Cinematographers fete spectacles

ASC nominates big-budget 5

HOLLYWOOD — The American Society of Cinematographers has opted for high-profile dramatic spectacles and lensing veterans in the nominees for its top feature award.

The noms, announced Tuesday, are Russell Boyd for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”; Andrew Lesnie, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”; John Schwartzman, “Seabiscuit”; John Seale, “Cold Mountain”; and John Toll, “The Last Samurai.”

“It’s such a great thrill with so many excellent pictures,” Seale said. “And it’s a really wide range this year between traditional and high-tech.”

The winner will be named at the org’s 18th annual awards gala Feb. 8 at the Century Plaza Hotel.

“According to their peers, these five outstanding filmmakers have set the highest standards for artistic excellence in feature film cinematography during the past year,” said Owen Roizman, chairman of the org’s award committee.

“It wasn’t an easy decision because many cinematographers displayed an incredible range of talent and skill that contributed to the success of films last year. There is no easy or precise way to judge artistic achievements in cinematography, because it is a subjective and collaborative art form.”

Seale said he was particularly enthused over bringing to life realistic portrayal of Civil War scenarios. “What I’m hoping is not that the cinematography is beautiful but that it suits the story,” he added.

Toll and Seale have previously won the ASC honor, with Toll taking the trophy for “Braveheart” in 1996 and “The Thin Red Line” in 1999. Seale won in 1997 for “The English Patient.” Toll was nominated for “Legends of the Fall,” for which he won the Oscar for cinematography. Seale also garnered ASC noms for “Rain Man” and “The Perfect Storm.”

Return honorees

Lesnie and Schwartzman were tapped for ASC noms in 2002 for “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and “Pearl Harbor,” respectively. Boyd is the sole rookie nominee among the quintet.

The ASC nominations have been a reliable indicator of Academy Awards contenders in the cinematography category, with a match rate of nearly 90%. There are 215 ASC members, while the cinematographers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has 177 voting members.

Five of the past eight ASC winners also took home Oscars, including the late Conrad Hall for “Road to Perdition” last year and “American Beauty” (1999), Russell Carpenter for “Titanic,” Seale for “English Patient” and Toll for “Braveheart.” Roger Deakins won the 2002 ASC kudos for “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” while Lesnie took the Oscar for “Fellowship of the Ring.”

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