Best Cinematography 2001

1998 through 2007

Best Cinematography of 2001

Amelie (Bruno Delbonnel)
Black Hawk Down (Sławomir Idziak)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Andrew Lesnie)
The Man Who Wasn't There (Roger Deakins)
Moulin Rouge! (Don McAlpine)
Total votes: 19

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby The Original BJ » Wed May 30, 2018 8:10 pm

I'm a bit surprised some of you are so down on this lineup. I rate it easily one of the best of the decade -- not superior to 2007's extraordinary slate, but a highly praise-worthy list.

But I'm in lock-step agreement with the consensus on what films merited inclusion: In the Mood for Love (virtually tied for me as the year's best with the most impressive actual nominee), Mulholland Drive, and A.I.

I gave Amélie another whirl pretty recently, as I'd just been to Paris for the first time (and stayed in Montmartre), so I wanted to see the sights I'd now visited first-hand. The film has a charming glow to it, with images that capture a real-life neighborhood while imbuing it with plenty of fanciful whimsy. It looks lovely throughout, though there aren't too many individual shots that stick in the memory as approaching knockout territory for me.

Black Hawk Down is definitely another movie that's doing the Saving Private Ryan thing, but I would also say that the individual shots here are well-crafted enough on their own terms that it doesn't just feel like mimicry. Although I don't necessarily find the content here to be particularly special, the movie is absolutely a notable technical accomplishment, and the images hit that sweet spot of verite and beauty that works well for the best war films.

It's certainly hard not to notice the photography in Moulin Rouge -- there's all that swooping around, all those bursts of color, all that dramatic lighting. (The blues on Kidman at the climax aid that moment's emotional impact considerably.) On the whole, I enjoy Moulin Rouge as a spectacle piece, and I'd praise the cinematography for its role in providing all that visual razzle dazzle, though I'd say the areas of production and costume design were on the whole more prize-worthy.

A trend for me emerged in this period we're in now, where I thought the winner in this category was an excellent choice... but I was still slightly disappointed it triumphed over work I found even more indelible. And that's where I land with The Fellowship of the Ring, a truly beautiful fantasy, capturing the epic and intimate with equal aplomb, and giving us all kinds of striking images, from the warm beauty of the Shire, to the terrifying shots of the wring wraiths in the river, to the climactic effects-strewn battle that (temporarily) dooms Gandalf. On its own terms, it's hard to object much to a cinematography prize for blockbuster filmmaking on such an artful level.

I thought The Man Who Wasn't There would win at the time -- this strikes me as rather stubborn in retrospect, given the huge nomination haul for Rings, the severe under-performance of the Coens' film, and the fact that all those gorgeous vistas made Rings a far more traditional choice. But the ASC went for it, and I certainly factored my own opinion of the work into the equation, because I just thought it was so dazzling it HAD to win. The photography captures a noir aesthetic for sure, but like the movie as a whole, does so in quotes, offering up heightened stylization (the beams of light that suggest prison bars in the McDormand/Shalhoub scene, the cigarette smoke that's lit almost to parodic excess, the shots of Thornton isolated among the crowds like he's the loneliest anti-hero in noir history) that gives the film a consistently clever kick. The clear winner for me, and my first (but not last) vote for Deakins.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby Mister Tee » Wed May 30, 2018 3:49 pm

A year without a WTF? nominee. Not to say these are all great, but they're at least notable or attached to broadly-nominated films. Which is to say, there's no Malena we all need to track down for form's sake.

I have the same shoulda-been-there list as most: In the Mood for Love, Mulholland Drive, A.I.

I can grudgingly go along wiith Baz Luhrmann's films getting the production design and costume nods -- even though they're too gaudy for my tastes -- but I draw the line at cinematography. Throughout, I fond myself silently screaming "Stop trying so hard!"

Amelie falls into somewhat the same slot --the film's motto seems to be "Anything for attention" -- but its sense of imagination appeals to me somewhat more. I wouldn't have nominated it, but its showing up here doesn't bother me deeply.

I don't have the problem some of you seem to have with Black Hawk Down. I don't think it's a great film, but I see it as an impressive technical feat, and I don't think any of its nominations is undeserved, this one included.

It's a bit difficult at this point, after 3 (or 6, if you prefer) movies in the series, to recapture the feeling many of us had about The Fellowship of the Ring when it first appeared. It seemed like a truly fresh explosion of talent -- a film that put fantasy into believable medieval settings in a visionary way. The concepts curdled a bit along the way -- the CGI got more dominant, the narrative lazier and more drawn-out, and the look turned repetitive. This, however, was Jackson in high season: a beautifully shot, leisurely- but not slovenly-paced epic. The cinematography was very much part of the achievement, and I had no problem with its win in this category.

But, like many here, I'm just a Fool for Black and White, and this is one of many times I'm going to select the artist working in that medium. The Man Who Wasn't There is mid-level Coen Brothers, but its one clear achievement is recapturing the look of 40s noir even while providing a 21st century slant on the genre. Deakins does the superb job you'd expect, working in shadow much of the time, creating an amoral universe within which the story can unfold. It's great that Deakins finally has a legit Oscar, but he of course deserves more, and I'm happy to push him to one here, almost two decades before his ultimate win.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon May 28, 2018 9:36 am

For a year with so many great choices, this feels like a lackluster list.

