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Friday, 25 February 2011


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Speaking of director of photography brilliance, I was stunned by "The King's Speech" recently. Some very daring compositions and gorgeous lights. The only problem is that the rest of the film is so good that I couldn't focus my entire attention on the photography!

Don't know if Deakins got a statue for this, but remember seeing it on the big screen when I lived in DC (out in Shirlington), with some videographer and cinematographer pals, and we were all wowed! It's not "just" shot on color neg and printed on black & white, tho (like Shindlers List), it's highly filtered color neg and special Kodak high contrast film stock for doing titles and then specially processed. Apparently there were a lot of film and processing tests done before a 'look' could be decided on, and there's places on the web that talk about the whole process. To me, it looks iridescent!

Also, there is a color version of this film circulating somewhere, that people say isn't the horrendous thing it might be, as the original neg was filtered to make the black & white prints more correct, so the color seems rather pastel and vintage; at least, that's what they say, I've never seen a copy. Apparently it has something to do with a special edition European release.

Interesting to note, a lot of the original web info from Deakins talks about how shooting color neg isn't like shooting black & white, hence all the filtration. It goes on to outline how black & white renders colors differently than color film, which has a tendency to make some colors like green and red look the same when converted to black & white. where they would never be the same in native black & white. Brought home a lot to me from the early days in commercial catalog in-house scanning, where we were realizing how badly color transparencies looked scanned to black & white, without a lot of PhotoShop post-scanning work to change monochromatic tones! Why I always kept shooting a black & white neg if one was going to be needed in addition to color...

He was nominated, but didn't win. Also nominated this year for True Grit.

Here's his IMDB awards page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005683/awards

If you're going to stray into movie territory, I would love to know your opinion on The Fall (esp the B&W opening/credits sequence) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhARR-zmTCE


Roger Deakin's not won an Academy Award, but has been nominated many times:

He did win a BAFTA for this, though. He's got three so far. A talented man, it appears...

Roger Deakins has criminally never won an Academy Award, but has been nominated nine times. This includes True Grit this year, The Man Who Wasn't There in 2001 (probably his most unjustified defeat - to LoTR:FoTR), and TWO films in 2007 (The Assassination of Jesse James and No Country for Old Men). If he doesn't win one this year on the back of the major success of True Grit, I think he can give up hoping.

Mike, are you one of the three people in the world who's seen The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? That, IMHO, is Deakin's masterwork. It's a long movie with a fairly thin, slow moving plot, so it attempts to keep the audience's attention by constantly bathing them in astoundingly beautiful cinematography and music. It succeeds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtegWl0sItc

Nope, he didn't win. Andrew Lesnie won for Fellowship of the Ring. Funnily enough, Deakins was a contender the previous year, too, for O, Brother, Where Art Thou. Didn't win that, either.

He was nominated only, but he did win elsewhere - here's the full list:


Thanks Mike, Looks great. Hulu Trailer found here.

Roger Deakins has a forum on his website where he answers questions about the his techniques as well as cinematography in general. Interestingly, The Man Who Wasn't There was released in color on DVD in Europe against the wishes of the directors.

Here's a post where he discusses the film. http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=860&p=4504&hilit=black+and+white&sid=bd8c6be753e0dcc8baddabe2960a8df9#p4504

You might also want to check out another great conversion from color stock to black and white, Anton Corbijn's "Control".
According to imdb, it was shot in color and then transferred to black and white because the black and white film "was so grainy it looked like Super-8 even in 35 millimeter."

Deakins was nominated for an Oscar, but did not win. However, he won best cinematrography from pretty much every other film association there is (AFI, ASC, BSFC, BAFTA, etc. etc.), something like a dozen different awards.

A quick check of IMDB.com shows that Roger Deakins was nominated but the oscar went to Andrew Lesnie for Lord of the Ring, Fellowship of the Ring.

The Internet Movie Database says The Man Who Wasn't There received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, but The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won the category.

Of all the Coen bros movies, I think "The Man Who Wasn't There" is one of the best. I also like "A Serious Man."

He is amazing. He keeps his lighting fairly simple and the results are stunning. He was nominated about five times, but I don't think he's won an Oscar yet, but he's won about everything else. Check out "House of Sand and Fog:" a small movie with excellent actors, and an illustration of how cinematography can serve a story.

Nominated for the golden grouch, but won from his peers, the ASC.

