Pfister takes top prize for ‘Inception’ at ASC Awards

Freeman took laurel for TV episodic series-pilot category

The dreamscape of “Inception” won out over the dark theatricality of the ballet world, the iconography of the Western, the drama of a king’s stutter and the impersonal genesis of social media as Wally Pfister took the top competitive prize at the 25th annual American Society of Cinematographers Awards. It was Pfister’s first win after two previous noms.

The win came as something of a surprise since Roger Deakins (“True Grit”) and Matthew Libatique (“Black Swan”) won the lion’s share of critics awards and were considered the consensus frontrunners. Over the last 10 years, the winners of the ASC and the Oscar have overlapped four times.

Jonathan Freeman, one of two lensers nominated for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” took the TV episodic series-pilot category, while for TV movies or miniseries, Stephen Windon was singled out for HBO’s “The Pacific.”

Deakins, lionized for career achievement in features and nominated for his lensing of “True Grit,” assured the crowd in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland that he is “not about to retire.” He said Conrad Hall’s work on “Fat City” inspired him to become a cinematographer. John Seale, who won an Oscar and an ASC award for “The English Patient,” was given the international achievement kudo; Michael O’Shea received the career achievement in TV honor. Latter proposed that the phrase “we’ll fix it in post” is unacceptable and that cinematographers have “to fight for every image.”

Julia Roberts, accepting the Board of Governors award from Tom Hanks, said, “Thank God (for cinematographers), because I know what I look like at 5:30 at a rehearsal, and what I look like in a matinee.”

Douglas Kirkland, a photog at Life and Look magazines in their glory years, took the President’s award. He praise the d.p.s in the room, saying they were responsible for transporting viewers to “other worlds and times and fantasies.”

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