Oscar predictions: Best Cinematography could go to first-time nominee

Although reigning three-time Oscar champ Emmanuel Lubezki is eligible again in Best Cinematography this year for Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups” he is not heavily favored to win according to our Oscar experts. Of the lensers working on this year’s biggest and prettiest films, some are potential first-time nominees while others are past contenders or previous winners looking for bookends. To highlight the branch’s opportunity to recognize cinematographers from each of these three groups, we’ve broken down our early analysis of the field into three parts.

Let’s take a look first at the contenders who would be rookies in this race.

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The likeliest nominee among the newbies is Linus Sandgren for his work on our current Best Picture frontrunner “La La Land.” Sandgren will be a familiar name to Oscar voters for his recent lensing of two David O. Russell films, “Joy” and “American Hustle.” Best Cinematography has gone to the same film that won Best Director for the last four years running and Damien Chazelle is a top contender in that latter race.

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But right behind Sandgren and also working on films with helmers that are strong contenders are Stephane Fontaine (“Jackie,” director Pablo LarrainBradford Young (“Arrival,” director Denis Villeneuve) and James Laxton (“Moonlight,” director Barry Jenkins). Fontaine has three chances at a nomination as he also worked on France’s Foreign Language Film entry “Elle” and “Captain Fantastic” this year. Young has been looking for his first nomination with acclaimed work in “Selma,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” in recent years. Laxton is less well-known though, having lensed smaller projects like “Tusk,” “Camp X-Ray” and Jenkins’ debut film “Medicine for Melancholy.”

But nomination slots could also be filled by cinematographers from some of this year’s biggest blockbusters. Among those are Greig Fraser for “Rogue One” (he is also the DP on Garth Davis’ “Lion”) and Bill Pope for the Best Visual Effects contender “The Jungle Book.” Fraser has a lot of experience on prestige pics, including “Foxcatcher” and “Zero Dark Thirty” in recent awards seasons. Pope is perhaps best known for his trailblazing work on “The Matrix” trilogy as well as his stunning work on the Emmy-nominated “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” miniseries special.

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Not to be left out are Ben Davis for “Doctor Strange” and Oscar Faura for “A Monster Calls.” Davis is a frequent contributor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe having worked on “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” in the past. Faura’s recent work includes “The Imitation Game” and “The Impossible.”

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

Be sure to make update full Oscar predictions with the just added Best Cinematography category. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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