Prisoners Hugh Jackman

'Prisoners,' 'The Grandmaster' are surprise entries

The American Society of Cinematographers has loaded the deck with an unprecedented seven feature film nominees for its 28th annual awards ceremony, a result of a three-way tie that increased the field from the usual five. The visual achievements range from the Antebellum South of “12 Years a Slave,” shot by Sean Bobbitt, to “Gravity’s” deep reaches of outer space, realized in 3D by d.p. Emmanuel Lubezki.

The five others vying for the exclusive, invite-only organization’s top competitive prize are Barry Ackroyd (“Captain Phillips”), Roger Deakins (“Prisoners”), Bruno Delbonnel (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Phillippe Le Sourd (“The Grandmaster”) and Phedon Papamichael (“Nebraska”).

“Our members believe these cinematographers have set the standard for artful, theatrical motion picture cinematography,” said ASC president Richard Crudo in a statement. “They have mastered a complex craft which contributes vitally to the storytelling process.”

Lubezki, a two-time ASC winner for “Children of Men” (2007) and “Tree of Life” (2012), has already picked up key awards this year from critics organizations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, D.C., Dallas-Fort Worth and Las Vegas, among others.

The National Society of Film Critics chose Delbonnel over Lubezki by a narrow margin (two votes) in its awards tally on Saturday, while the New York Film Critics Circle also favored the French d.p. of “Llewyn Davis” — which depicts the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early ’60s with a muted palette — to the Mexican-born Lubezki, whose 3D work in “Gravity” also involved lighting the film’s considerable vfx backgrounds.

Delbonnel earned top honors from the ASC in 2005 for “A Very Long Engagement,” which marked the first time a foreign-language feature (French) was honored by the ASC in the category, and the first time a non-ASC member copped the top prize.

Deakins is another favorite of the society, with 12 nominations and three wins, most recently for last year’s “Skyfall.” He also won the organization’s lifetime achievement honor in 2010.

Another factor in this year’s voting involves “Nebraska’s” b&w photography, a medium favored by the ASC two out of the four times it was included among the nominees, the most recent being Christian Berger’s winning work on 2009’s “The White Ribbon.”

The latest winner will be named in a ceremony Feb. 1 at the Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom.

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