For modern B&W cinematography, my favorite is Bob Elswit's work on "Good night, and Good Luck". (And that one was actually shot on B&W stock, IIRC)

I had to watch it a second time just to find out what the plot was. I was so mesmerized by the visuals the first time through I couldn't really pay attention to the action.

According to Wikipedia, he won ASC (Am. Soc. Cinematographers) and BAFTA awards for it, and was nominated for the Oscar but lost out to the first Lord of the Rings movie.

Nominated for an Oscar but lost to Lord of the Rings. He did win an AFI Film Award, ASC Award, Golden Satellite Award, and many regional film critic awards for it.

Then Mike, you MUST view "Control", a movie about Ian Curtis directed by Anton Corbijn and filmed in the most beautiful black and white you can get.

Roger Deakins has been nominated for an Oscar 8 times but hasn't won yet. Maybe this year with True Grit. He did win an AFI Film Award for The Man Who Wasn't There. And he's won several ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) awards for a number of films. He's done some amazing work. You can check out his impressive credits on imdb.com.

Deakins has received nine nominations for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. He has yet to win.

The IMDB is your friend for questions like this:


No Oscar, but he got the AFI award.

I really loved True Grit. Hailee Steinfeld getting the nod for best supporting actress rather than lead actress was a strategic move as Natalie Portman's the red hot favourite for her roll in The Black Swan.

I've not seen The Man who wasn't there. I'll bag that this weekend. You've got to watch the White Ribbon for some stunning Black and White cinematography


". . . endings ruin most movies."

True. Wonder why that is.

According to imdb.com (the best source for info like this) Roger Deakins was nominated for the 2002 Cinematography Oscar, but lost to Andrew Lesnie for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Deakins has been nominated 9 times, including this year for True Grit. Unfortunately, he has not won an Oscar.

Thanks for the tip. I saw The Man Who Wasn't There when it first came out. I'm now putting it in my Netflix DVD queue to watch again. It's also available for streaming from Netflix but the DVD will show the photography better.

Here's a link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243133/awards to the awards for The Man Who wasn't There.

Roger Deakins has nine (9) nominations for the golden statuette, but alas, no wins. Some feel he may win this year for TRUE GRIT, but the Academy voters are very often unable to connect the dots of what technical person did what on their "favorite" films.

Sorry I cannot share your enthusiasm for The Man Who Wasn't There's B&W cinematography, however.

B&W should be just that--deep, rich blacks, & crisp, hot whites. Not some green-tinged shadows edging alongside beige-colored highlights. All the result of shooting the film on color negative, instead of real, honest B&W stock. Still, it's always a treat to watch the Coens tell stories. And even more so to watch Mr. Deakins present them visually.

Deakins was nominated, but Andrew Lesnie won for Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. I believe that film also won for longest title.

Not the Oscar, but a few others. Tom

He's nominated this year for True Grit. But in Oscarland, despite 11 nominations, he's always a bridesmaid so far.

here's his wiki entry viz awards


Unfortunately, a pretty big 0-fer.

Agree, this was stunning.
Film Noir with modern production values.

Do you think sometimes an element of the production can be so "outstanding" that it has a negative effect, becoming a distraction & pulling your attention out of the story? I kind of felt that way about the set design in Far From Heaven.


According to imdb.com, great source of wisdom for anything movies, he was nominated for that movie but didn't win. The Oscar that year went went to ...
Andrew Lesnie for one of the Lord of the Rings.

Incidentally, he seems to have been nominated nine times and has never won, which is probably a record. In other categories, Peter O'Toole was nominated eight times and never won. Randy Newman had been nominated thirteen times before finally winning his fourteenth.

And talking Oscars, I think "the King's speech" was hands down the best movie of the year (of those I've seen).


You should watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Truly brilliant lens work.

and a question. Maybe it's been asked before. But can you really be a B&W photographer if you shoot in color and process in b&w?

According to IMDB, he didn't win the statue (was nominated (his fifth time); Andrew Lesnie won for Lord of the Rings). But Deakins did win a bunch of other awards for this movie, including that year's ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) Award.


He's been nominated for True Grit (his ninth Academy Award nomination).

Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243133/awards for the awards won by The Man Who Wasn't There. Deakins was nominated for an OScar, but didn't win. He did win an AFI award, though.

