Breaking Baz: Oscar Winner Sir Roger Deakins Says, “The Best Cinematography Hasn’t Been Nominated” This Year, Thinks Oscars Are “Snobby” About Cinematographers Of Popular Movies
Roger Deakins, legendary cinematographer and knight of the British realm, cut to the chase: In his view several of the best examples of cinematography are missing from this year’s Oscars list.
“The best cinematography hasn’t been nominated,” he tells me at the British consul general’s Oscars reception.
Which film I ask?
“It’s The Batman.That’s the best work in my view,” he says as he heaped acclaim on Greig Fraser’s “extraordinary” visual flair for the Warner Bros movie directed by Matt Reeves.
The picture should have been a contender in that category, Deakins insists.
“The reason it wasn’t is pure and simple: snobbery. There’s this unfair tendency to avoid the Marvel universe and the other popular universes,” he says.
Claudio Miranda, the director of photography of Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, “is another one that was shut out,” Deakins notes.
“It comes down to the work. Good work is good work whatever the genre,” he adds.
It’s worth pointing out that Fraser prevailed at last year’s Academy Awards for Dune: Part One while Miranda took home an Oscar for Life of Pi in 2012.
That didn’t mollify Deakins. “The snobbery remains,” he says.
Deakins himself is on his 16th Oscar nomination for his exquisite work on Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light. Though he has won twice before — for Blade Runner 2049 and 1917 — he’s not expecting to take home the trophy Sunday. He observed that James Friend won at BAFTA for All Quiet on the Western Front and that Mandy Walker took the American Society of Cinematographers’ ASC Award for her visual storytelling on Elvis.
Isn’t it about time a woman won the Oscar for best cinematography? “It’s about the work, not the gender,” was his response, though he didn’t deny that such an outcome would be welcome, “but it has to be backed up by the work.”
Emily Cloke, the UK consul general, heaped praise on Deakins’ remarkable, innovative achievements behind the camera.
The annual event at the consul general’s private residence celebrated all the Brit Oscar nominees.
We, all of us, felt very much at home not just because of the sausage roll canapés, and the Union Jack flags scattered around and about, but because of the weather. We were half indoors and half outdoors. The rain made honorary Brits of all those in attendance.
‘PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH’ SAVED ME FROM RAIN
As is well known, we Brits obsess over the weather. Appropriately, it was raining cats and dogs, really chucking it down, on the night I saw Joel Crawford’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in London a while back. I could have stayed warm and dry at home but I always feel a sense of accomplishment if I get to where I’m going on a hellishly rainy day. There was a public transport strike on that particular day too, so the roads were bonkers. But I made it from the East End into Central London.
The movie began and within about five minutes I was hooked. I will tell you that animated films are not my first love but Puss in Boots: The Last Wish seemed to be talking to me. I was into all the bits of business involving Antonio Banderas’ Puss and Salam Hayek Pinault’s Kitty Softpaws and I couldn’t get enough of Goldilocks and the Three Bears voiced by Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winston and Samson Kano.
“What’s going on?” I ask Crawford. “I’m a supposedly grown up bloke and here I am sitting in a public place, sheltering from the rain, with tears streaming down my face.”
Crawford looks me in the eye and says that the film “doesn’t target only one age.”
He adds that he has heard from people “saying that this movie made me cry, and why am I crying watching Puss in Boots: The Last Wish?” Or they ask “how even is the action so pushed in a way that it rivals comic book movies? The thing is we’re all adults making these movies. We create them for ourselves as well,” he explains.
Optimism is really important to him in movies, he says. “I want people to feel that coming out of something that I create. I think there’s a lot of negativity, a lot of cynicism in the world… you have an opportunity to bring something that goes past just mere entertainment that hopefully people come out in a different mood.”
He mentions that somebody messaged him saying that they went into Puss in Boots: The Last Wish feeling really down but emerged elated. “That makes me want to cry because the art affects their life,” Crawford says.
Crawford says he and his collaborators layered the comedy and emotions into the story in the hope that audiences would connect deeply.
Well, that worked with this overgrown kid. I think also it helped that I saw the DreamWorks Animation/Universal film in a theater. I had this shared, uninterrupted experience with strangers in the dark.
Crawford and his partner Mark Swift are up against Guillermo del Toro’s all-conquering Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio in the best animated feature film race at Sunday’s Oscars.
I totally admired Mark Gustafson and del Toro’s picture. However, only Puss in Boots: Last Wish made me shed a tear, or two or three.
CLEAN UP THOSE STARS!
Every year it’s my habit to pay homage to the stars down at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s of no consequence, just something that I like to do. The other day though I felt rising anger as I surveyed the state of those stars embedded into the pavement along blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Olivia Newton John’s star had tacky gum over it so I got down on my hands and knees and picked it off with tissues. I did the same for Snow White, Jean Harlow and Mickey Mouse.
Tom Cruise’s star was just fine.
That whole area around Hollywood & Highland where the Oscars take place is in need of a deep clean. Yes, I know that the Academy spruces up the bits that will be seen on television, and lovely drapes are installed and there’s a red carpet. Actually, it’s champagne this year. Remember to wipe your feet before you walk on it!
But those public areas the viewing public doesn’t see could do with some elbow grease. And, please, get rid of the low-rent hawkers trying to flog dodgy music discs and heaven only knows what else.
Next year I shall turn up with polish and rags to clean the brass plaques, plus a power hose to shift the gum.
I kid you not.