Oscarthon: Best Cinematography

One of my favorite categories, which I invariably get wrong because I pick with my heart. And the guild is no help, they're great at matching nominees, but awful at getting the same winner. Let's get to the nominees, along with my favorite shot from each one (except for The White Ribbon, which I refuse to see).

1. Avatar- Mauro Fiore (0 for 0)

Fiore seems to have kicked around making mostly undistinguished action movies like The Kingdom and The Island before scoring his first nomination for Avatar. Beyond the impressive 3D elements, the film has a pretty straightforward "Look at this! Isn't this AWESOME!" look to it. It goes down easy, but doesn't say Oscar to me.

Favorite Shot: Long view of the transport ship.

Even without 3D I like the framing of Worthington getting out of cryo as we see how massive the Pandora operation really is.

2. The White Ribbon -Christian Berger (0 for 0)

Berger is a long time Haneke DP, whose job mainly consists of leaving the camera stationary and going to get a hot dog (ba-zing!). But hey, it was black and white, so there were issues with contrast and lighting and all that to deal with, I'm sure.

Every Shot In This Film: Someone looking sad while not talking for five minutes.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- Bruno Delbonnel

Two time nominee for his work with Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement), Delbonnel added a welcome visual flair, giving the sixth installment a melting aesthetic all its own.

Favorite Shot: Fire in the Cave

I know, it's FX heavy, but the whole scene helped fill the Lord Of The Rings hole in my heart for a while.

4. The Hurt Locker- Barry Ackroyd (0 for 0)

Ackroyd had some practice going for a documentary feel with Battle in Seattle and United 93, and made The Hurt Locker seem like it was happening live even as it threw in plenty of beautfiul compositions. I had trouble choosing my favorite sequence- was it the split second shots of bullets hitting the sand or rust shattering off of old cars? A harrowing night scene as three soldiers flicker in and out of view in the blue light of a flare? Or:

Favorite Shot: Walking through the smoke

On Jeremy Renner's first mission as the new bomb squad leader, he puts on the heavy protective tech suit and walks down toward an IED. He throws out a smoke grenade, allegedly to "create a distraction," but clearly the only reason he did it was to create this awesome shot of him disspearing into and reappearing from the myst, like some sort of reverse deep-sea diver.

5. Inglourious Basterds- Robert Richardson (2 for 5)

With Oscars for JFK and The Aviator, Richardson is the heavyweight this year, but I can't remember too many images from Basterds for some reason. Mostly I recall a lot of back and forth panning as characters translated for one another.

Favorite Shot: Burning the Cinema

But who can forget Shoshanna's maniacally laughing face as the screen cathes fire, about to burn a theater-full of Nazis to death. Best prank ever.

I think this will be the point in the ceremony where The Hurt Locker starts its run-up to the big prize. Call it a hunch. It's also the one I want to win, so take the prediction with a grain of salt.

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