Best Cinematography, 2001
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Bruno Delbonnel


The Starburst colors, impish point-of-view shots, and distorted lenses of Amélie provide such delicious eye candy that it's a joy to vote for. Against four heavy hitters, this French valentine is a tempting underdog.

"Starburst." "Impish." "Underdog." Even if voters can't make up their minds amongst a military debacle, a fantasy epic, an absurdist noir, and a rococo musical, it's unlikely they'll abandon all four in favor of an import. Besides, when you get down to brass tacks, Amélie's real joys are in its art direction more than its camerawork.
Slawomir Idziak
Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott's movies always look great, but Black Hawk Down's syntheses of countless points of view, all within a chaotic torrent of literal shots and countershots, made the story events potent and followable even when frantic editing threatened to lose us. Overheads, vehicle perspectives, night-vision shots, crowd scenes, oblique angles: Idziak got 'em all.
Unfairly or not (I think unfairly), most of Scott's and Idziak's technical work on Black Hawk Down has been treated by detractors as a sort of Saving Private Ryan Redux. The political hits against the movie make it too vulnerable in the wake of mass-appeal project like Rings and Moulin Rouge.
Andrew Lesnie
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings showcased every penny of its $100 million budget on the screen, already no small statement. Much of the film's tension and energy are rooted in the restless movements of Lesnie's camera, swooping around racing horses, swan-diving into massive battles, getting those greens green and those yellows yellow in the tranquil Shire sequences. That the film's sumptuous textures feel so palpable throughout the picture is as much Lesnie's achievement as anyone's.
Rings will be squaring off with Moulin Rouge in all of the visual categories, which already hurts its chances. Plus, in this particular race, The Man Who Wasn't There offers a distinctive third option that may squeak past the two eye-poppers. Voters may be uncertain how much Lesnie's lensing was abetted by editing effects and digital derring-do.
Roger Deakins
The Man Who Wasn't There

An absolute standout since the film's debut at Cannes, Deakins' black & white compositions returned to that stock its exquisite sheens and its majestic array of contrasts—redeeming monochrome from the bad rep of crap like Clerks. Deakins is hugely popular within the industry, even if TV watchers don't know him, and he's been nominated five times in eight years without winning—as all sorts of recent LA Times and Variety editorials have been reminding us. Also shot A Beautiful Mind, and may get some residual support from that camp.
The Man Who Wasn't There was by far the lowest grosser of this lot; even Amélie, a foreign film, grossed more than ten times what Man did. Voters don't endorse films they haven't seen, and even the ones who caught it on video may not think the images look as cool as they did in the theater. The fact that Ed Wood didn't even get a nod in 1994 confirms that not everyone's a black & white enthusiast.
Donald McAlpine
Moulin Rouge

Has all the parti-colored appeal of Amélie but feels more homegrown, despite its Aussie crew. Moulin Rouge reigned as the year's biggest visual extravaganza for months and months until The Lord of the Rings, and its fans seem all the more eager to throw it some statues in the wake of Luhrmann's non-nomination. Lack of location shots means that the beautiful scenery is all McAlpine's work, not mother Nature's.
Again, as with Amélie, it's hard to tell what's cinematography and what's art direction; some voters are indifferent to these distinctions but many aren't. Plus, the film's detractors think the non-stop cuts and whip pans excuse McAlpine from ever having to assemble a real frame. And even if the lack of location shooting strikes some as a sign of harder work, all those chaps who gave Oscars to Braveheart, The English Patient, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had no such reservations.

WHO WILL WIN: It's really too bad that so many TV viewers will be reaching for the popcorn bowls: this is one of the night's tightest races, and it features one of the most richly deserving fields of nominees. I'm giving Deakins the edge, based on his portfolio of recent achievements, his high level of publicity, and the possibility of a Lord/Rouge split. But don't be shocked if any of the three takes the prize.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Again, none of these photographers would be an undeserving winner, and each film posed an astonishing level of difficulty. I'm most partial to Deakins and Idziak, since their still shots were as inspired as their zooms and pans. The fact that Deakins might be the only cinematographer in the biz who could have pulled off Man's unique challenges—plus the fact that the whole enterprise depended on his doing so—would probably make me vote for him. (No hard feelings, Andrew Lesnie: George Lucas needs you!)

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Here's one of those unbelievable groaners: because In the Mood for Love was submitted (unsuccessfully) as Hong Kong's Best Foreign Language Film entry last year, it was ineligible this year for any consideration. That means that the year's most breathtaking images—Maggie Cheung's sad but strong-backed way of holding a newspaper, the steamy commotion surrounding a noodle vendor, an apartment that seems to be nothing but doorways—got left off the ballot. I understand there's never enough room, but couldn't we pull a Golden Globes and expand the category? (And, while we're at it, throw in Peter Deming for Mulholland Drive, Janusz Kaminski for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Peter Andrews/Steven Soderbergh for Ocean's Eleven.)

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