The American Society of Cinematographers handed out their annual awards over the weekend, with Emmanuel Lubezki rightfully snagging the prize for his stellar work in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. It was a tough field of contenders – with Sean Bobbitt (12 Years A Slave), Barry Ackroyd (Captain Phillips), Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster), Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis), Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska), and Roger Deakins (Prisoners) all receiving nominations. An unusually large field of seven nominees – and plenty of others that were equally deserving – goes to show that 2013 was a banner year for cinematography. Here are five cinematographers that I would have liked to see more recognition for in the year that was.
Chung Chung-Hoon, Stoker
Definitely one of 2013’s more divisive films, Stoker appeared on best and worst lists in equal measure. But the one thing most people could agree on was the stunning visuals provided by Park Chan-Wook’s regular collaborator Chung Hoon-Chung. Stoker‘s perverse storybook imagery amplified petulant teenager India’s awakening from a child to a slightly left-of-centre adult, with seemingly innocuous objects such as saddle shoes, pencils, and handwritten letters all becoming deeply unsettling at one point or another. The abrupt change of perspective shot with Uncle Charlie and the mirror remains my favourite of 2013.
Anthony Dod Mantle, Rush
It’s quite disappointing that Rush didn’t make any waves stateside, as it was a very solid film I would have been delighted to see receiving a little more awards attention. Dod Mantle’s thrilling digital cinematography was my favourite thing about a film that had a lot going for it, and his work earlier in 2013 on Trance was the one thing I liked about that film. Dod Mantle snagged the Oscar five years ago for Slumdog Millionaire, and it’d be great to see him recognised again for his consistently excellent work.
Stuart Dryburgh, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
At one point a hopeful Oscar frontrunner, a lot of people derided The Secret Life of Walter Mitty upon release. I found several things to like about what was an ambitious but ultimately shallow film, the first of which was Stuart Dryburgh’s inspired photography. The transitions between Walter’s mundane reality and his exciting fantasy life are never overblown; they just happen before our eyes as Walter is one minute waiting for a train, and the next saving the beloved pet of his office crush from a burning building. It might be too pretty for some, but the panoramas of everywhere from Walter’s office to the Himalayas are breathtaking; it’s a shame that the work didn’t transcend the film’s shortcomings.
Hoyte van Hoytema, Her
There’s been a lot of praise (and deservedly so) given to Spike Jonze’s latest, particularly for the all around excellent performances and Jonze’s brilliant writing. But Her has a lot going for it on the technical side of things, in particular Hoyte van Hoytema’s bokeh-ful cinematography. Considering that, visually, it’s a film where Joaquin Phoenix spends a lot of time talking to himself, van Hoytema’s lensing of a not-too-distant future Los Angeles is always interesting to watch and a stunning visual representation of Jonze’s unique take on romance and relationships.
Benoît Debie, Spring Breakers
This guy. Decidedly not the type of film that Academy bigwigs would ever reward on Oscar night, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers will nevertheless be remembered for years to come; in part, because of Debie’s astounding candy coloured visuals. Giving the finger to just about every cinematography convention, Debie shoots the spring break drug-and-alcohol fuelled haze with harsh neon, high contrast, and frenetic style changes. No wonder Ryan Gosling picked him to shoot his first film, and I can’t wait.