Oscars 2011: Best Cinematography and Editing Predictions

I conclude the “technical portion” of my Oscar predictions with these two categories, perhaps the most important of all the behind-the-scenes work done on a film. Both the editor and cinematographer have a direct impact on the final product, no matter what the director says or does. As you might expect, directors don’t like trusting that power to just anyone, so many have long-time collaborators in these categories.

Best Achievement in Editing

  • Andrew Weisblum – “Black Swan”
  • Pamela Martin – “The Fighter”
  • Tariq Anwar  – “The King’s Speech”
  • Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter – “The Social Network”
  • Jon Harris – “127 Hours”

While the director plays a significant part in the editing process, that responsibility ultimately falls on the person piecing the film together, the one who’s chief goal is to create a cohesive film with appropriate flow and transition, who can help decide the best takes of each scene and weave them into a final product.

With the exception of one, I think, editing plays a significant role in each of these nominees. All but “The King’s Speech” have moments of great intensity delivered via the pacing of the film as a whole or in certain scenes. “Black Swan” in particular leans heavily on suspense, which makes Weisblum a top contender. Same can be said for “127 Hours,” which must maintain intensity in spite of taking place in a hole in the ground.

These editors have no Oscars among them although two have been nominated in the past: Anwar for “American Beauty” and Wall and Baxter for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Editing nominees are typically tied to Best Picture nominees as you’re not likely going to have a bad film with great editing, so the editors of the world are not an elitist group.

In my opinion, since “Inception” didn’t get nominated, the choice is obvious, but I certainly think there are three excellent choices in the bunch. “127 Hours” deserves credit, but I think Boyle and Franco had much more to do with its intensity. “Black Swan” with its terrific dance sequences and intense scenes of paranoia and illusion makes it a more than worthy winner as well.

For me, however, “The Social Network” took a movie about a website that jumps back and forth between court cases and narrations of past events, most of which take place around a computer screen, and made them exciting. Chalk one victory for “Social Network” against “King’s Speech” here, that’s for sure. If for some reason “King’s Speech” wins, you can turn your TV off because you’ll know how the night ends.

Prediction: “The Social Network”

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • Matthew Libatique – “Black Swan”
  • Wally Pfister – “Inception”
  • Danny Cohen  – “The King’s Speech”
  • Jeff Cronenweth – “The Social Network”
  • Roger Deakins – “True Grit”

Most people don’t know what cinematography is all about, other than it’s a fancy word movie people use. To put it frankly, the cinematographer is directly responsible for what you see on screen in the most literal way possible. Whereas the director does not often stand behind the camera, the cinematographer is always making sure what’s being recorded is a clear image that captures the tone and mood the director is looking for. To do that, of course, the cinematographer (often the Director of Photography) must control or manipulate light levels to achieve the desired effect.

So, you might imagine directors usually stick to the same cinematographers, people who share their vision of what the film should look like in terms of visual quality.

None of these nominees has as impressive of an Academy resumé as Roger Deakins. The longtime Coen brothers collaborator has earned eight previous Oscar nominations with nothing to show for it. While I hate to say it, “True Grit,” though excellent from this standpoint, is not the best of the bunch. Deakins should have won for 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” but the competition was terrific that year as well.

Wally Pfister has been nominated for three previous collaborations with Christopher Nolan and it makes you wonder, considering “Inception” might be the most astounding of their work together, when he’ll get his due. Then again, if you can say the same about Deakins, it’s proof that this category doesn’t work this way.

Most of the critics awards have gone to Matthew Libatique for “Black Swan” and I have to agree. Other than Natalie Portman, this is the film’s best shot at an Oscar and “Swan” was a thing of beauty. I could see it losing, but it’s a safe pick. Here’s another one that “The King’s Speech” shouldn’t win by virtue of the competition.

Prediction: “Black Swan”


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