Best Cinematography

2019 Academy Awards: Best Cinematography Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Achievement in Cinematography:

Cold War, Lukasz Zal

Polish director of photography Lukasz Zal was previously nominated by the Academy for Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which he co-shot with Ryszard Lenczewski. Both Ida and Cold War showcase Zal’s immense talent with black and white photography. He has shot mostly documentary shorts and a few short films, making the nominations for two of his only features that much more notable.

The Favourite, Robbie Ryan

This is the first Oscar nomination for Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan. He has shot previously for director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, American Honey) and Stephen Frears (Philomena). In total, Ryan has been director of photography for over 80 features, shorts, commercials, and music videos, including the films Wuthering Heights, The Last Days on Mars, and Slow West.


Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel

Caleb Deschanel is a veteran director of photography who has shot such Hollywood films as Being There, The Right Stuff, The Natural, National Treasure, The Passion of the Christ, and Jack Reacher. This is Deschanel’s sixth Oscar nomination for cinematography; among others, he was nominated for Fly Away Home and The Patriot. His next film will be Disney’s live action remake of The Lion King.

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

In addition to writing and directing Best Picture nominee Roma, Alfonso Cuarón also shot the semi-autobiographical film, a rare distinction for Hollywood directors. Roma was filmed in black-and-white on an Arriflex Alexa 65 digital camera, giving it a stark, unique look that has been near-universally praised. Other cinematography credits for Cuarón include several short films in the 1980s, as well as the television series Hora Marcada. While typically Cuarón delegates the role to other talented directors of photography such as Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki, this is his first credit as a cinematographer in nearly three decades.

A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Matthew Libatique is a Queens-born Filipino American cinematographer who has previously worked with directors such as Spike Lee, Jon Favreau, and Darren Aronofsky, and was previously nominated for an Oscar for shooting Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Libatique was director of photography for the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man, and is currently working on the latest DCEU and Harley Quinn film, Birds of Prey. His other cinematography credits include Requiem for a Dream, Gothika, Everything Is Illuminated, Inside Man, Straight Outta Compton, and Venom, among many others.

 

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Beyoncé Music Video Evolution: 5 Cinematography Lessons

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.08.25 PM

Beyoncé may have begun her career as just one member of a commercial RnB band, but Beyoncé has evolved over the past two decades to become the most powerful woman in entertainment and a master of all trades: singer, songwriter, dancer, producer, and business woman.

But Queen Bee has another talent that is frequently overlooked; Beyoncé has an amazing knack for great cinematography when it comes to her music videos.

September 4 marks Bey-Day, so it’s a fitting time to look back on the evolution of a pop icon with five of the most cinematically brilliant Beyoncé videos to date.

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)”

The one that put an already unprecedented career right into the stratosphere. With over half a billion views on YouTube, “Single Ladies” will always be a timeless icon of Beyoncé at her best.

Female empowerment is a hallmark of both Beyoncé’s songwriting and music videos, but she’s also got a penchant for black and white cinematography.

Coupled with a clever use of lighting to effectively remove the set entirely, the stark imagery and clean lines accentuate the exceptional dance choreography by putting it front and center. And while there are a few cuts in the video edit, the “Single Ladies” video was shot in one take — making the finished product even more of a technical marvel.

The golden lesson for filmmakers here is that less is often more.

“Run the World (Girls)”

While we all love a bit of stripped-back Beyoncé, she can also take it to feature film-like extremes to great effect, and the video for “Run the World” is a classic example.

Implementing a strong visual theme reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” universe, everything here is cranked up to 11: alongside the usual dance-heavy routine, we’ve got an insane amount of extras, special effects, location and costume changes, props, fire, water cannons, and floodlights.

Oh, and a lion for good measure.

The color pallet is also eclectic, with bright block coloring of the girls’ outfits playing in contrast to the muted tones of the wider set and the monochrome outfits worn by the male extras.

The camera work in “Run the World” is worth singling out, too, since it’s effectively a master class in exploiting visually interesting angles. At one point (the 3:17 minute mark) it even shoots upside down.

The only thing stopping all this turning into a jumbled mess of visuals is a clinically perfect approach to the editing, with every shot exactly as long as it needs to be.

“7/11”

Aaaand we’re back to Beyoncé at her most basic. In fact, it’s the least technical music video she’s ever produced…

… because sometimes, the best approach is to just grab a camera and start filming.

