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The Cinematographers Guild Announces Nominees

Yet more guild nominations have been released. I’m a little late to report this one, but it’s definitely worth reporting. This is certainly one of the more exciting branches of the film industry: the guys who make the film look good, gorgeous even, in the case of some of these films. While the American Society of Cinematographers is widely considered to be a labor union, it is not. Instead, it is a prestigious society of DPs made up of about 350 individuals and membership is by invitation only. Their awards have been handed down for 25 years, recent winners including Christian Berger for “The White Ribbon,” Anthony Dod Mantle for “Slumdog Millionaire,” Robert Elswit for “There Will Be Blood” and Emmanuel Lubezki for “Children of Men.”

This year, the ASC’s nominations seem a little bit more geared towards Best Picture hopefuls then films that are very much driven by camera and lighting. Yet, the choices are still stellar, for the most part.

Here are the nominees:

“Black Swan” (Matthew Libatique)
“Inception” (Wally Pfister)
“The King’s Speech” (Danny Cohen)
“The Social Network” (Jeff Cronenweth)
“True Grit” (Roger Deakins)

It’s certainly no surprise to see veterans like Wally Pfister and the almighty Roger Deakins here. Considering the amount of critical attention that “Black Swan” has been getting, it was certainly a guaranteed spot on this list. The two moderate surprises are “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.”

Now, in regard to Jeff Cronenweth’s work on “The Social Network,” I emphasize that this is a surprise, not a disappointment. This is some of the most beautiful, understated and, most of all, under-appreciated cinematography of the year. Congratulations at the same time to the RED One Camera for truly advancing the art of digital cinematography. I’m fairly certain that this is the first film shot on the RED to be nominated for an ASC award. Hopefully, soon, it will be the first of its kind to be nominated for an Oscar.

“The King’s Speech,” on the other hand, I can take or leave. The quality of soft lighting makes the film look quite pretty and the one foggy exterior scene definitely looked gorgeous. However, there are certain shots used through the course of the film that either completely eliminate nose room or use spatially abhorrent angles. Obviously these were conscious choices by the director and DP, however, they put off the idea that the filmmakers were simply trying too hard. The ASC could have done a lot better by nominating either “127 Hours” for it’s stellar use of close-ups or “Shutter Island” for it’s gorgeous contrasty lighting.

For the win, one would think that Deakins is a shoo-in. However, unlike the Academy, the ASC has already awarded Roger on two different occasions (“The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There”). On top of that, he’s already receiving their 2011 Lifetime Achievement award, so I’m not sure that they’ll be that willing to award him twice in one night. Therefore, I would bank on Matthew Libateque taking this down due to the enormous amount of praise that his work has already garnered for this film.

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