Six of the world’s finest cinematographers receive salutes from the ASC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Chris Menges, BSC
The Boxer
Eduardo Serra, AFC
The Wings of the Dove
Russell Carpenter, ASC - Winner
Janusz Kaminski, ASC
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC
Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC
L.A. Confidential

Moving images have always had the ability to instill an audience with a sense of awe. During cinema’s nascent phase at the turn of the century, viewers were left dumbstruck by the simplest of scenes: a pretty actress waving at the camera, or a horse galloping in a field. Over the ensuing decades, of course, theater patrons have become considerably more discerning and sophisticated not to mention jaded. In this modern era of sensory overload, populated by cinephiles who seem to believe they've seen it all, it is the truly gifted filmmaker who can leave an indelible imprint on the collective memory of a movie-mad populace.

This year's group of nominated cinematographers have accomplished that feat with considerable panache. Indeed, 1997 proved to be a year of exceptional images. Certainly, none of us will forget Titanic's scenes of doomed lovers clinging to the great ship as it sinks (expertly rendered by ASC and Academy Award winner Russell Carpenter, ASC); Amistad's horrifying God's-eye view of African slaves being chained together and thrown from a schooner to a watery grave (Janusz Kaminski, ASC); Kundun's dreamlike vision of the 14th Dalai Lama standing amid the bodies of thousands of dead monks (Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC); the scenic use of Venice as an elegant backdrop for a callous scheme hatched by duplicitous lovers in The Wings of the Dove (Eduardo Serra, AFC); The Boxer's opening shot of a lone pugilist punching away the final moments of his 14-year sentence in a cold blue prison yard, framed by the institution's stolid steel bars (Chris Menges, BSC); or L.A. Confidential's masterful rendering of classic noir moments, including a climactic shootout in which shafts of light pierce through a wall that's been punctured by a hail of bullets (Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC).

In the following pages, AC offers its annual tribute to a group of cinematographers whose considerable skills brought honor to the big screen. Four of these artists (Carpenter, Spinotti, Deakins and Kaminski) have already been the subject of comprehensive feature articles which are excerpted in this roundup (and can be referenced in back issues or here on the ASC web site). We have therefore allotted extra space to the work of both Chris Menges and Eduardo Serra as we tip our hats to all of the nominees.

[ continued on page 1 — Chris Menges ]