2018 Oscar Cinematography Noms Recognize Exceptional Work, Make History

The five nominees represent a full spectrum of how inspired and creative photography can add distinct character to the story at hand.

ASC Staff

Rachel Morrison, ASC becomes first woman cinematographer to earn Academy Award nomination.

And the nominees are...

• Blade Runner 2049 Roger A. Deakins, ASC, BSC
• Darkest Hour Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC
• Dunkirk Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC
• Mudbound Rachel Morrison, ASC
• The Shape of Water Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF

With the 2018 Oscar nominations for the 90th Academy Awards announced on January 23 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Society of Cinematographers was proud to note that all five nominees for Best Cinematography are not only members of the ASC, but also nominees for the 2018 ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the category of Theatrical Release.

“This year’s nominees all represent, one after the other, some of the most exquisite images in cinematography,” says ASC President Kees van Oostrum.

Making history, of course, is Rachel Morrison's historic nomination, which made her the first woman to be recognized by AMPAS in the category of Best Cinematography. On January 9, Morrison also became the first female cinematographer nominated for an ASC Award, also for her work on Mudbound.

Rachel Morrison, ASC at the Camerimage Film Festival. (Photo by Danna Kinsky)

“For Rachel to be nominated this year is not only a milestone in the history of cinematography, but I hope will also inspire women cinematographers that one of the highest honors is within reach,” says van Oostrum.

For Morrison, it’s all about the work: “I hate even saying the term ‘female DP or ‘female’ anything really,” the cinematographer noted in a recent interview with AC. “Could you imagine if we were like, ‘my female teacher,’ ‘my female doctor’? It’s so bananas that this is even still a conversation. Our job is to visualize human emotions, it’s to be empathetic. And if women are known for anything, it's for being empathetic. It's crazy that we are still only 2 to 4 percent of working cinematographers.”

Active AMPAS members are eligible to vote for the winners in all 24 categories beginning Tuesday, February 20 through Tuesday, February 27. 

Below, all five nominees for Best Cinematography comment on their outstanding work, which represents a full spectrum of how inspired and creative photography can add distinct character to the story at hand:

Blade Runner 2049
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC

“I love science fiction, but you’ve got to have a good story, and I wanted to make this movie because I thought the script was pretty damn good, and I wanted to work with [director] Denis [Villeneuve] again," says Deakins.

“I thought it would be interesting if the interiors of this huge, monolithic building always had the feeling of moving sunlight. Some of those sets were very severe, just square walls with no windows or obvious light sources, so I looked for different ways to bring patterns of moving light into them. One architectural reference we liked used water as a ceiling piece to create a caustic light effect; we took that idea and embellished it. Two scenes in Wallace’s office — which is basically a platform surrounded by water in this big concrete box — were probably the most complicated bits of lighting.”

This project was covered in depth in the December, 2017 issue of American Cinematographer

Darkest Hour
Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC

“A period piece is a very strange thing. It doesn't mean anything, basically," says Delbonnel. “When I did Inside Llewyn Davis with the Coen brothers, people said it looked like New York in the Sixties — but the light was the same in the Sixties as it is now! The only thing that changed is the art direction; the colors have changed. It has nothing to do with light, or with anything I can do. It's coming from the production design — the art.

Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC

“During the war, because of the bombing, Buckingham Palace’s windows were boarded with just a little opening to let the sunlight through. There were 17 windows, and in order to have just one shaft of light through each, I needed to put one [18K Arrimax] behind each window. There was only a sliver of daylight through the [windows]. We wanted to have this feel of sunlight on everything we could, even on Downing Street. It was a very dark time, but with a lot of sunlight.”

This project was covered in depth in the January, 2018 issue of AC.

Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC

Regarding the constantly shifting European skies over the English Channel, van Hoytema decided early on that he would not try to “intervene with light” when shooting day exteriors on the beach in Europe. Rather, he opted to go for “a true visual sense of the moment,” he says.

Director Christopher Nolan at the eyepiece, Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, DFF at right (pointing).

“European skies are very extreme,” van Hoytema notes, “and weather can change from moment to moment — but we wanted all those changes, as it really is, and we didn’t want to stop and micro-manage certain light directions. So for those kinds of scenes it didn’t matter if the light was flat from the front or backlit, or if it was windy and raining and then the next day it wasn’t. We felt that was part of the reality we were filming. Our job wasn’t to create a special look — our job was to observe and take in what we could get.”

This project was covered in depth in the August, 2017 issue of AC.

Rachel Morrison, ASC

Rachel Morrison, ASC

Morrison was attracted to the project’s setting, which she associated with such Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers as Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks and Arthur Rothstein, who chronicled the lives of poor U.S. farmers in the 1930s and ’40s. “That time period has been incredibly influential for me. I started in photography and was most interested in documentary and photojournalism, and the FSA photographers may be why I got the crazy notion that this could be my career. Dee had me at ‘post-Dust Bowl era,’ before I had even read the script.

“I try to choose projects that are meaningful to me and ideally have a message that will engage the audience in some form of social consciousness. Mudbound had the added bonus of being a period film, which is a gift to any cinematographer.”

This project was covered in depth in the December, 2017 issue of AC.

The Shape of Water
Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF

“[Director] Guillermo [del Toro] started talking about The Shape of Water while we were shooting Crimson Peak,” says Laustsen. “I think he had had this one in his soul for a long time.

“In the Hollywood films of the Forties and Fifties, the directors and cinematographers used dramatic lighting for storytelling. We have gotten away from that in the past few decades. Today, everybody talks about shooting with as little light as possible — or even without any lights. My attitude is to tell the story with light. It is an incredibly powerful storytelling partner.” 

From left, Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF and director Guillermo del Toro.

This project was covered in depth in the January, 2018 issue of AC.

The 90th Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The event also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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