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ASC Nominations Boost Roger Deakins Back Into the Oscar Conversation

The legendary Oscar winner is in the dark horse position in the cinematography race with Sam Mendes' "Empire of Light."

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman in the film EMPIRE OF LIGHT. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

“Empire of Light”

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

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This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Cinematography predictions for the 2023 Oscars, originally published on January 9, 2023. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.

The State of the Race

Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”), Greig Fraser (“The Batman”), Darius Khondji (“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”), Claudio Miranda (“Top Gun: Maverick”), and Mandy Walker (“Elvis”) were nominated January 9 for the 37th annual ASC Awards (to be held March 5 at the Beverly Hilton and live streamed).

As a predictor, the ASC winner has won the Best Cinematography Oscar in seven out of the last 11 years, including Fraser for “Dune” in 2022. He’s back with Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” sporting a noir look for the Gothic, grungy procedural — but look for fellow Oscar winner Miranda (“Life of Pi”) to be the Oscar frontrunner. Miranda brought a visceral realism to Joseph Kosinski’s high-octane “Maverick,” the global phenomenon that enticed audiences back to theaters. It’s become the populist favorite for Best Picture, and Miranda took us thrillingly inside the cockpits of the fighter jets with Tom Cruise’s Maverick, thanks to the innovative Sony Rialto Camera Extension System.

The legendary Deakins (two-time Oscar winner for “1917” and “Blade Runner 2049”), meanwhile, finds himself in the position of dark horse if nominated for Sam Mendes’ under-appreciated love letter to ’80s cinema. Deakins exquisitely lensed “Empire of Light” on the English coast, which offered the right landscape with beautiful skies and the gray sea. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s mind-blowing, semi-autobiographical journey back to Mexico City marks the director’s first collaboration with Khondji, who evoked the city as a wildly imaginative mindscape through the blurring of reality and memory. And Baz Luhrmann’s delirious “Elvis” represents the first nomination for Walker, who visualized the biopic with a carnival-like period excitement. She’s only the third woman to be nominated for the ASC feature award, following Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) last year and Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) in 2018. It’s likely Walker could join them as the only women to date nominated for the cinematography Oscar.

Many of the ASC’s omissions are glaring in a season full of diverse spectacle and post-COVID introspection: Two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kamiński (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Schindler’s List”), who could still sneak into the Oscar race for his colorful, multi-textured period work for Steven Spielberg’s frontrunning “The Fabelmans” (as he did last year with “West Side Story,” also snubbed by the ASC); “Titanic” Oscar winner Russell Carpenter, who’s brilliant fusion of practical and virtual visuals for James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” might lean too heavily on the latter to satisfy voters; and “La La Land” Oscar winner Linus Sandgren, whose sweeping 35mm camerawork helped navigate us through the  wild Hollywood party of Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon.” Not surprising, though, is the absence of Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who won the Best Cinematography Oscar three years in a row with “Gravity,” “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” and “The Revenant” — his latest film, David O. Russell’s period caper “Amsterdam,” has failed to make any major awards inroads.

In addition, Robert Richardson was bypassed for “Emancipation,” the runaway slave actioner that stars Will Smith and boasts a unique monochromatic look. James Friend was overlooked for the impressive World War I battlefield action in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the buzzy German submission that’s shortlisted for the international film Oscar, and so was Larkin Seiple for the Daniels’ multiverse adventure “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is gaining momentum as a Best Picture contender for A24. All four films were included in IndieWire’s list of 2022’s best cinematography, which was topped by another film that failed to make the ASC cut: “Nope,” featuring Hoyte van Hoytema’s innovative large format digital day-for-night work and immersive IMAX cinematography.

Frontrunners:

Claudio Miranda (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
Janusz Kamiński (“The Fabelmans”)
Darius Khondji (“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”)
Mandy Walker (“Elvis”)
Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”)

Contenders:

Greig Fraser (“The Batman”)
Robert Richardson (“Emancipation”)
James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”)
Hoyte van Hoytema (“Nope”)
Larkin Seiple (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Linus Sandgren (“Babylon”)
Russell Carpenter (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)

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