Four of the five Oscar nominees for Best Cinematography have received nominations before. Alfonso Cuaron has won two, albeit not for cinematography. Caleb Deschanel has been nominated a whopping six times. The only outlier here is Robbie Ryan, who makes a convincing case for himself in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.
It is a category stacked to the gills with talent. Somehow, though, I believe it is not that close of a race.
- A Star is Born – Matthew Libatique
- Cold War – Lukasz Zal
- Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel
- Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
- The Favourite – Robbie Ryan
Will Win: Roma
Could Win: The Favourite
Dark Horse: A Star is Born
It is rare, if not flat-out unprecedented, for a director to win Best Cinematography for shooting their own film. But Alfonso Cuaron makes a strong case in Roma. He should win here. He has the veteran status and the respect of the Academy to warrant the shooting branch nominating him despite this being the first feature he is credited as DP-ing. He is a craftsman with the camera, and Roma is the vision of that that should give him Oscar gold.
The only hesitation is whether the Academy voters will balk at over-extending its love for Cuaron and Roma. If Roma were to conduct a sweep, proper, then Cuaron would be on the stage accepting five awards (four of which he would take home personally; the Best Foreign Language award goes to the submitting country, not the filmmaker). Voters may see Cuaron’s name on the ballot and go for an either-or kind of vote rather than an all-in one.
This is to say that the Academy may choose to “spread the love,” as Oscar pundits sometimes say. If Roma is a heavy favorite come Oscar night, Cuaron may be more primed for a Best Director win than a Best Cinematographer one. If spreading the love is the consensus idea, they may choose to reward an outlier nominee like Cold War (Lukasz Zal was nominated previously for Ida, so the Academy support is historically evident).
Or maybe they will side with a consummate Hollywood professional with a stellar track record (Matthew Libatique). Or they may choose the film that ties the nomination lead with Roma, The Favourite.
The longest longshot is Never Look Away, a film that likely got on the ballot by the skin of its teeth. The likelihood that a plurality of the Academy has even seen the film, let alone want to vote it number one, is slim. And this same reasoning is why Cold War, for as impeccably shot as it is, is a dark horse below A Star is Born.
Enough people have seen A Star is Born and The Favourite (I presume) that it could usurp Roma in the an unlikely spread the love scenario. Even in that scenario, perhaps the chips will fall the opposite way, with Cuaron losing out Best Director and winning here instead. There is no doubt that Cuaron’s chances are high in this category
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)