In the year’s most audacious bid for Oscar recognition, trained cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón took the reins from three-time Oscar-winner Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki on Mexican Oscar entry “Roma,” with stunning results. Lubezki helped the director to choose the Arri Alexa 65 mm camera and to shoot in black-and-white, but when the shooting schedule ballooned to more than 110 days, Lubezki couldn’t commit to the full shoot and Cuarón took over. The results are stunning deep-focus low-contrast black-and-white, packed with extraordinary detail over multiple elaborately executed long-take scenes, some of which yield intense emotion.
Cuarón will be hard to beat. Never-nominated Robbie Ryan’s natural-light photography for Yorgos Lanthimos’ 18th century royal court intrigue “The Favourite” also displays a high degree of difficulty, from dark rooms lit by candlelight to dramatic wide-angle lensing.
Three first-time Oscar-nominees could return to competition this year. James Laxton follows-up his Oscar-nominated “Moonlight” with another elegantly lensed period drama, this time set in James Baldwin’s 70s Manhattan, which he makes exquisitely beautiful.
Rachel Morrison could also earn her second nomination for Ryan Coogler’s Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther,” which introduced moviegoers to the hidden high-tech African kingdom of Wakanda, ruled by King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and protected by warrior women.
And “La La Land” Oscar-winner Linus Sandgren could compete again for “First Man,” which ranges from documentary-like intimate home scenes in Houston to teeth-rattling flight sequences and spectacular full IMAX moonscapes.
Only films I have seen will be considered frontrunners. Lists in alphabetical order.
Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”)
James Laxton (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Rachel Morrison (“Black Panther”)
Robbie Ryan (“The Favourite”)
Linus Sandgren (“First Man”)
Benoît Delhomme (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
Matthew Libatique (“A Star is Born”)
Eric Steelberg (“The Front Runner”)
Lukasz Zal (“Cold War”)
Bill Desowitz contributed to this report.