There was a BW movie "Night of the Hunter" w/Robert Mitchum, directed by Charles Laughton I think. Great cinematography, slightly surreal. Early '60s I guess.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on Deakins. He has never won an Oscar, although he has been nominated for True Grit this year, and British oddsmakers have made him the favorite. He has made 11 movies with the Coen brothers, who consider him their third collaborator. He has made a number of documentaries before moving on to feature films, including a round-the-world sailing race. I agree, a very gifted cinematographer.

No, according to the LATimes, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/awards/2011/02/can-roger-deakins-finally-have-an-oscar-please.html

"Roger Deakins is one of Hollywood's reigning cinematographers, but he's lost eight bids for the Oscar over the last 16 years: "The Reader" (2008), "The Assassination of Jesse James" (2007), "No Country for Old Men" (2007), "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001), "O Brother Where Art Thou" (2000), "Kundun" (1997), "Fargo" (1996), "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994).

Now he's nominated for "True Grit" -– see Paramount's highlight reel below. He's pitted against Matthew Libatique ("Black Swan"), Wally Pfister ("Inception"), Danny Cohen ("The King's Speech") and Jeff Cronenweth ("The Social Network")."

P.S. Deakins, who is British, won the British Academy Award for cinematography for The Man Who Wasn't There, as well as for No Country For Old Men and True Grit. These were all Coen Bros. films.

On a related subject, a black and white film that recently greatly impressed me was On The Waterfront. It has so many great compositions (for example, the shot where Marlon Brando is standing alone after being black-balled by the union) that I really wonder if Boris Kaufman, the director of photography, did still photography as a hobby. He did win an Oscar for best cinematography for the film.

You saw Big Lebowski for the first time! I've seen it once per year since it came out!

We'll have to agree to disagree, then. For me, in B&W as well as in stereo music reproduction, it's all about the midrange.


I don't know if the Coen brothers were referencing it consciously or not, but the ending of The Man Who Wasn't There is EXACTLY the ending of the original "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud" novel by Noël Calef. If you've seen the Coen brothers movie, you undersand the real meaning of the title, and something similar is going on in Calef's novel.

If you can read French, it's an engrossing read, and suprisingly daring formally for a suspense story. I bought a used copy from the Bouquinistes on the Seine, my own sliver of Parisian myth.

The Louis Malle movie version (beloved by jazz fans for its Miles Davis sndtrk) differed, I think, but it's been a while since I last saw it.

At any rate, that kind of ending fits exactly with the early post-WWII absurdist/existentialist vibe that you can find in other novels like Camus's L'étranger.

Florida Tribune: Photographing cows or other farm scenery could land you in jail under Senate bill


I must agree about that ending. I love Coen Bros's movies, but I quite resent it when the try to go all "intellectual" on us. Perhaps they feel otherwise the point won't come across as intended, or they're just showing off, I don't know. Personally, I think they are at their best when they just "risk it" (maybe turning the "genius" dial down a notch) and stick to the more subtle aspects of storytelling. BTW, 'O Brother Where Art Thou' and 'No Country for Old Men' are just two of the most visually beautiful films I've ever seen.

Not a visual artist but a wonderful writer whose writings are easy to visualize (for me). Roger Deakin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Deakin

May be this one could make a film of the other ones work. Possibly Waterlog as a kind of remake of The Swimmer.

Just an idea.

If you want to see outstanding B&W in a contemporary film, I highly reccomend "The White Ribbon," directed by Michael Haneke (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1149362/). The story is quite bleak and the pacing is almost glacially slow, and it's in German, but it is visually sumptuous. The cinematography takes its cues from Goddard and the like and often seems like more of a study of turn-of-the-(20th)-century German village architecture than a social drama.

It's a great example of how doing B&W involves more than just de-saturating the color. Every shot was lit and composed with light and shadow in mind, and the result is extraordinary.

If you have a huge flat-screen TV and a dimly lit room it's a glorious way to spend a few hours. If you're easily depressed just turn the subtitles off (or turn down the volume if you understand German).

I wholeheartedly second the recommendation above of the movie The Fall. This is simply a breathtaking film, and as I recall, all of the shots were done 'in camera', it had no optical effects.

On the subject of great B&W cinematography theatrical films (I'll limit myself to films from the color era) I'd put on my short list the following: In Cold Blood (the closing scene with the rainfall reflected on Blake's face is a favorite shot in all of cinema for me), The Third Man, and Elmer Gantry. This list is just the top of my head.

