Oscars 2010: Cinematography and Editing Predictions


There are numerous elements in movies that simply go under-appreciated. I talked last week about costumes, makeup and art direction, which all contribute to creating the believable world of a film. But there are even more subtle elements in a film that if the person behind them wasn’t doing his or her job, you would indeed notice.

Cinematography and editing are not necessarily related, I’ve just grouped them here as they are the last of the smaller technical categories left for my Oscar predictions. They are however, the more unnoticeable visual elements of a film. Often times an editor’s best work, for example, is what gets left on the cutting room floor. We’re so caught up in the story that we never realize a huge part of what tells the story in the visual sense is not only the director but the editor.

Cinematography is something you would definitely notice if the cinematographer was slacking off. Just think about where you sit at this moment. What’s the lighting like in the room? Are there shadows? Could someone be filming you on camera right this minute and clearly see your face? Lighting is not only about visual clarity, but also about mood and feel. We can make your blog-reading experience in this room suspenseful or striking just by reducing the light and casting a shadow over your face.

If you’re looking to watch one of these films on DVD soon, I challenge you to pay a bit of attention to the way they are either edited or lit. You might just appreciate the movie a bit more.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd)
  • Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)
  • Avatar (Mauro Fiore)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel)
  • The White Ribbon (Christian Berger)

I absolutely love a moment or scene with incredible cinematography. One moment from last year’s Oscar-nominated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button sticks out in my mind. Remember when Benjamin meets his birth father who is on his last legs and he wheels him out onto the dock and shares this beautiful moment in the sunset with him? Well in any case, that scene is half of what it is without Claudio Miranda catching that sunset just right.

This year, the three favorites are Avatar, Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. All three are very different and deserving of consideration for many reasons.

Avatar is the wildcard in all these categories. How do you assess the cinematography of an entirely digital film? How did they even do it? Is Mauro Fiore deserving of the Oscar for that technological leap alone? Obviously the beauty of Pandora is unignorable, but I couldn’t even begin to decipher digital work from cinematography.

Inglourious Basterds takes the place of that gorgeous period film that always gets nominated such as “Benjamin Button” or The Aviator. It also boasts the most Oscar-decorated cinematographer on the list, six-time nominee Robert Richardson who has won twice for The Aviator and Oliver Stone’s JFK. When I think lighting from “Basterds” I recall the underground bar scene and the theater.

Then there’s The Hurt Locker. Barry Ackroyd has worked with Paul Greengrass on United 93 and the upcoming Green Zone starring Matt Damon (so the Middle East on location thing is his forte). Certainly the desert has its challenges and “Locker” was visually superb in countless ways.

This is hard for me to decipher and it might come down to who wins the American Society of Cinematographers award on Feb. 27 (I should’ve waited to post this) but looking at Slumdog Millionaire as last year’s winner, I’m gonna ride the hot hand.

Prediction: The Hurt Locker

“Basterds” is an incredibly close second.

Best Achievement in Editing

  • Avatar (John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin)
  • District 9 (Julian Clarke)
  • The Hurt Locker (Chris Innis, Bob Murawski)
  • Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke)
  • Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Joe Klotz)

Movies have tons more footage than what makes it on the screen. The editor along with the director is responsible for picking out and sewing together the very best takes so that there are no hiccups in the visual storytelling. Once again, the big three mentioned for cinematography are the biggest players this year. Fortunately, the “Eddies” were awarded on Sunday, so we have a clearer picture.

Inglourious Basterds was not even nominated for an Eddie, so it’s hard to see it winning this category. Although it was said to be one of the favorites, it’s hard for me to imagine that the strongest suit of Avatar was its editing. Of all the things not needing new technology to meet the demands of a CGI film, editing is atop the list.

I think the Eddie-winning The Hurt Locker has to be the runaway favorite. This was a suspenseful film and any film that has such success with suspense has to have great editing. The quick cuts, holding out certain shots longer than others – lingering – that’s what editors can do to enhance the pacing of a film and Chris Innis and Bob Murawski certainly did that.

Prediction: The Hurt Locker


  1. Arthur says:

    Great stuff. moviemnusereviews.com deserves an oscar.

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