Best Cinematography 2008

1998 through 2007

Of the 2008 Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography, which was best?

Changeling (Tom Stern)
1
6%
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Claudio Miranda)
10
56%
The Dark Knight (Wally Pfister)
5
28%
The Reader (Roger Deakins, Chris Menges)
0
No votes
Slumdog Millionaire (Anthony Dod Mantel)
2
11%
 
Total votes: 18

Mister Tee
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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:40 pm

Unlike most years in this stretch, I don't have any strong preference for what should win. In fact, I couldn't remember what had been my personal choice, and for good reason: I went back to my notebook (yes, I use a notebook, because I started keeping track of this stuff way pre-computers), and found I hadn't even underlined a choice. Meaning I can't just use my contemporaneous pick, because I never made one.

Perhaps from indifference to the whole year, my five nominees were almost the same as the branch's, with the same exception many of you have made: switching out Roger Deakins' The Reader for his altogether more impressive work on Revolutionary Road. As I think I said at the time, Revolutionary Road may be empty at its core, but it profiles as a really good film: its performances, dialogue and look are all top-drawer. That Deakins was instead slotted for the ho-hum Reader was, as BJ notes, a signal of the ultimate best actress outcome, as well as evidence that the voters were stuck in a middlebrow lull that needed correction. (Whether the expansion was the proper correction is another matter.)

After that, I think much the same as everyone else here.

dws is perfectly correct, that it's odd Stern got nominated for the critically/commercially mediocre Changeling rather than Eastwood's more Oscar-centric efforts (you could say the same for Angelina, over some seemingly stronger actress candidates). That said, Changeling has an interesting period look that isn't out of place on the list.

I guess one of the remaining three would get my vote, but I don't see much daylight between/among them. I think of Benjamin Button as a triumph of design and Fincher-visuals, but I've never thought the cinematography was the essential element in the film's look.

The Dark Knight, likewise, had an overall gestalt that made the film seem more serious than other comic book movies, and the (fittingly) gloomy look was very much a part of that. I don't think it's totally remarkable work, but I can understand voting for it.

And, though Slumdog Millionaire's win was surely part of the film's overall dominance at the Oscars (it's really the only movie in recent times to win the Sound award with no credential beyond Best Picture winner), it has a fairly unique look that seemed very much part of the film's overall appeal. I can't say Academy voters made a bad choice.

But I remain undecided, so I think I'll simply abstain, and move on to 2009 (where I DO have a strong choice).

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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:23 pm

All those articles about the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight this week had me in disbelief. I can't believe a whole decade has gone by!

The big miss for me is Revolutionary Road, perhaps Deakins's best un-nominated work...

...which puts him in much the same category as Kate Winslet this year, nominated incorrectly for The Reader instead. I don't much understand this nomination, as I find The Reader rather stiff as a piece of visual filmmaking. Deakins and Menges are both clearly talented cinematographers, but I rate this the weakest citation for either of them.

dws makes a good point, that it's strange that Tom Stern's one Oscar nomination is for relatively minor Eastwood, when none of the Best Picture vehicles carried him along despite similarly good work (and on Iwo Jima, quite a bit more than that). I think Changeling has enough handsome, noirish shadows that I don't recoil at the nomination, but I don't rate it remotely at the level of some similar recent films, like L.A. Confidential or The Black Dahlia, in this arena.

As I said in an earlier thread, I thought The Dark Knight represented a significant step up from Batman Begins, including in the visual department. Much of the earlier film was dark and gloomy, and while that's true of the sequel as well, Pfister seemed to add another quality -- beauty -- to The Dark Knight that helped make this installment even more iconic in pop culture circles. There are a ton of striking images here -- Ledger sticking his head out the car window, the lit-up shots of the ferries at night, the truck flipping over -- and while I'm not going to be voting for it, I understand why many here have.

As in so many categories this year, Slumdog Millionaire just seemed to be an inevitable force here. But its portrait of contemporary India was full of visual flash, capturing beauty and grime with equal aplomb, and giving the energetic story appropriately kinetic lighting and camerawork to match. Yes, many of the real-life locales are naturally beautiful, but they're shot with a fresh, modern vibe that feels authentic rather than too prestige pic sanitized. Not my winner, but an understandable choice even outside its sweep.

I picked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I think is the most visually entrancing of the nominees. What's perhaps most impressive about the groundbreaking digital work here is the way the photography so skillfully approximates the look of more classic, glossy period pieces. (So many earlier digital movies, no matter how interestingly shot they might have been, clearly weren't accomplishing that.) But the images aren't just handsome -- in the film's most entrancing scenes (mostly the romantic ones), they work to create such a mysterious mood, which I think genuinely elevates a somewhat overlong and bumpy storyline into something with real artful highs. Beautiful, ambitious work, and my clear favorite.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby dws1982 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 7:15 pm

Reza wrote:Why not Slumdog?

