- Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Robert Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski for Ida
- Dick Pope for Mr. Turner
- Roger Deakins for Unbroken
It's no surprise that Mexico City native Iñárritu pegged fellow native Cuarón's choice of cinematographer for Children of Men and Gravity for the audacious long-take that is Birdman. As he's one of two men to have taken my breath away, I have a pretty serious crush on Emmanuel Lubezki (also from Mexico City. Noticing a theme yet?). So when we have him reaching for the heavens (albeit, less literally than he did for last years win) and succeeding in such grand fashion, it's difficult to imagine lauding anyone else. Birdman was originally planned to be filmed entirely in one take, and, indeed, it looks like it was. After some talks before filming, however, they decided to do very long takes and edit them together in post-production to make it look like one take. Don't let that deceive you into thinking this is anything less-than, however. Birdman is a heroic feat of cinematography.
I hope you like brutal whip pans and wide-angle shots, because there are one hundred minutes of them here. Much like everything else I've said about this film, it's quintessential Anderson / Yoeman. They're really not to my taste, but they do fit the whimsy of the film incredibly well. Beyond that, the work with color and lighting is superb, and Yoeman's flexibility with aspect ratios is worth noting. That all this absurdity comes together so neatly is a certain achievement.
It would be nearly impossible to overstate how beautifully Dick Pope rendered J.M.W. Turner's romanticist/impressionist paintings into something suitable for the screen. The scene with the Fighting Temeraire was finished with VFX, but you nonetheless get the idea of how neatly Pope translated Turner's oils and watercolors to the his own format. The lighting here is incredible and beautiful. There are countless scenes that evoke a painterly artistry, and it's a real gift to be able to live in that world for a moment.
If I'm honest I really didn't see what other people have seen in Roger Deakin's work on Unbroken. This is his twelfth nomination, and that feels about as routine and heavy handed as Unbroken. There are some nice isolation-enhancing decisions, perhaps most notably in the opening sequence as we mostly follow the protagonist through a bomber as Japanese fighter planes converge on it. Even that, though, had some superfluous footage that distracted from the supposed intent. Don't get me wrong, the cinematography is not bad. It's just boring.
No, nothing unseated Birdman as my favorite cinematography. I still think it should win, but there solid enough contenders that I don't know that Lubezki takes home two statuettes in a row. There's no small part of me that fears Grand Budapest will take this on its way to a best picture award, but I shall remain hopeful. I could also see Pope winning for his work on Mr. Turner, but in the end, I think Lubezki repeats.
Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Should win: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)