Needless to say how we all are excited and happy for Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, ASC, AMC who just won his first Academy Award for the Best Cinematography in “Gravity”. He was previously nominated for The Tree of Life, Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow and A Little Princess. Sincere and whole hearted congratulations from all of us!
Chivo’s victory “spreads out” cinematography to the new frontiers of artistry and technology. It also confirms the essential concept of “Expanded Cinematography” on which GCI has based its educational system - which is to pursue new forms and styles of education by presenting new solutions to technological changes, as well as the aesthetic ones. We are glad to be part of the process, and to help make it a reality!
Yet something else remains in the back of the mind – what about "The Grandmaster" (Philippe Le Sourd, AFC), "Inside Llewyn Davis" (Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC), "Nebraska" (Phedon Papamichael, ASC), and "Prisoners" (Roger A. Deakins, ASC, BSC)?
What about those films? "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (Bruno Delbonnel), "The Hurt Locker" (Barry Ackroyd), "Inglourious Basterds" (Robert Richardson), "The White Ribbon" (Christian Berger) in 2009; "Black Swan" (Matthew Libatique), "The King's Speech" (Danny Cohen), "The Social Network" (Jeff Cronenweth), "True Grit" (Roger Deakins) in 2010; "The Artist" (Guillaume Schiffman), "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Jeff Cronenweth), "The Tree of Life" (Emmanuel Lubezki), "War Horse" (Janusz Kamiński) in 2011; "Anna Karenina" (Seamus McGarvey), "Django Unchained" (Robert Richardson), "Lincoln" (Janusz Kamiński), "Skyfall" (Roger Deakins) in 2012
They have one thing in common – they did not win an Academy Award for “Best Cinematography” in years 2009-2013.
As we all know over the last five years the Oscar for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Visual Effects” was “shared” between the same pictures: Avatar (2009), Inception (2010), Hugo (2011), Life of Pi (2012), Gravity (2013).
Isn’t it time for Cinematography, as an accepted, mature, and accomplished form of art, to accept the fact that “one size does not fit all”? The imagery and the cinematography are no longer synonyms? And projects which are based on the visual concept of the per-dominant use of virtual lighting, virtual camera movement and similar technological tools which characterized the Academy’s Best Cinematography winners from the last five years requires the cinematographer to use a different set of skills, working practices and experiences?
Most importantly – those films whose visual results are based on the “en mass” use of virtual technologies, and who fairly won Academy Award, are based on the exquisite imagery created by those technologies, and must be judged differently – artistically and technically, from projects created by the “traditional” ways of creating cinematographic imagery.
It is hard to imagine that poetry and prose, Photoshop based and photochemical based still photography, classical ballet and folk dancing, oil painting and graphics, opera singing and R&B vocals, would be judged by the same standards and rules. Yes, they all represent art, but a different kind of art!
The differentiation between different kinds of mainstream cinematography exists and has to be acknowledged in the form of new award categories, at least at the ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Cinematography, and then maybe in the Academy as well.
Maybe we have to consider the “Award for Virtually Produced Imagery”? The imagery in those winning films is a result of collective teamwork of the cinematographer, pre-viz and virtual teams, VFX departments and many others. “Gravity” is a perfect sample of such teamwork.
And it would be the right place to mention that the VES (Visual Effects Society) acknowledged the role of Lubezki in the Virtual Imagery of “Gravity” by nominating him in the VES category “Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture”.
And what about others, who works in non-Virtual, non-Visual Effects-Driven projects? “Traditional Cinematography”? “Classical Cinematography”? Maybe “Traditional” is not a right word because some who consider themselves innovators may not like to be associated with “Classic” and “Traditional” definitions of their work.
Then maybe, for time being to call it "What You See Is What I Shot Cinematography” – WYSIWIS (wiz-ee-wis) Cinematography (by analogy with "What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) term in computing)
WYSIWIS Cinematography term certainly will indicate that all imagery was done in camera, that image is “produced” not by Visual Effects-Driven technologies, and that with an exception of color correction, and in some cases green-screen based background imagery, it is "What You See Is What I Shot Cinematography” and I, the cinematographer, photographed it all with my non-virtual camera.
But no matter what it will be finally called, it is a time to acknowledge and accept those above-described differences in non-Visual Effects‐Driven and Visual Effects‐Driven cinematographies and to separately recognize the best achievements in each!