Oscars 2022: Best Cinematography Predictions
The ASC nominations were announced with the frontrunning “Dune” competing against the black-and-white “Belfast” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “Nightmare Alley” (also screening in an alternate monochromatic version), and “The Power of the Dog.” This has great potential significance for the Oscar race, with Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) likely becoming only the second woman to be nominated besides Rachel Morrison for “Mudbound.” And if Wegner triumphs, of course, for Jane Campion’s Best Picture contender, she would make Oscar history.
Also significant is the possibility of two monochromatic movies getting nominated for the first time since the category consolidated color and black-and-white in the late ’60s. Plus, don’t count out two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kamiński (“Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List”), who could still sneak into the race for Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake, which is also a Best Picture contender.
Greig Fraser, though, is the favorite for Denis Villeneuve’s expansive yet intimate “Dune,” with its dangerous mix of politics and religion, centered around Timothée Chalamet’s messianic Paul Atreides. It was photographed in large format by Fraser, who alternated between the digital Alexa LF and IMAX 65mm cameras (for Paul’s surreal dreams and visions on the harsh and desolate desert planet Arrakis, shot mainly in Jordan). Other environments include the autumnal-looking water planet Caladan and the goth-looking planet Giedi Prime, which makes for quite a diverse color palette. Fraser also took the unusual step of creating a Kodak 35mm negative and scanning it back digitally for a more analog experience in theaters.
With “The Power of the Dog,” Campion’s western about toxic masculinity with Benedict Cumberbatch, Wegner shot large-format with the Alexa LF (and vintage anamorphic Ultra Panatar lenses) to take advantage of the vast landscapes in New Zealand (filling in for Montana). The exteriors are bright and de-saturated, while the interiors of the ranch house, with its European-style wood design, have a dark, shadowy, foreboding.
Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and McDormand, relied on Bruno Delbonnel to convey a modern black-and-white look with the Alexa LF as part of an abstract, noirish adaptation of Shakespeare’s murder, mayhem, and madness. He used a combination of very hard shadows and soft light in the background, casting beams of light in hallways and up and down staircases.
Haris Zambarloukos went digital black-and-white for Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical “Belfast,” his childhood remembrance of growing up in Northern Belfast during the violent conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 1969. The cinematographer used the Alexa Mini LF to evoke a combination of gritty naturalism and Hollywood sheen. Long, wide holds, impeccably framed in natural light, give room for performances to bloom in close-up.
For Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” reworking, starring Bradley Cooper as the ruthless, social climbing grifter, Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water”) shot a classical three-point style and the color palette had an intentional monochromatic tone. He used the Alexa 65 and Signature Prime Lenses for an exquisite but extremely sharp image. He also put filters inside the camera for highlights and to add a beautiful glow to faces.
For Spielberg’s reinvention of the “West Side Story,” Kaminski departed from his usual gritty, bleached out style for a more vibrant look in depicting the West Side of Manhattan of the late ’50s. He shot on 35mm film with the Panavision Panaflex Millennium with Panavision T-Series lenses to emphasize the beauty and romance of this tragic love story, overcome by racism and violence. The cinematographer embraced the inherent theatricality with a combination of classicism and dynamic camera work, finding colorful motifs for the various characters in their colorful surroundings on the streets or in the central tenement apartment building in the Puerto Rican neighborhood.
Listed in alphabetical order. No film will be considered a frontrunner until we have seen it.
Bruno Delbonnel (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)
Greig Fraser (“Dune”)
Dan Laustsen (“Nightmare Alley”)
Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”)
Haris Zambarloukos (“Belfast”)
Janusz Kamiński (“West Side Story”)
Linus Sandgren (“No Time to Die”)
Andrew Droz Palermo (“The Green Knight”)
Robert Yeoman (“The French Dispatch”)