Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”) was the big winner of the night at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, taking home the Theatrical Release Award. He thanked his “friend and teacher” Alfonso Cuaron in his brief acceptance speech.
Based on crowd reaction, winner Lubezki was the favorite when the Feature Film nominees (seven in total, due to a three-way tie) were announced, along with clips from their films. The selected “Gravity” clip was from inside Sandra Bullock’s helmet, as she somersaults endlessly in space, catching site of Earth and the space station and then losing them again. The impressive list of nominees in the Feature Film category were Bruno Delbonnel (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), 12-time ASC nominee Roger Deakins (“Prisoners”), Phedon Papamichael (“Nebraska”), Barry Ackroyd (“Captain Phillips”), Phillipe Le Sourd (“The Grandmaster”) and Sean Bobbitt (“12 Years a Slave”).
Lubezki has won the ASC Award twice before, for Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" and Cuaron's "Children of Men."
Other highlights of the night included the introduction of the ASC Spotlight Award, honoring cinematography in an arthouse film. “Ida” co-cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenezewski deservedly won for their gorgeous black-and-white work (in the 4:3 ratio) in Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s tale of a young nun in late 1950s Poland who, about to take her vows, discovers she is of Jewish heritage. Remarkably, the film was Zal’s first feature.
John Carpenter introduced Lifetime Achievement honoree Dean Cundey. The two have worked on five films together, including “Halloween” and “The Thing.” Carpenter recalled first seeing a student film Cundey shot, and joked: “The film didn’t make any sense, but the images were beautiful. Thus the pattern of Dean’s career was established.” For his part, Cundey gave an eloquent speech that silenced the restless crowd (his pre-announced award came after the ceremony’s two hour mark), where he described his boyhood, when he would religiously buy “American Cinematographer” magazine, then only 50 cents. Cundey also spoke of his gratitude for the “passport of cinematography,” which had allowed him to explore different cultures, both real and imagined. Of Carpenter, Cundey said the director “was the first director I worked with who wanted to use the camera for visual storytelling.” Cundey would go on to work with Robert Zemeckis (for the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) and Steven Spielberg (“Jurassic Park”), to name a few.
One of the high points of the show was a hilarious clip reel of cinematographers making cameos in films. The two moments that got the biggest laughs from the crowd were the late Harris Savides, who sticks his hand out from under a stall to ask Michael Douglas for toilet paper in David Fincher's “The Game,” and Rodrigo Prieto, who Jake Gyllenhaal picks up in a back alley in Ang Lee's “Brokeback Mountain.”
Full list of winners, after the jump.