Thursday, February 9, 2017

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The Bicentennial Cinematography

It's all-star lineup of Cinematographers for 1976, with three former winners and two previous nominees - and many of them faced off against each other before.

Just the year before, in fact, Haskell Wexler's co-DP'ing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest faced off against Robert Surtees' solo work on The Hindenburg. Both had won previously, but they both settled for bridesmaid status - John Alcott's work for Barry Lyndon went home with the Oscar. Surtees already had three to his name, and Wexler already had one. Soon to be two:

In 1973, Surtees was once again up for the award, this time for Best Picture Oscar Winner The Sting. His competition? The Sting's only real rival for the Big Prize, The Exorcist, photographed by Mr. Owen Roizman. They lost to Sven Nykvist's Cries and Whispers, which made it the second time they'd both competed and lost - in 1971, Roizman was up for the first time in his career for The French Connection, while Surtees had a two-for-one special in The Last Picture and Summer of '42. The Oscar went to Oswald Morris for Fiddler on the Roof.

Ernest Laszlo met none of these men on the battlefield when he won for Ship of Fools. And indeed, he didn't meet them the year after, either: his Fantastic Voyage work was nominated in the Color category, while Wexler's winning work for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won in the Black-and-White category. By the following ceremony, there was no separation, so that the black-and-white In Cold Blood competed with Surtees' work on both Doctor Dolittle and The Graduate, as well as first-time nominee Richard H. Kline for Camelot.

What I'm saying is, some categories tend to have the same names batted around. It's probably why the Class of 2016 is such a breath of fresh air - Rodrigo Prieto is the one previous nominee of the bunch, and his only other nomination was 11 years ago.

The nominees and rankings of 1976, after the jump.

My mother ranked, but did not comment.

Bound for Glory 

Haskell Wexler

Just for that scene early on in the film when a dust storm hits, coming in through the cracks in the wall and coating the interior of the Strode home with...well, dust. Or that shot of the dust storm actually approaching the town. Or that single shot of Woody walking through the camp as the . It's authentic.

King Kong 

Richard H. Kline

The two big presentation sequences - the bright spotlights and flashing bulbs when Kong is presented in New York, and the earlier, torch-lit ceremony on Skull Island. Fire flickers, it casts a shadow, you don't know if you're really seeing what you're seeing; spotlights don't hide anything, and yet their very brightness is blinding, you don't know if you're really seeing what you're seeing. Effective, disorienting...kind of beautiful?

Logan's Run 

Ernest Laszlo

Mainly here, I suspect, for the eeriness of the subjugation scene, though that's not to poo-poo the visit to the plastic surgeon (which feels like it's in the middle of nowhere), or the sinister dimness of Cathedral, or the welcome brightness of the outside world.


Owen Roizman

Ned Beatty's entire scene. The first meeting between Faye Dunaway and William Holden: soft, faintly golden, not quite romantic lighting, but it's definitely a look that captures uncertain intimacy. Mad prophet Howard Beale's spotlight shining like the Magi's star.

A Star is Born 

Robert Surtees

Let's hear it for stage lighting, for neon, for spotlights, for color baths slowly changing with the mood of a song!


My rankings:
5. A Star is Born
4. Logan's Run
3. King Kong
2. Bound for Glory
1. Network

Mom's rankings
3. Logan's Run
2. King Kong
1. Bound for Glory

Mom had nothing to say, but her ballot speaks for itself. But only three films made it to each ballot...and on both ballots, one film hovered over the others. So the official winner of the Silver Screening Room must be:


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