Contenders: Cinematography. Veterans Pace the Race, but Don’t Count Out Female Framers

Cinematography Oscar Contenders Mank Tenent Mulan
Tenet: Melinda Sue Gordan/Warner. Bros.; Mank; Netflix; Mulan: Disney

While “Nomadland’s” Joshua James Richards and “Mank’s” Erik Messerschmidt lead the field for the cinematography Oscar race, this is a deep competition, and although there are some women contending, they are once again a minority.

As for the forefront of the race, Richards won the Golden Frog from the prestigious Camerimage festival, the National Board of Review gong and has scored a slew of critics awards and nominations, but don’t discount Dariusz Wolski.

Wolski, who has framed such films as “The Crow,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Martian,” teamed up with Paul Greengrass for the Western “News of the World,” shot in New Mexico. Wolski relied on the Ken Burn doc “The West” and old-fashioned Hollywood Westerns — much as Richards did when capturing America’s sweeping vistas.

He, too, played with color and lighting, whether he was shooting a dusky sunrise, a snowy trek or capturing natural light at different times of day.

Another famed cinematographer in the race is Hoyte Van Hoytema, who shot “Tenet” using the Arriflex 765, Imax MKIII, Imax MKIV, Imax MSM 9802 and the Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio. With Christopher Nolan at the helm, this time-inversion action thriller was filmed with handheld and with practical effects. It was up to Van Hoytema to capture the in-camera scene of a real Boeing 747 being blown up, a nine-lane highway sequence and action on superyachts.

Other contenders in the mix include: “Judas and the Black Messiah’s” Sean Bobbitt, Newton Thomas Siegel for “Da 5 Bloods” and Phedon Papamichael for “Trial of the Chicago 7.”

An honorable mention goes to “Minari’s” Lachlan Milne’s work as he follows Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean-American immigrant story as the family moves to rural Arkansas.

As far as gender parity, only two female cinematographers are getting any buzz this season: “One Night in Miami’s” Tami Reiker and “Mulan’s” Mandy Walker. It’s been three years since Rachel Morrison became the first and only female to ever be nominated in the category for “Mudbound.” And it’s not for lack of films shot by women. Reiker also lensed “The Old Guard,” and female cinematographers shot “Never Rarely Always Sometimes” (Hélène Louvart), “Hillbilly Elegy” (Maryse Alberti) and “Palm Springs” (Quyen Tran).

They exist, they’re just not being recognized. These women are making strides in a male-dominated industry, and perhaps the next challenge is the more women joining the American Society of Cinematographers, which is by invite only.