Emmanuel Lubezki earned top honors at the 30th annual American Society of Cinematographers Awards at the Century Plaza hotel on Sunday night for his work in “The Revenant.” It was Lubezki’s fourth win in the feature film category from the elite cinematographer organization, and his third consecutive triumph.
The Mexican-born director of photography, known as “Chivo” to colleagues inside and outside D.P. circles, solidifies his frontrunner status in the Oscar cinematography race, which he also has won the last two years, for “Gravity” and “Birdman,” the latter of which was directed by “Revenant” helmer Alejandro G. Inarritu, who also hails from Mexico City.
Lubezki’s good fortune also places an exclamation point on the narrative surrounding “The Revenant,” which has come to represent as much a physical endurance test as it does bravura filmmaking. In shooting the harrowing tale of survival and revenge in and around the Louisiana territories of the early 1800s (filming actually took place in Canada and Argentina), Lubezki and Inarritu placed the accent on natural light and absolute authenticity in terms of man versus nature. Lubezki shot digitally, using the relatively new Arri Alexa 65, which uses a larger, 65 mm chip for wider image and higher, 6K resolution.
In other wins, Vanja Cernjul (“Marco Polo”) bested the competition in the TV series category, while Pierre Gill (“Casanova”) won in the miniseries/pilot category.
The fairly new Spotlight category, which recognizes work celebrated on the festival circuit or in limited release and presented for the third year, resulted in a tie between Adam Arkapaw (“Macbeth”) and Matyas Erdely (“Son of Saul”).
In terms of the evening itself, a voice heard over the intercom early on, “ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats; we only have the room until midnight,” sounded almost cautionary, given the tendency by d.p.’s — unaccustomed to the spotlight — to ramble at the podium when given the opportunity.
As the occasion unfolded, a first-ever memorial tribute in the ceremony’s history acknowledged such recently passed cinematographers as Vilmos Zigmond, Haskell Wexler and Andrew Lesnie, among others, for their immense contributions to the craft.
John Toll, on hand to accept the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on such films as “The Thin Red Line,” “Legends of the Fall” and “Braveheart,” received a standing ovation from the assembled. He thanked such mentors as Jordan Cronenweth, adding that “we couldn’t do what we do if we weren’t just a little crazy.”
Geena Davis presented the Governor’s Award to d.p. dream director Ridley Scott (“The Martian”) for his lush visual sensibility on such films as “Blade Runner,” “Alien, “Gladiator” and “Thelma & Louise,” in which she starred. In accepting his award, Scott, via a video clip, quoted Napoleon in stating his case for the cameraman’s role in telling a story visually: “a good sketch is better than a long speech.”
Lowell Peterson (“Desperate Housewives,” “Six Feet Under”) accepted the Career Achievement in Television Award from actress Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), noting that one of his inspirations as an aspiring D.P. was seeing Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” and talking about the deep bond between lensers and actors, going so far as studying facial anatomy in his training.
“The Revenant” (Emmanuel Lubezki)
TV, REGULAR EPISODE:
“Marco Polo” – “The Fourth Step” (Vanja Cernjul, ASC, HFS)
TV MOVIE, MINI-SERIES OR PILOT:
“Casanova” (Pierre Gill, CSC)
SPOTLIGHT AWARD (Tie):
Adam Arkapaw — “Macbeth”
Mátyás Erdély — “Son of Saul”