Carol (Edward Lachman)
The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)
Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale)
The Revenant (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Sicario (Roger Deakins)
Who should win: John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max: Fury Road was a visual spectacle and a true feast for the eyes. It was inventive, bombastic, and featured moments and images that linger in my mind. It shot the desert beautifully, it had several great action scenes that are exquisite. A popular trend in the last decade-plus of movies has been to shoot action up close or with a lot of quick cuts in an effort to increase the frenetic feel of the fights, which just as often results in confusion in what you’re seeing. The camera captures every audacious, absurd moment of action which fuels the movie.
Who will win: Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant. As much as I’d like to see Seale win for Mad Max, or Roger Deakins for Sicario, which featured some magnificent landscapes, cinematography has been Lubezki’s world that the rest of them are just living in right now. The Revenant looks magnificent as well, and while I didn’t think it was as impressive as Gravity or the slightly gimmick-reliant Birdman, The Revenant does feature some great wintery landscapes and some sweeping, single-take action sequences that are impressive. Even people who did not like The Revenant did not find fault with the cinematography. If Lubezki wins it will be the first time someone has won this category three years in a row.
Adam McKay for The Big Short
George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson for Room
Tom McCarthy for Spotlight
Who should win: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. McKay mad a big leap forward from his previous films, Lenny Abrahamson put himself on the map, Tom McCarthy made this generation’s All the President’s Men, and Inarritu made an immersive, primodial frontier experience. But no other film, in my opinion, was the achievement of a director’s singular vision quite like George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Returning to the world of Mad Max 30 years after the last film, and having all of the technology and CGI at his disposal that he didn’t have in the 80s, and to eschew most of it for authentic explosions and genuine stunts with CGI that was only an enhancement of the spectacle and not the spectacle itself, Miller made a film that has his fingerprints over it more than any other film in this category.
Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Like Lubezki, it seems to be Inarritu’s world, and everyone else is living in it. Following on the heels of last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, Inarritu seems to be gaining more and more momentum as Oscar Sunday approaches. Inrarritu is an impressive filmmaker, but I don’t agree with him getting this over Miller. I’m also surprised that McCarthy and Abrahamson got nominations in this category over directors I thought were more deserving (Ridley Scott for The Martian, Denis Villenueve for Sicario, Ryan Coogler for Creed come to mind). Regardless, whatever Inarritu is doing, it’s clearly working.