Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography and Art Direction

Photo: AMPAS

As I write this it is 11:33 PM PST on Tuesday, February 16. In just over 17 hours from now, at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 17 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must return their completed final Oscar ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Yup, the deadline is nigh and we continue to take a peek at the below-the-line categories leading up to the Thursday free-for-all. Today we take a look at Cinematography and Art Direction with Animated, Foreign Language and Documentary films following tomorrow and then the complete field on Thursday along with polls for you to vote for your projected winners.

You can take a look at past predictions made long the way by clicking on any of the links below.

As for this round, let’s look at the nominees for …

Achievement in art direction
  • Changeling
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Duchess
  • Revolutionary Road
Achievement in cinematography
  • Changeling, Tom Stern
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
  • The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
  • The Reader, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
  • Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle

We can start with Art Direction, which recently saw honors handed out the Art Directors Guild on Saturday with production designers for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire taking home awards. The fact only Button and Dark Knight were nominated for an Oscar means we can actually forget about Slumdog for a moment. With Button getting the nod for best production design in a period film and Knight getting love for a fantasy feature I am not sure it gives us much ground to work with. Choosing between those two I will have to go with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button since I was more impressed with how The Dark Knight was photographed than how it was designed. However, after watching Changeling this weekend I wouldn’t argue if it won and the same goes for both The Duchess and Revolutionary Road. I believe this is a solid group of worthy nominees, but still believe Button is the front-runner.

Photo: Warner Bros.

In terms of Cinematography I can pretty much tell you Anthony Dod Mantle is going to win for Slumdog Millionaire right now. The BAFTA Awards and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) awarded his work as the best of 2008 and while that doesn’t always mean the Oscar will follow it seems illogical to vote against Slumdog in any of the categories outside of Sound. However, just as the production design in Changeling was impressive so was the muted palette Tom Stern brought to it and the work Claudio Miranda put into The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was also impressive. And like I made reference to earlier, the shot from The Dark Knight above speaks to the fantastic visuals Wally Pfister brought to that film.

The one wild card in the bunch is The Reader, a film I absolutely loved the look of, but the beauty of it seems to be what will lose it the Oscar in this category as so many see it as a contradiction of tone. I mean, how can we have a film that even touches upon the atrocities of the Holocaust (even though it is not a Holocaust film) look this beautiful? As much as I have tried to argue against The Reader haters I must say they have a point here and it really hit me when I saw the beautiful cinematography in Vicente Amorim’s Good. Andrew Dunn’s work in that film was fantastic but it was even more a contradiction to tone than was found in The Reader.

So, for Cinematography I am left with Slumdog Millionaire simply based on logic and good sense, but if almost any of the other nominees in both of these categories were to win I wouldn’t consider it an upset and in some cases I would say it may be a better choice.

What do you think? Do you disagree? If so, why?

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