It's been a great year for cinematography, with such an emphasis on survival, turmoil and trying to find beauty or redemption within the suffering. "Gravity," "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Nebraska," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "The Grandmaster," and "Rush" are among the standouts. Whether they used digital or film, the results are organic to theme and design.
Will Emmanuel ("Chivo") Lubezki finally get his Oscar for "Gravity"? Maybe so, if you look at the recent digital trend that saw Claudio Miranda ("Life of Pi"), Bob Richardson ("Hugo"), and Mauro Fiore ("Avatar") take the award for three out of the last four years.
For Lubezki's first foray into virtual production, he achieved a breathtaking photo-realism that approximates the NASA photos and IMAX films that he benchmarked, while delivering the long, continuous takes in CG that are a hallmark of director Alfonso Cuaron's visual style. But he needed the Light Box to help solve a very complicated lighting situation with the zero-g simulation in outer space. However, Lubezki made sure to illuminate the dark and infinite with the gorgeous light from mother Earth.
Still, there's nothing more awe-inspiring than going from an objective, wide-angle view of Sandra Bullock's terrified face to an extreme close-up and then into her helmet for a subjective POV before pulling out again for an objective panorama.
For Sean Bobbitt, "12 Years a Slave" represents the culmination of his three-film collaboration with director Steve McQueen. Only this one is a Goya-esque exploration of horror and beauty. For Bobbitt, the hanging scene stimulated his imagination and served as the embodiment of slavery.
"Northup's hanging for the better part of the day is inconceivable. And yet nobody can touch him because he belongs to another man. And to see everyone else moving around behind him is such a powerful statement," Bobbitt explains.