From a musical standpoint it’s perhaps not Bey’s most well known track, but the video itself serves as a delightfully goofy reminder that, above anything else, filmmaking should be fun.

“Formation”

Beyoncé’s most political (and arguably controversial) video output to date, with more than a few overt references to Hurricane Katrina and racial tensions across the country.

The video was directed by Melina Matsoukas, a Grammy Award winner who has worked with Beyoncé on a number of occasions since 2007. Matsoukas stands firmly behind the idea of substance mattering far more than expensive equipment: “It’s not necessary for a quality video. A good video has the right visuals, a well conceptualized story and should be exciting and elicit reaction.”

With “Formation,” all those boxes are well and truly checked.

“Lemonade”

With the release of this year’s unanimously praised “Lemonade,” the queen of reinvention managed to push the envelope of innovation even further by putting out a 60-minute conceptual film to support the record.

Divided into 11 chapters incorporating poetry by Somali poet Warsan Shire, we couldn’t possibly explore the entirety of the visual extravaganza that is “Lemonade” in this short post. But suffice to say, this piece draws you in with impressive set pieces and a delicate yet purposeful handling of the divisive themes presented throughout. While “Lemonade” often delves into the poetically abstract, it never loses the viewer to outright obscurity and the pacing keeps things moving through both the light and dark of the album.

If this is the direction Beyoncé is heading for the next stage of her career, we’re all about it.

Here’s to 35 more years. Happy birthday, Queen Bee.

The Best Cinematography: A Look At 2015’s Oscar Nominees

Oscar award

The Academy Awards nominations for 2015 are out and as usual there’s a mix of powerhouses, underdogs, surprises, and sure things. For the Best Cinematography  category, the list of nominees ranges from potential Best Picture winners to foreign films with few other nods in other categories. If you are looking to better understand the craft of cinematography, the work of these six cinematographers offer a fantastic supplement to in-class studies.

Here then is a look at the careers of the six cinematographers up for the Oscar.

1. Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Emmanuel Lubezki is no stranger to the Academy Awards, having earned six other nominations, including for Gravity, which earned him his first Oscar last year. Lubezki is of Russian heritage and was born and raised in Mexico, and has collaborated on several films with Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Terence Malick. He was also nominated for his work on The Tree of Life, Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow and A Little Princess.

Other credits include the indie film Twenty Bucks, Reality Bites, The Birdcage, Meet Joe Black, and The Cat in the Hat. He has two upcoming films with AGI and Malick.

2. Robert Yeoman – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Pink boxes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Robert Yeoman is an American cinematographer and a first-time Oscar nominee. He has shot every live-action film of Wes Anderson. He’s also DPed Drugstore Cowboy, The Wizard, Dogma, The Squid and the Whale, Yes Man, Get Him to the Greek, Whip It, and Bridesmaids.

His next film will be the upcoming Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy.

3. Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski – Ida

Scene from Ida

Polish cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski are thirty-three years apart in age and have never collaborated before their work on black-and-white foreign-film darling Ida, but they clearly bring out the best in each other as this is the first nomination for both of them.

Zal has worked mostly on documentary features and shorts, including Joanna, Arena, and Paparazzi. His upcoming film is The Here After. Lenczewski has DPed Intermission, Margaret, and My Summer of Love.

4. Dick Pope – Mr. Turner

Timothy Spalling in Mr. Turner

Dick Pope’s work on Mr. Turner earned him his second Oscar nomination—the British cinematographer was also nominated in 2006 for The Illusionist. A frequent collaborator of Mr. Turner director Mike Leigh, Pope’s credits as director of photography include Secrets & Lies, The Way of the Gun, Nicholas Nickelby, Vera Drake, Me and Orson Welles, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Bernie.

5. Roger Deakins – Unbroken

Scene from Unbroken

Is this Roger Deakins’ year? So far, he’s always been the bridesmaid, with a staggering 12 nominations for Best Cinematography and not a single win. The English DP is a frequent collaborator with the Coen Brothers and has been previously nominated for shooting Prisoners, Skyfall, True Grit, The Reader, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Kundun, Fargo, and The Shawshank Redemption.

Other credits include Doubt, In Time, The House of Sand and Fog, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, Dead Man Walking and Sid and Nancy. His next film will be another Coen Brothers effort—Hail, Caesar!

In addition, a portion of the film was shot on the Village Roadshows Studios lot shared by the New York Film Academy Australia on behalf of Screen Queensland.

Who do you think will take home the gold? Let us know in the comments!