Best Cinematography, 2003
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Cesar Charlone
City of God


Like Girl with a Pearl Earring, City of God will stand out from the picture-postcard epics in this category, which could easily cancel each other out. Charlone's keyed-up street expressionism combines the kinetics of Robert Richardson's winning work on JFK with a bold sense of color not unlike American Beauty's. And since the intense images probably helped reach voters who don't normally go for subtitled fare, this may be a logical place to reward the movie.

Even when foreign-made pictures have triumphed in this category, they usually do so within a high-art, polished aesthetic (think Cries and Whispers or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) that's a diametric opposite to Charlone's guerrilla style. Film may not have been seen by all those actors who saw the other four nominees.
John Seale
Cold Mountain

The movie's failure to appear in top-level categories has widely been ascribed to its improbable, incredible glamour - which could either reflect well on the creator of such resplendent images...
...or could mean that, yet again, Cold Mountain will be perceived as too pretty for its own good. Master and Commander is a bigger nominee and Seabiscuit appears to be better-loved.
Eduardo Serra
Girl wtih a Pearl Earring

Two major advantages. One is that, even as a boutique picture, it's totally distinctive from three pictures that essentially represent three versions of a similar aesthetic: Girl will stand well apart from the field. Even better, it's not just painterly cinematography, it's a movie about painterly cinematography, which means voters will be consciously registering the images while they watch.
It never helps to be a low-grosser in competition with three studio showpieces. Even if the blockbusters split their vote, they could still finish first, second, and third.
Russell Boyd
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Even if they don't love the movie as much as its ten nominations might suggest, voters still won't wwant to send Master and Commander home without some cargo. Categories where it doesn't have The Return of the King to reckon with offer the most tempting opportunities, and this is the highest-profile among those occasions.
Then again, if they really don't love the movie, and if Girl with a Pearl Earring seems more lustrous or Seabiscuit more cozy or City of God more creative, there's no reason to vote for genre classicism that doesn't especially flaunt itself.
John Schwartzman

The Cinematography category historically likes history, especially the 1930s, and that buttery glow that makes Seabiscuit so easy to swallow is largely a credit to the photography. As with Master and Commander, fans of this film will want to rally for it somewhere, and this field seems open-ended enough to make it worth a gamble. The images, however lusciously nostalgic, were never a talking-point in resposnes to the film, even those of fans. One expects to leave the theater of City, Girl, and even Cold Mountain buzzing about the images, but Seabiscuit can easily be enjoyed as pure rah-rah.

WHO WILL WIN: Eduardo Serra, Girl with a Pearl Earring
A River Runs Through It was a minor nominee eleven years ago, and it won via the same logic. With a sweep of nominations in all three spectacular categories (Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design), a win in one seems well-earned, and this is by far the easiest and most relevant alternative.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Eduardo Serra, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Cesar Charlone sure got his family into a bold, memorable frenzy in City of God, but Serra's images, notable not just for their opaline beauty as for their rigid and informative compositions, were even more complex in their expression of the film's story.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Stuntish, sure, but the looming and weaving camera of Irréversible was a dazzlement even before the closing segments, which gave the year its warmest, fleshiest, most unexpectedly beautiful bedroom encounter. Even more reviled than Irréversible was Jane Campion's In the Cut, but Dion Beebe's lenswork here was infinitely more interesting and diverse than his nominated contributions to Chicago.

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