairly overwhelming as a visual experience, and I rate this a very high-quality choice as a cinematography winner.

But not quite as good as The Thin Red Line, which uses its images as an equally effective thematic tool, highlighting the sheer beauty of the natural world, and then the horrors inflicted upon it by men in conflict. It's by now cliche to say that the photography in Malick's films is poetic, but John Toll's work here achieves just that, knocking us out with the gorgeousness of the visuals, while giving them a lyrical quality that doesn't just enhance the film's mood, but practically creates it. I think this is a top contender for best cinematography of the decade, and after passing on Toll for both of his actual wins, I'm very pleased to vote for him here.

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Best Cinematography 1998

Postby Sabin » Mon May 07, 2018 10:39 am

At the time, I couldn’t believe that The Horse Whisperer missed out on a nomination here. It makes a little more sense now twenty years later considering that the movie has been completely forgotten, but “long but boring” seems to be this branch’s sweet spot. It’s a beautiful movie that seems tailor made for a nomination. Richardson would have to wait another year for his first nomination unbound from Oliver Stone. He was the ASC’s fifth choice alongside Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Thin Red Line. If Beloved hadn’t completely imploded, Tak Fujimoto could’ve picked up his first nomination. The other three possibilities likely cut into each other’s votes. Peter Biziou for The Truman Show found endlessly creative angles to create a sense of cramped, voyeuristic space. A previous winner for Mississippi Burning, his omission isn’t surprising considering how much the film underperformed. On the other end of the TV-as-satire spectrum, maybe John Lindley’s work on Pleasantville was too intricately tied to its visual effects. Not that that’s hurt any film since. Or perhaps this was just a movie more beloved by Oscar bloggers than voters. And on the other end of the black and white spectrum, Seamus Deasy earned some mention for John Boorman’s The General, a film I barely remember.

Instead, the Academy nominated Conrad Hall for A Civil Action, which was predicted by zero humans on the planet. At this point, Conrad Hall had picked up a very solid track record for getting nominated for films about people doing things at table, be it chess or reading legal briefs. I revisited it a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful-looking, atmospheric legal drama that plays a bit more satisfying today amidst diminished expectations, for the film and Travolta’s hot streak. But it still looks like the odd film out.

There’s not much to say about the two costume films. About Elizabeth, because William Goldman already summed it up as good as anyone could. It’s such an overly-shot film that it’s a bit surprisingly Shekhar Kapur didn’t get a Best Director nomination. That’s not a compliment. And there’s not much to say about Shakespeare in Love, because…well, it’s pretty. Very pretty, in fact. There’s a beautiful swoony quality to the images, and how Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow eye-fuck each other. Subsequent viewing reveal how much of their performances and chemistry was built on holding on one’s face while the other is talking. A cheat, for sure, but Shakespeare in Love is a film I love and so it’s a cheat that works.

But the big question is: Kaminski or Toll? There’s a chance if I had one tie to bestow ever in Oscar history, it would be here. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is up there. How difficult is this choice? It almost becomes a moral question. What do you value in a war film? While Saving Private Ryan’s cinematography was an influential, technological breakthrough, The Thin Red Line’s cinematography felt timeless. I’m choosing The Thin Red Line simply because twenty years later, Spielberg’s film resembles other, shittier war films or video games, while Malick’s still looks like a cathedral.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


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