By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Once again, ARRI can claim the top vote getter amongst cinematographers in this year’s Academy Awards race. But the surprise was that the ALEXA Mini was a very popular choice within that subset. But while many shooters preferred ARRI, there were other cameras that still got some notice by Oscar.
Blade Runner 2049: Cinematographer Roger Deakins nominated for Best Cinematography and he is a master at giving stark, barren landscapes and otherworldly, yet beautiful sheen. And for this follow-up to the sci-fi classic, Deakins chose three ARRI camera platforms: The ALEXA XT Studio, ALEXA Mini, and ALEXA Plus. “I’d worked with Denis twice, and both films were with the ALEXA, with Master Prime lenses,” Deakins told Deadline Hollywood. “We both felt, why change? We were both quite happy with that way of working and that image quality.”
Darkest Hour: This compelling character piece that depicts the events surrounding the rise of Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman) and the uneasy beginning of Great Britain’s involvement in World War II. Darkest Hour was shot with the ARRI ALEXA Mini and SXT Plus. It’s compelling use of dynamic range and color served almost as it’s own character, and it garnered cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel a well deserved nomination. “It was always this idea of his going from darkness to light, darkness to light, every time,” Delbonnel told IndieWire. “The first time we see him, he’s lit by his cigar and his butler opens the shade in his room to let the light in.”
Dunkirk: Best Directing nominee Christopher Nolan and Cinematography nominee Hoyte van Hoytema went big for shooting this World War II saga, opting for the IMAX MKIV and MSM 9802, Panavision 65 HR, and Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio. “After ‘Interstellar,’ we knew we wanted to continue shooting big-format,” Van Hoytema told the LA Times. “Chris really wanted this to be a very cinematic experience…very visceral.”
The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro’s romantic tribute to the Creature from the Black Lagoon was shot using the ALEXA Mini and the XT Plus. And hats off to Best Cinematography nominee Dan Laustsen for craft the look of a 60s Sci-fi film, awash in color, but without all the campy B- movie vibe. “I really love anamorphic and CinemaScope. But in the end, we came back to 1.85, because Guillermo likes that format very much, and it works really well on this movie,” Lausten told Deadline. “We used the Alexa XT, and I think it’s beautiful in the composition.”
Get Out: The surprise breakout horror film directed by Best Directing nominee Jordan Peele, was shot on the ARRI ALEXA Mini. “The warmth in the imagery at the estate was intended as a bit of a visual false security in a way, but of course there is something very strange under the surface,” Cinematographer Toby Oliver told ASC Magazine. “I also played with color in the night scenes both inside and outside the house, using special lighting gels and camera settings to bring a range of cyan, greenish and aqua tones into the ‘moonlight’ and ambiance rather than a straight up ‘blue’ vs ‘warm’ feel.”
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Nominated for Best Picture, this character drama about a mother seeking justice after the death of her son was shot on the ARRI ALEXA XT Plus. (Director Martin McDonagh) wanted it to be a piece of cinema and his base point is 1970s filmmaking,” Davis told British Cinematographer. “He wants that type of approach than a more contemporary handheld approach. We used a traditional style, (but with the ALEXA) what you learn as you go on as a DP is to use fewer lights and to put them in the right place.”
Lady Bird: Nominated for Best Picture, the southern drama was shot on the ARRI ALEXA Mini. “I think (director Greta Gerwig’s) first thought was it shouldn’t be too real. It should be a little removed,” DP Sam Levy told Collider.”It should feel like a memory. The way that a memory looks when you envision it. It’s a high school movie. High school yearbooks from the early 2000s and we started to notice, especially in high school yearbooks, photos have this quality of—they look crappy and distressed. The quest then, came to be playing digitally which is totally appropriate, but how can we create something within this aesthetic of memory that is unique and of its own and not just taking scans of film grain and overlaying them, calling it a day? Which is very commonplace now.”
The Post: Another in the running for Best Picture, this drama take on the Watergate Break-in, takes a look at events from the Publisher’s perspective. Shot on the Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2. “There was a lot of talking taking place indoors, and I wanted to avoid the potential for the photography to be stodgy and boring,” said longtime Spielberg Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. “So, I decided to employ an active camera in an environment where the action was not inhibited by the lighting equipment. My plan was that Steven could direct the actors wherever he wanted and the camera would follow them.”
Phantom Thread: Best directing nominee Paul Thomas Anderson, who also did double duty as the film’s cinematographer, shot this drama about an obsessed dress maker on the Panavision Panaflex XL2. ” Anderson told Entertainment Weekly. “Basically, in England, we were able to sort of work without an official director of photography. The people I would normally work with were unavailable, and it just became a situation where we collaborated — really in the best sense of the word — as a team. If you can give credit, Michael Bauman is the gaffer that I’ve worked with for many, many years on a lot of projects. There was a camera operator, Colin Anderson, I’ve worked with, and Erik Brown, who was the first assistant cameraman and Jeff Kunkel, who was a grip. I know how to point the camera in a good direction, and I know a few things. But I’m not a director of photography. I would not put myself in that class for a second.”
From a viewers perspective, I’d have to say that this year’s Oscar Lineup is one of the best looking slate of films I’ve seen in quite awhile. From the quality of the cinematic image to the lighting. And whoever takes home the golden idol, it was well deserved.
The Oscars air Sunday March 4, 2018, 5:00 PM PST.