I voted for The Man Who Wasn't There, the only of the nominees I would have nominated (as will be a pattern for me from this point on, I went with the black and white nominee). This is some of Roger Deakins' most interesting work, with the shadows and bursts of light working perfectly with the story.

As for the others, none of them are particularly memorable, and most of them are among the uglier nominees of the decade. I would have cited In the Mood for Love, Mulholland Dr., The Royal Tenenbaums, Gosford Park, or even A Beautiful Mind.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby Big Magilla » Mon May 28, 2018 9:14 am

In the Mood for Love, Mulholland Drive and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence certainly should have been among the nominees, with The Deep End and Ghost World worthy of consideration as well.

Among the nominees, I agree that Black Hawk Down and Moulin Rouge! try too hard to impress, but the nominee that I really don't get is Amilee, the popularity of which I always attributed to an overly aggressive marketing campaign by Harvey Weinstein. I didn't find anything adorable about the character or the film which was directed by the man who gave us the awful Alien: Resurrection three years earlier. I didn't warm to any of Jeunet's films until A Very Long Engagement three years later, and then just barely.

The cinematography for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is certainly impressive, but I have to go once again with Roger Deakins and the eye-pleasing black-and-white photography of The Man Who Wasn't There.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby dws1982 » Mon May 28, 2018 8:59 am

Sabin wrote:There’s no point in discussing this category without mentioning the more egregious omissions first. Any poll among critics would almost assuredly cite Christopher Doyle and Ping Bin Lee for In the Mood for Love as Best Cinematography of the Decade. No question. Even the critics of the day couldn’t deny it, and there was no shortage of contenders out there. The critics over at the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics honored it, while the Los Angeles Critics gave it runner up. Worst of all, I’m not sure it was even eligible for consideration.

I'm not sure if it was eligible either. I know there was a time where movies that were submitted for Foreign Film but not nominated weren't eligible for nominations if they were released in later years. I know there was some minor uproar when Run Lola Run became an unexpected hit, but couldn't be nominated for anything (although I honestly doubt it would've gotten anything) because it had already been a Foreign Film submission, and then City of God became the first movie to get nominations a year after it was rejected by the Foreign Film committee. So I'm not exactly sure when the rule changed, but it would've been some time in the 2000-2003 period.

Of my personal picks, I think the only one not yet mentioned is Ali.

Solid list of nominees overall. I've been a hater of Moulin Rouge! for over sixteen years now, and I've never felt compelled to watch it again, but I'll just pretend like Donald McAlpine's nomination is a belated salute for Breaker Morant. Starting to feel a bit like the Academy with Roger Deakins--always passing him up for another chance. He does a very solid job on The Man Who Wasn't There, but it's easily one of my least-favorite Coen Brothers movies (although I've re-evaluated some of their work over the past few years, so I should give it a re-watch), and I suppose that may be causing me to undervalue it. Same thing with Amelie, although Delbonnel has at least one, maybe two, nominations that will get my vote later on.

I don't know that I have a huge preference between The Fellowship of the Ring and Black Hawk Down. I think they're both pretty excellent pieces of work, albeit very different styles. Fellowship covers a lot of ground, visually, but it really is expert work--of course Peter Jackson deserves credit for building the world of Middle Earth, but he couldn't have done it without Andrew Lesnie making the different locations both distinct but coherent so that they seem like part of the same world. And with Black Hawk Down, I think it builds somewhat off of Saving Private Ryan's influence--one of the few movies to take the inspiration and do something more with it, rather than just straight-up imitate it. I didn't expect it to be nominated, but I was definitely glad it was. I think I'll go with Black Hawk Down. Between the two, I like it the best, and it also gives me a chance to honor Idziak, who worked on some Polish classics without recognition.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby Precious Doll » Mon May 28, 2018 7:43 am

The was an easy one for me the vote for: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I remember sitting in awe as the stunning technical achievements in the film and the cinematography was one of them. I think the following two films were less interesting and felt a bit like, been there - seen that.

I have no time for Moulin Rouge & Black Hawke Down. They both had a visual style and they were both undermined by the kinetic, irritating editing that undermined it.

Amielle & The Man Who Wasn't There were good choices most certainly but there was other work that was overlooked that was better. Sabin has already mentioned two of the most striking: In The Mood For Love, Mulholland Drive & A.I.

Further omissions, or read omissions I prefer over most of the nominees include: Guillermo Navarro for The Devil's Backbone & Antonio Calvache for In The Bedroom. It's a real shame that Calvache has never had the career I thought he would have after lensing Todd Fields only two feature films to date so beautiful. His widescreen work on In The Bedroom really captures a place both within the home of the family and the town that they live in. Just beautiful but goes largely unnoticed as people don't tend to look past the acting/directing/screenplay with this one. The other two omissions, which probably belong to later years and basically experimental works. Diane Baratier's highly original work in filming actors and than have them placed within paintings, all shot on digital in it's still early days, as a visual flair like no other. And speaking of like no other is Amornbhong Methakunavudh's work on Tears of the Black Tiger which is apparently a homage to old Thai Westerns. Glorious garsh colours implode on the screen with a real sense of place - Baz Luhrmann could learn a few things for director Wisit Sasanatieng on original visual style.