I liked it, but it's not one of my favorite Danny Boyle films, from either a narrative or visual perspective. But I think it's a solid win, and Anthony Dod Mantle is the kind of great cinematographer who has spent much of his career working on movies that wouldn't come close to Oscar nominations, so I'm glad he got the recognition.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Reza » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:42 pm

dws1982 wrote:Changeling is one of those odd, difficult to explain nominations. It's not that it's undeserving, it's just that, why is this the one movie to get a cinematography nomination, out of a director-cinematographer collaboration that ran from Blood Work through The 15:17 to Paris? (Stern isn't cinematographer on Eastwood's upcoming film; not sure if they're no longer collaborating, or if their schedules didn't work out.) Why this and not Mystic River, or Million Dollar Baby, or one of the Iwo Jima films, or American Sniper? It's really good work, don't get my wrong, but it won't be my pick.

Would've absolutely swapped out the nomination for The Reader--the only movie of this lineup that I've seen since the original theatrical release--for a solo nomination for Deakins for Revolutionary Road. I remember it felt off-the-mark in general as an adaptation, but the visuals--cinematography, sets, costumes--were top-notch.

I don't have a huge preference between The Dark Knight and Benjamin Button. I believe I'll go with The Dark Knight, because I think Nolan/Pfister really captured the look and tone of the comics, and did so in a way that showcases what it is that makes them compelling.


Why not Slumdog?

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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby dws1982 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:16 pm

Changeling is one of those odd, difficult to explain nominations. It's not that it's undeserving, it's just that, why is this the one movie to get a cinematography nomination, out of a director-cinematographer collaboration that ran from Blood Work through The 15:17 to Paris? (Stern isn't cinematographer on Eastwood's upcoming film; not sure if they're no longer collaborating, or if their schedules didn't work out.) Why this and not Mystic River, or Million Dollar Baby, or one of the Iwo Jima films, or American Sniper? It's really good work, don't get my wrong, but it won't be my pick.

Would've absolutely swapped out the nomination for The Reader--the only movie of this lineup that I've seen since the original theatrical release--for a solo nomination for Deakins for Revolutionary Road. I remember it felt off-the-mark in general as an adaptation, but the visuals--cinematography, sets, costumes--were top-notch.

I don't have a huge preference between The Dark Knight and Benjamin Button. I believe I'll go with The Dark Knight, because I think Nolan/Pfister really captured the look and tone of the comics, and did so in a way that showcases what it is that makes them compelling.

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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:52 pm

My vote goes to Benjamin Button which was also my favorite film of the year with Slumdog Millionaire and the much maligned The Reader the only other two I would consider voting for. I'd give the other two slots to Brideshead Revisited (Jess Hall) and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Benoit Delhomme) over The Dark Knight and Changeling.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:00 pm

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was an easy choice for me with The Dark Knight being the only other notable candidate.

Wasn't a particularly strong year for English language films in this category with the most impressive work done internationally in mostly films probably not eligible until the following year anyway like Il Divo, Morhpine, Seraphine, The Headless Woman & Kabei - Our Mother.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:45 pm

Greg wrote
Am I remembering correctly that you really did not care for Dev Patel?

If I didn't, I don't recall. I'm actually trying to think of an instance where I didn't think Dev Patel was the best thing about whatever he's been in.
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Re: Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Greg » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:14 pm

Sabin wrote:I've tried to warm up to Slumdog Millionaire over the years and I've decided that it's just a film better remembered than watched.

Am I remembering correctly that you really did not care for Dev Patel?
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Best Cinematography 2008

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:30 am

Don't have much time to recap the nominees, but this is the year that digital cinematography had its breakthrough (in Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire)... and nobody much cared.

Sub in Roger Deakins for Revolutionary Road in place of Tom Stern for Changeling and you have the ASC nominees and the expected lineup. Revolutionary Road was much anticipated but quickly flamed out once people saw it. Critic's favorites like The Flight of the Red Balloon and Still Life were never really in consideration. Lightly evoking Wong Kar-wai in that stuttering shutter effect, this was one of many wins on Oscar night that were never really in any doubt, although it's easy to imagine Benjamin Button taking this one in a less competitive year. I've tried to warm up to Slumdog Millionaire over the years and I've decided that it's just a film better remembered than watched. Benjamin Button, on the other hand, has a bit more to offer on repeat viewings than the remote bauble it initially seemed.

However, my vote goes to The Dark Knight. It walks away handily with the most unforgettable images. While it deserves some criticism for its action cinematography, this is a very talky film about people exchanging ideas and Nolan and Pfister work that to their advantage.
Last edited by Sabin on Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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