Wins at Toronto and Middleburg film festivals pushed Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” into front-runner status. The visually stunning, heartwarming film shot by Haris Zambarloukos is so deliciously rich that this film could walk home with a few statues come 2022.
Multiple contenders, also shot in black-and-white, could find themselves in the running. There is Robbie Ryan, whose lush camerawork in Mike Mill’s “C’mon C’mon” has been receiving praise for the dreamy images in the Joaquin Phoenix-starrer. Eduard Grau added warm textures to Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut “Passing.” Close-ups were key to this tale of colorism. Bruno Delbonnel gave a noir-esque feel to each frame of “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” the dark cinematography lending itself to the tale.
While black and white might dominate, the ASC needs to hear the plea that women cinematographers have shot some of the year’s best films. Ari Wegner’s “Power of the Dog” gives a sense of isolation and scale to Jane Campion’s fantastic film. Claire Mathon stunningly captures Diana’s torture and anguish in “Spencer” by being barely more than six inches from her face. Alice Brooks serves double duty for “In the Heights” and “Tick, Tick …Boom!” Should women crack the nominees, they’ll make history and follow in Rachel Morrison’s “Mudbound” nomination when she became the first woman in the history of the Academy to be nominated for cinematography.
Legends of the field are not to be missed. Ridley Scott’s go-to Dariusz Wolski could pop up for the eagerly awaited “The House of Gucci,” with images of luxury spanning Italy to New York, as could Seamus McGarvey in “Cyrano.” But Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” is a crafts masterpiece and could sweep across the board, landing noms in every category, with Greig Fraser leading the way for his masterful juxtaposing of vast desert landscapes and intimate close-ups. Not to be left behind is Ed Lachmann’s camerawork in the music doc “The Velvet Underground.”