Five cinematographers vie for Oscar

A look at the d.p. nominees in this year's race

‘The White Ribbon’s’ eerie B&W imagery a conscious attempt at literal and figurative abstraction

Awards pedigree: Also nominated by ASC; won best d.p. kudos from L.A. Film Critics Assn., National Society of Film Critics, N.Y. Film Critics Circle.
Overall aesthetic: “A film shot in b&w makes demands on the audience,” Berger explains. “Essentials — colors — are missing. That forces viewers to start filling in things for themselves.” Director Michael Haneke and Berger weren’t shooting for nostalgia; “we wanted it to be more abstract and evoke emotion not seen often in the brain these days.”
Visual references:: “We watched old films but also many contemporary ones including ‘Good Night, and Good Luck,’ but also something like Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’ because of its use of oil lamps. Haneke studied old photos from the era, especially for how kids of that time looked and how visuals from the time showed the particulars of the repression.”
Camera; film stock: MovieCam Compact with Cooke S4; Kodak film.
Critic’s quote: “The world we’re dropped into by cinematographer Christian Berger is both beautiful and harsh,” says Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times.

The darker side of ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood prize’

Awards pedigree: Oscar-nominated for “Amelie” and “Engagement,” winning ASC and Cesars awards for both.
Aesthetic: “I wanted to do something different than the other ‘Potter’ films. This one is a bit more real and dark. So I went for a very gray palette, with muted colors except in a couple of scenes.”
Visual references:: “I try to fit my work into the emotions of the story; instead of real references, I went with my gut feelings.”
Camera; film stock: Arri with Cooke S4 lenses; Kodak 5219.
Critic’s quote: “The filmmakers have found a way to refresh our eyes and enhance our appreciation for this rich, amazing creation,” notes Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly.

D.p.’s live-action photography provided template for ‘Avatar’s’ CGI fantasia

Awards pedigree: Nominated for ASC and BAFTA awards. Won best d.p. kudos from Broadcast Film Critics Assn., Florida Film Critics Circle, Phoenix Film Critics Society.
Aesthetic: “(Director James Cameron) wanted a future that wasn’t pristine and clean,” says Fiore, “he wanted to use a little bit of grittiness to make it organic as possible.”
Visual references: “There were aspects of ‘Tears of the Sun’ (which Fiore shot), primarily the way I treated the jungle. And since there was so much jungle in Pandora, there was an approach there (Cameron) was interested in.”
Camera: Fusion 3D Camera System (shot in high def).
Critic’s quote: “This is, simply put, one of the most beautiful movies you’ll ever see,” Nick Starkey says in Premiere.

Look of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ draws on a pastiche of spaghetti Westerns and the French New Wave

Awards pedigree: Also nominated by BAFTA. Won Oscars for “JFK” (1991) and “The Aviator” (2005), earned three other noms.
Aesthetic: “(Director Quentin Tarantino’s) design was to create a specific visual/tonal palette for each (chapter). But he dictated the majority of aesthetic choices through his dialogue, which had the greatest authority of all.”
Visual references:: “We discussed or viewed a number of French New Wave films ranging from the work of Claude Chabrol to Eric Rohmer to Jean-Luc Godard. Needless to say, spaghetti Westerns were viewed and discussed. Furthermore, for the final chapter, three-strip or dye-transfer Technicolor films were an influence.”
Camera; film stock: Panavision cameras through anamorphic lenses; Kodak stock.
Critic’s quote: “An ungainly pastiche, and yet on some wacked out Jungian level it’s all of a piece,” per David Edelstein, New York Magazine.

Tension between characters and hostile surroundings color ‘Hurt Locker’

Awards pedigree: Also nominated by the ASC and BAFTA. Awarded best d.p. kudos from Austin, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas film critics
Aesthetic: “I had suggested keeping a genuine documentary approach. This allowed us to use up to four cameras, giving maximum flexibility and allowing multiple perspectives. “
Visual references:: “The real direction was to try and not make a film that had the same feel as other war films, and by that I mean ‘bomb disposal’ films that held the drama in the ‘which-wire-do-I-cut?’ style.”
Camera; film stock: Super 16mm Aaton cameras with Canon 11.5mm – 165mm zoom lenses; Fuji.
Citic’s quote: “There are no wasted shots or merely beautiful images,” says David Denby, the New Yorker.

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