Every Academy Award Winner for Best Cinematography in One Supercut: From 1927’s Sunrise to 2016’s La La Land

A list of chrono­log­i­cal Oscar win­ners often tells you more about the state of the cul­ture than the state of the art. That is very true when it comes to Best Pic­ture, with musi­cals and epics tak­ing home the Acad­e­my Award dur­ing one decade, but being large­ly for­got­ten the next. So too is the award for Best Cin­e­matog­ra­phy, as seen in the sev­en-minute super­cut above. Show­ing every Acad­e­my Award win­ning cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er and their films, the super­cut’s choic­es for the one or two shots that sum up a bril­liant­ly lit pic­ture do make the Academy’s deci­sion at least jus­ti­fied. But it is sur­pris­ing how quick­ly so many of these films have slipped from the public’s con­scious­ness. (Like 2003’s Mas­ter and Com­man­der–when’s the last time you thought about that film?)

When the Acad­e­my first start­ed giv­ing awards for cin­e­matog­ra­phy, it went to the per­son first, not the pic­ture and the per­son involved. So when Karl Struss and Charles Rosh­er were nom­i­nat­ed for–ostensibly–their work on F.W. Murnau’s clas­sic Sun­rise–they also got cred­it­ed for the five oth­er films they had shot that year.

The cur­rent sys­tem was worked out in 1931, although up to 1967 awards went–and I think right­ly so!–to col­or and black and white sep­a­rate­ly. (And, to fur­ther com­pli­cate things, the col­or award was con­sid­ered a “spe­cial achieve­ment” award for a while until Gone with the Wind pret­ty much neces­si­tat­ed a change in pri­or­i­ties.) After 1967, the only black and white film to win was Schindler’s List.

Some­body with way more view­ing expe­ri­ence should weigh in on what makes a lot of these films Oscar-wor­thy in their cin­e­matog­ra­phy, but it does seem that at least through the 1960s, the Acad­e­my loved bold use of sat­u­rat­ed col­ors for one cat­e­go­ry, and an almost abstract use of high con­trast shad­ow and light for the oth­er.

Oth­er nota­bles: Alfred Hitch­cock­’s To Catch a Thief (a rather minor work) and Rebec­ca (a much bet­ter one) were his only two films to get the nod, with awards going to Robert Burks (but not for his work on Ver­ti­go, Rear Win­dow, North by North­west) and George Barnes respec­tive­ly. Stan­ley Kubrick has had two of his films win, with Rus­sell Met­ty for Spar­ta­cus and John Alcott for Bar­ry Lyn­don. (But not Gilbert Tay­lor for Dr. Strangelove!)

Stan­ley Kubrick has done slight­ly bet­ter, with Rus­sell Met­ty for Spar­ta­cus and John Alcott for Bar­ry Lyn­don. (But not Gilbert Tay­lor for Dr. Strangelove!) Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hugo and The Avi­a­tor both earned stat­ues for Robert Richard­son (who also won for Oliv­er Stone’s JFK). Roger Deakins has nev­er won, though he’s been nom­i­nat­ed 13 times, twice in 2007 for both No Coun­try for Old Men and The Assas­si­na­tion of Jesse James by the Cow­ard Robert Ford.

And the most award­ed cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er? That’s a tie at four Oscars each for Leon Sham­roy (The Black Swan, Wil­son, Leave Her to Heav­en, and the stu­dio-destroy­ing bomb Cleopa­tra); and Joseph Rut­ten­berg (The Great Waltz, Mrs. Miniv­er, Some­body Up There Likes Me, and Gigi).

Make of this list what you will. (And feel free to do so in the com­ments!)

via Indiewire

Relat­ed Con­tent:

100 Years of Cin­e­ma: New Doc­u­men­tary Series Explores the His­to­ry of Cin­e­ma by Ana­lyz­ing One Film Per Year, Start­ing in 1915

Sig­na­ture Shots from the Films of Stan­ley Kubrick: One-Point Per­spec­tive

The His­to­ry of the Movie Cam­era in Four Min­utes: From the Lumiere Broth­ers to Google Glass

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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