Emmanuel Lubezki took home top feature film honors for “Children of Men” at the 21st annual American Society of Cinematographers’ Outstanding Achievement Awards on Sunday night at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.
The Mexican transplant who now lives in L.A. beat out a tough, if quirky, field of nominees for films that haven’t exactly gained traction during awards season: Dick Pope (“The Illusionist”), Robert Richardson (“The Good Shepherd”), Dean Semler (“Apocalypto”) and Vilmos Zsigmond (“The Black Dahlia”).
A foreign-born d.p. has now won the ASC’s feature prize three years in a row, further establishing the internationalization of a body that started doling out its own kudos partly in response to the large number of overseas cinematographers, many British, who were winning Oscars.
Along with fellow lensers Rodrigo Prieto (“Babel”) and Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Lubezki has recently helped establish Mexico as a hotbed of cinematic talent.
His victory could be seen as giving Lubezki a leg up in the Oscar race, whose other contenders are Navarro, Pope, Zsigmond and Wally Pfister (“The Prestige”), since AMPAS’ final polls close today. However, while the nominations of the ASC and the Academy, voted on by its 109-member cinematography branch, are usually similar, ASC and Oscar winners have aligned only seven of 20 times since the ASC first handed out its competitive awards in 1987.
Other honorees Sunday night included John Stokes (TNT’s “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King”), who won in the television movie/miniseries/pilot category; and David Moxness (the CW’s “Smallville”), who nabbed the episodic TV nod.
The bulk of the evening’s festivities, however, were devoted to honorary award recipients, including top cinematographers Allen Daviau and Michael Ballhaus, who received the org’s lifetime achievement and international achievement awards, respectively.
Longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese, for whom Ballhaus has shot seven films, including “The Departed,” presented the international award to the German d.p. With his characteristic rapid-fire delivery, the director described how, during a particularly low period in his career, Ballhaus made him “excited again about making movies” when they shot “After Hours,” a relatively low-budget pic that took advantage of the resourcefulness that Ballhaus learned while working with Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
“We had 40 nights to shoots the picture,” recalled Scorsese, “with 16-17 setups a night, and I said to him, ‘Can you do it?’ And Michael said to me, ‘Can you do it?’ ”
Charlize Theron presented Daviau with his honor, while Universal president Ron Meyer gave Ron Howard the org’s governor’s award.
“Cinematographers have been saving my ass almost my entire life,” Howard admitted in accepting the laurel, and the sentiment could have been the evening’s mantra.
Donald Morgan was presented with the inaugural award for career achievement in television by director Joseph Sargent, while Gerald Hirschfeld received the ASC President’s Award from actor-director Richard Benjamin.
The John Alonzo Heritage Award was presented to student filmmakers Brian Melton from the North Carolina School for the Arts and Lyle Vincent of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.