Some others by title only that shame most of the nominees; The Royal Tenebaums, Japon, The Others, La Cienaga, Ghost World, Gaudi Afternoon & This Filthy Earth.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2001

Postby mlrg » Mon May 28, 2018 6:23 am

Voted for Black Hawk Down

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Best Cinematography 2001

Postby Sabin » Mon May 28, 2018 4:20 am

There’s no point in discussing this category without mentioning the more egregious omissions first. Any poll among critics would almost assuredly cite Christopher Doyle and Ping Bin Lee for In the Mood for Love as Best Cinematography of the Decade. No question. Even the critics of the day couldn’t deny it, and there was no shortage of contenders out there. The critics over at the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics honored it, while the Los Angeles Critics gave it runner up. Worst of all, I’m not sure it was even eligible for consideration. Also deserving would have been Roger Deakins for A Beautiful Mind, whose contributions to this forgettable Best Picture winner were weirdly unheralded anywhere and along with James Horner’s score are the only elements deserving of unmuted praise. Or perhaps Peter Deming for Mulholland Drive, or Janusz Kaminski for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the first (and best) of Spielberg’s early 2000’s journeyman phase. These nominations came out during a time when I thought A.I. was Spielberg’s best film and I wasn’t alone. Damien, that notorious Spielberg-hater, adored it as well. On both this board and Zach’s Cinephile Message Board (which I just found online recently!), we shared articles by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Armond White (!). Better times? Well, different times.

First off the list should be Don McAlpine for Moulin Rouge! though I can’t help but think his work is a bit undervalued. Every shot is coked out with spotlights, strobe lights, fish eye lenses, and VFX. Baz Luhrmann knew that for his editing scheme to work, every shot needs to make the viewer feel like they’re trapped in a club past closing time with a spiked drink. I think the cinematography is entirely successful and yet I wouldn’t consider voting for it because in any number of shots if you arbitrarily changed the lighting scheme entirely, would it matter?

Next would be Slawomir Idziak for Black Hawk Down. Similar to Moulin Rouge!, Ridley Scott’s war film crosscuts between so many different locations that the end effect could’ve would up feeling incoherent if the color schemes weren’t so distinct. It’s a strong achievement, and yet it’s another one of those films I feel the need to downgrade simply on how influential its become in video games. But if one had to pick a Bruckheimer war film, this is clearly the film and not ASC-nominee John Schwartzman for Pearl Harbor. At the time, I remember thinking that the cinematography was part of what was so misbegotten about that film. Every shot looked like a postcard.

Next up is the late Andrew Lesnie for The Fellowship of a Ring. This series was always strangely undervalued in this category, missing out on nominations next year (in a tighter field) and the year after (in a field so weak, they had to bring in a Brazilian film). At the time, I remember a lot of our conversations were about how thankfully Peter Jackson retained so much of the playful inventiveness that made him a unique talent. It was a smorgasbord of distorted angles, perspective trickery, and bold lighting schemes, all wrapped in the color green for rebirth as well as its focus on the physical and not computer generated imagery. This series was a remarkable achievement and much of the credit should go to the cinematography, which gave it a unified look. It’s a fun movie and a good choice.

But I think there are two better choices. First among them is The Man Who Wasn’t There, which gave In the Mood for Love a run for its money with the critics. It won the ASC award, the BAFTA, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. I foolishly predicted Deakins would win his first Oscar despite a fairly poor showing. Next to Barton Fink, I think The Man Who Wasn’t There might be the most visually astonishing film of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre. It’s like watching a dreamscape as a steely protagonist stuck between the passing of one era into another. Similarly, I’ve never quite been able to move past admiration into love for this film, and yet I rooted hard for a Roger Deakins victory that would take sixteen more years to occur.

I’d rather give this award to a film in which I’ve never been able to move past annoyance into love. Amelie is a mess that I’ve never been able to enjoy past a surface level. But what surfaces! Unlike The Man Who Wasn’t There, I’ve never felt the need to quest for deeper engagement. It’s overlong, its themes never gel, it always seems to be going everywhere and nowhere all at once. And yet there isn’t a frame I wouldn’t want to swim in forever. The way that Jean-Pierre Jeunet films this messy bauble, it ultimately doesn’t matter what happens before or after the moment that we’re stuck in. Last year, I gave Roger Deakins the award for his revelatory utilization of digital intermediate in cinematography, but what Bruno Delbonnel manages to do with that step is truly remarkable stuff that hasn’t aged a minute. Normally, I hate the idea of voting for a movie in this category not in the service of the storytelling, but much to my surprise I'm willing to make a one-time exception.
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