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It’s ‘Elvis’ Versus ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in a Cinematography Category Stacked with Newbies

Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”), James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), Florian Hoffmeister (“TÁR”), Darius Khondji (“Bardo”), and Mandy Walker (“Elvis”) were nominated for Best Cinematography.

All Quiet on the Western Front

“All Quiet on the Western Front”

Reiner Bajo

This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Cinematography predictions for the 2023 Oscars. 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. 

The State of the Race

Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”), James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), Florian Hoffmeister (“TÁR”), Darius Khondji (“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”), and Mandy Walker (“Elvis”) were nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar on Tuesday. This marks the first non-American field since 2013, which signifies the growing globalization of Academy voters and the potential impact of the early BSC nominations. In a field where three first-time nominees kept several of the category’s perennials out of the running, it looks like a race between the Australian Walker (who could finally make history by breaking the Oscar glass ceiling in her branch) and the British Friend.

Three of the five nominees — Deakins, Khondji, and Walker — were also nominated 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, though there’s still a chance that winner could be a nominee who isn’t in the running, such as last year’s Oscar winner, Greig Fraser (“The Batman”), or Claudio Miranda (“Top Gun: Maverick”). The omission of Miranda from the Oscar nominees is the biggest shock, considering that he was the favorite for his innovative work on the high-octane “Maverick.” Miranda brought a visceral realism and took us thrillingly inside the Navy jet cockpits with Tom Cruise, thanks to the Sony Rialto Camera Extension System. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to get the branch to vote for him.

By contrast, the nominations of Friend and Hoffmeister were pleasant surprises: Friend digitally shot Edward Berger’s acclaimed anti-war drama (a Best Picture nominee as well as Germany’s nominee for international film) like an immersive horror movie with a mixture of large format cameras. With a series of long takes on the battlefield and in the trenches of World War I, he captured the sheer scope of the unrelenting artillery attacks and massive carnage.

Hoffmeister (who won the top prize at Poland’s Cameraimage International Film Festival) digitally shot Todd Field’s Best Picture nominee about uncompromising composer-conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett , the Best Actress favorite) as a clinical dance between subjectivity and reality. He was particularly inspired by German New Objectivity, especially photographers Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth.

Walker visualized Baz Luhrmann’s delirious take on the life of Elvis Presley with a carnival-like period excitement. She’s only the third woman to be nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar, following Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) last year and Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) in 2018, and her work on “Elvis” has already garnered the Audience Award and Festival Director’s Award at Camerimage and the Best Cinematography honors from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. She could also break the glass ceiling as a BAFTA nominee in her category.

“Bardo” marks Khondji’s first nomination since “Evita” and his initial collaboration with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. For Iñárritu’s mind-blowing, semi-autobiographical journey back to Mexico City, Khondji (second-place prize winner at Camerimage and winner of the festival’s International Federation of Film Critics Award) evoked the city as a wildly imaginative mindscape through the blurring of reality and memory.

The legendary Deakins (consecutive Oscar winner for “1917” and “Blade Runner 2049”) scored his 16th nomination, yet finds himself in the position of dark horse for exquisitely lensing Sam Mendes’ underappreciated love letter to ’80s cinema on the English coast, which offered the right landscape with beautiful skies and the gray sea.

Aside from Miranda and Fraser, other notable omissions include two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kamiński (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Schindler’s List”) for his colorful, multi-textured period work on Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans”; Hoyte van Hoytema, for his innovative large-format day-for-night sequences and IMAX action set pieces on Jordan Peele’s “Nope” (which topped IndieWire’s Best Cinematography of 2022 list); and “Titanic” Oscar winner Russell Carpenter, whose brilliant fusion of practical and virtual visuals for James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” probably leaned too heavily on the latter to satisfy voters.

Below are the nominees ranked in order of likelihood to win:

Mandy Walker (“Elvis”)
James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”)
Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”)
Darius Khondji (“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”)
Florian Hoffmeister (“TÁR”)

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