Best Cinematography, 2004
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Robert Richardson
The Aviator


Scorsese's movies are never visually subtle, and neither are the winners in the category. The Aviator's Barnum-like collage of aerial shots, vibrant colors, and over-the-top lighting effects should put former winner Richardson (JFK) in good stead.

Except for a possible religious revival or a groundswell behind Daggers or Deschanel, which both face their own problems, I doubt Richardson has much to worry about.
Zhao Xiaoding
House of Flying Daggers

The film's voluptuous play with wide and sumptuous color fields, combined with its dreamlike action in treetops and billowing fields, make it a visual tour de force. Fans of Hero will also be backing this film, even with a different D.P. Scads of critics' awards.
Daggers was abandoned at the nomination level by lots of groups who you'd think would have been impressed: costume designers, art directors, the foreign-language committees, even plain ol' directors. Being pretty isn't enough to win you this trophy, especially if you're a foreign-language picture.
Caleb Deschanel
The Passion of the Christ

Deschanel is now a five-time nominee and a well-respected name who deserves a win somewhere along the way. Say what you will about The Passion, it generated some of the year's most memorable imagery.
Divisive opinions about the film won't help; nor will the fact that technicians don't tend to benefit from the "payback" principle of overdue or compensatory wins by which actors and directors are sometimes rewarded.
John Mathieson
The Phantom of the Opera

Based on this nomination, some people apparently think "best cinematography" means, "Wow! Look at all those colorful gowns! Look at all that fake mist!"
Thankfully, or at least presumably, or at least hopefully, other people realize that "best cinematography" means good cinematography, preferably in a genuinely good movie.
Bruno Delbonnel
A Very Long Engagement

The lenser of Amélie is back with his second nod, this time adding some sepias and some earth-toned battle scenes to his already wide repertoire of colors and textures. A Very Long Engagement wasn't the popular hit that Amélie was, and House of Flying Daggers will probably steal the subtitle vote.

WHO WILL WIN: Certainly this is The Aviator's prize to lose; it doesn't mean it's impossible, but it's a little hard to imagine.

WHO SHOULD WIN: I'm not thrilled by any of these nominations, but the shots in House of Flying Daggers are certainly the most memorable and—when the movie hits its peaks of lusty melodramatic excess—the most ravishing.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Frankly, I would have recast this whole race, so that it included Ellen Kuras' expert DV work for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the sultry reds and icy blue-greens of Bad Education, the bleached and chilly contrasts of Vera Drake, the wholly unremarked virtuosity of Code 46 and Enduring Love... the list goes on.

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