The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has weighed in with picks for the best cinematography in film and television over the last year. Like other major guild ceremonies including the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, the ASC nominees are looked at closely by Oscar pundits considering the overlap between guild members and the Academy. Over the last decade, the eventual Oscar winner for Best Cinematography has at least been nominated for the ASC prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases.
Last year’s ASC winner was Roger Deakins for “1917.” Deakins also won the ASC prize for “Blade Runner 2049.” In both cases, the legendary DP went on to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Wally Pfister for “Inception” and Emmanuel Lubezki for “Gravity,” “Birdman,” and “The Revenant” are other recent examples of ASC winners who also prevailed at the Academy Awards. The ASC went with Łukasz Żal for “Cold War” in 2018, while the Academy bestowed its prize to Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma.” Greig Fraser was a surprise ASC winner in 2016 for “Lion,” while Linus Sandgren took home the Oscar that year for “La La Land.”
This year, Oscar frontrunner Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”) will compete against Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”), Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Newton Thomas Sigel (“Cherry”), and Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”) at the 35th annual ASC Awards (streamed live April 18 via American Cinematographer’s Facebook at 12:30 pm PT from the historic ASC Clubhouse in Hollywood).
Spotlight nominees include Katelin Arizmendi (“Swallow”), Aurélien Marra (“Two of Us”), and Andrey Naydenov (“Dear Comrades!”), and Documentary recipients were Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (“The Truffle Hunters”), Viktor Kosakovskiy and Egil Håskjold Larsen (“Gunda”), and Gianfranco Rosi (“Notturno”).
This marks the first ASC nomination for Richards, Messerschmidt, and Sigel, the second for Wolski, and the third for Papamichael. Not making the cut, though, were Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Tami Reiker (“One Night in Miami”), Martin Ruhe (“The Midnight Sky”), Tobias Schliessler (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), and Hoyte van Hoytema (“Tenet”). In terms of being a bellwether for the Oscars, the last time they matched nominations was in 2017, so it’s possible that Bobbitt or van Hoytema might score with the Academy.
The momentum has been with Richards for Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” ever since he won Camerimage’s prestigious Golden Frog last year. In the recessionary road odyssey, the director’s go-to cinematographer offered a roving, naturalistic nod to Terrence Malick (with Arri Alexa Mini), while capturing Frances McDormand’s journey through the landscapes at golden hour.
In David Fincher’s “Mank,” Messerschmidt recreated a Golden Age of Hollywood in black-and-white (with the RED Ranger Helium Monochrome, and using the Cinefade variable depth of field tool to emulate Gregg Toland’s iconic “Pan-Focus”). In Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” Papamichael shot the courtroom scenes with the large-format Arri Alexa LF Mini to capture group shots and reactions, and shot the vérité riot scenes with two hand-held cameras.
In Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Cherry,” Sigel shot the PTSD crime drama in separate chapters with unique looks (utilizing the Sony Venice 3D Red) and in different formats and aspect ratios to convey the horrors of war and then the spillover into the nightmarish suburbia. In Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World,” the post-Civil War road trip of healing and unification between Tom Hanks’ ex-Confederate captain and Helena Zengel’s 10-year-old orphan, Wolski chose a more classical approach than the director’s usual vérité style, shooting the duo in changing landscapes, but with smoother hand-held shots (using Alexa Mini LFs and Angénieux zoom).
The 2021 American Society of Cinematographers Awards will be announced Sunday, April 18. Check out the full nominations list below.
Erik Messerschmidt, ASC for “Mank”
Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC for “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Joshua James Richards for “Nomadland”
Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC for “Cherry
Dariusz Wolski, ASC for “News of the World”
Katelin Arizmendi for “Swallow”
Aurélien Marra for “Two of Us”
Andrey Naydenov for “Dear Comrades!”
Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw for “The Truffle Hunters”
Viktor Kosakovskiy and Egil Håskjold Larsen for “Gunda”
Gianfranco Rosi for “Notturno”
Motion Picture, Limited Series, or Pilot Made for Television
Martin Ahlgren, ASC for The Plot Against America, “Part 6”
Anette Haellmigk for The Great, “The Great”
Pete Konczal for Fargo, “The Birthplace of Civilization”
Steven Meizler for The Queen’s Gambit, “End Game”
Gregory Middleton, ASC, CSC for Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being”
Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Commercial
Marshall Adams, ASC for Better Call Saul, “Bagman”
Carlos Catalán for Killing Eve, “Meetings Have Biscuits”
François Dagenais, CSC for Project Blue Book, “Area 51”
Jon Joffin, ASC for Motherland: Fort Salem, “Up is Down”
C. Kim Miles, ASC, CSC, MySC for Project Blue Book, “Operation Mainbrace”
Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Non-Commercial
David Franco for Perry Mason, “Chapter 2”
Ken Glassing for Lucifer, “It Never Ends Well for the Chicken”
Adriano Goldman, ASC, ABC, BSC for The Crown, “Fairytale”
David Greene, ASC, CSC for Impulse, “The Moroi”
M. David Mullen, ASC for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “It’s Comedy or Cabbage”
Fabian Wagner, ASC, BSC for The Crown, “Imbroglio”
Episode of a Half-Hour Television Series
Ava Berkofsky for Insecure, “Lowkey Lost”
Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS for The Mandalorian, “Chapter 1: The Mandalorian”
Baz Idoine for The Mandalorian, “Chapter 13: The Jedi”
Matthew Jensen, ASC for The Mandalorian, “Chapter 15: The Believer”
Jas Shelton for Homecoming, “Giant”