(seriously, everyone should watch The Fall)

From what I understand categories such as cinematography are nominated by cinematographers, but voted on by the the entire AMPAS membership--in other words, a bunch of actors, screenwriters, and producers. In my mind there's a general tendency to see wonderful work nominated (by Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and others) and then have the award given for best exotic location scouting/helicopter flying.

(As deserving as Deakin's work in The Assassination of Jesse James... would have been of the award, I feel that was one time they got it very very right.)

If you want to win an Oscar, shoot a movie with a wide shot of horses running across the plains with mountains in the background. If you want to win an ASC award (arguable more prestigious because it is from your peers), shoot a black and white film. The old cinematographers go crazy-nostalgic for b/w and the (frequently uneducated) Academy members vote for movies with epic mountain/horses shots.

That being said, "The Man Who Wasn't There" easily should have won both regardless of the b/w novelty that ASC members might lean toward. Truly amazing.

I love Deakins work too. Thanks for this thread. It got me thinking about other B&W films that have knocked me out over the years.
Joseph Walkers work on It Happened One Night is just lovely.
James Wong Howe on Hud and The Sweet Smell of Success produced two must see films.
Billy Wilder tapped Charles Lang for Ace in The Hole which doesn't have a weak frame in it.
And finally Greg Toland on Citizen Kane.
That's a short and very incomplete list but youngsters frequenting TOP would do well to Netflix them all.

Hi Mike...

...bummer is correct that Deakins didn't get a statue for his work this year, or even any of the work he did in the past, including 'The Man Who Wasn't There', which was certainly not only beautiful but experimental as well...wonder what they consider when they make the picks?

But, interestingly enough, this years winner, Wally Pfister, was roaming the grounds of Washington DC as a freelance videographer, when you were probably living there was well in the 1980's! We had mutual friends and I hung out with him on more than a few occasions. He was certainly considered by the gang that was around him, to be a talented person on their way up! An advantageous opportunity working on the set of Tanner '88, the cable show about an senatorial election done by Robert Altman, I believe, led to a recommendation to attend AFI film school, and the rest is history...

Another heads-up for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which I only saw on DVD a couple of weeks ago - I would have loved to have seen that at the cinema.

And another cinematographer I'd highly recommend is Christopher Doyle, who's worked several times with Wong Kar Wai. See http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0236313/

Really interesting, thanks. I didn't know him, but it's nice to know about that connection.

People a few years older than me remember when there was just another perpetually poor hand-to-mouth itinerant photo teacher / photographer type hanging around D.C. by the name of Joyce Tenneson....

Just watched it last night! I bought a handful of sale DVDs at the bookstore, some more Coen Brothers and some Roger Deakins and a few other things people here recommended. Very interesting movie, well acted, and deeper psychological portrayals than usual. My respect for Brad Pitt went up several notches, and Casey Affleck was great. Don't think I've ever seen him in anything before.



I agree - I thought Casey Affleck's performance was amazing, and Brad Pitt was much better than I thought he'd be. It's nice to see a "western" (in inverted commas as I appreciate, even from the other side of the Atlantic, that the James gang didn't exactly operate in the west) where the characters are far from monosyllabic. Not that I don't also have a penchant for The Outlaw Josey Wales!

Casey Affleck was excellent in the insanely well-photographed (by Harris Savides) Gerry.

I'll look out for Gerry (thanks Timothy), which I'd never heard of (I'm no movie buff). But, doing a bit of research, I realise it's directed by Gus Van Sant and that I've seen Harris Savides' cinematography before in Van Sant's Elephant.

Also, Gus Van Sant has worked with Christopher Doyle, who I mentioned above. I recall an interview I read some years ago where Christoper Doyle mentioned how Wong Kar Wai would talk about a scene in terms of music: "Make this scene like an operatic aria." "Film this like it's a Tom Waits song." (I'm fascinated such artistic crossovers, and particularly by how they affect and inform the creative process.)


I second the mention of King's Speech for cinematography. Danny Cohen's work was terrific. Check out Ken Rockwell's blurb about the lenses he used to achieve the impressively creamy shallow depth of field. Deakins is a great one, but I thought True Grit had too much of an embalmed nostalgic feel to it. Not, shall we say, gritty enough.

Yes, for me this is the Coen's best movie. But there's not enough violence in it for it ever to be recognised as such (and no actors in it losing 55lbs to play a part!)
In a similar manner I think King of Comedy is truly Scosese's masterpiece, not the very average 'The Departed', which he eventually got his overdue Oscar for.

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