2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography (Updated January 14, 2018)

At each of the last five Oscars, Best Cinematography has gone hand-in-hand with Best Director: Claudio Miranda and Ang Lee for “Life of Pi” (2012), Emmanuel Lubezki and Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” (2013), Lubezki and Alejandro G. Inarritu for “Birdman” (2014) and “The Revenant” (2015), and Linus Sandgren and Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” (2016). Will that trend hold true this year? (Scroll down for the most up-to-date predictions for this year’s Best Cinematography race.)

The academy usually regards award-winning cinematography as pretty pictures within an epic technical feat of filmmaking. While great lighting and framing are laudable on their own, having a movie that looks like it was difficult to shoot goes a long way to snagging an Oscar. Recent lensing winners “Avatar” (2009), “Inception” (2010), “Hugo” (2011), “Life of Pi” (2012), and “Gravity” (2013) also took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

While the lensers of “Inception” and “Gravity” first prevailed at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, these precursor prizes do not have a stellar track record at forecasting the Oscar winner. Indeed, since the guild started handing out prizes in 1986, the two groups have agreed only 13 times:

1990: “Dances with Wolves” (Dean Semler)
1995: “Braveheart” (John Toll)
1996: “The English Patient” (John Seale)
1997: “Titanic” (Russell Carpenter)
1999: “American Beauty” (Conrad L. Hall)
2002: “Road to Perdition” (Hall)
2005: “Memoirs of a Geisha” (Dion Beebe)
2007: “There Will Be Blood” (Robert Elswit)
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Anthony Dod Mantle)
2010: “Inception” (Wally Pfister)
2013: “Gravity” (Emmanuel Lubezki)
2014: “Birdman” (Lubezki)
2015: “The Revenant” (Lubezki)

Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while others are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

Leading Contenders
Barry Ackroyd, “Detroit” (Annapurna Pictures)

Danny Cohen, “Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)

Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures/Alcon Entertainment)

Bruno Delbonnel, “Darkest Hour” (Universal Studios/Focus Features)

Janusz Kaminski, “The Post” (20th Century Fox)

Edward Lachman, “Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios)

Dan Laustsen, “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Seamus McGarvey, “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)

Phedon Papamichael, “Downsizing” (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures)

Michael Seresin, “War for the Planet of the Apes” (20th Century Fox)

Vittorio Storaro, “Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios)

Hoyte Van Hoytema, “Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.)

Strong Contenders
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread” (Annapurna Pictures/Focus Features)

Dion Beebe, “The Snowman” (Universal Studio/Working Title Films)

Christian Berger, “Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Sean Bobbit, “Stronger” (Lionsgate)

Robert Elswit, “Roman Israel, Esq.” (Columbia)

Matthew Jensen, “Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.)

Darius Khondji, “Okja” (Netflix)

Philippe Le Sourd, “The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)

John Mathieson, “Logan” (20th Century Fox)

Rachel Morrison, “Mudbound” (Netflix)

Robert Richardson, “Breathe” (Bleecker Street/Participant Media)

Jonathan Sela, “Atomic Blonde” (Focus Features)

Steven Soderbergh, “Logan Lucky” (Bleecker Street/FilmNation Entertainment)

Darius Wolski, “All the Money in the World” (Tristar)

Haris Zambarkloukos, “Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox)

Possible Contenders
Thimios Bakatakis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)

Charlotte Bruus Christensen, “Molly’s Game” (STX Entertainment)

Ben Davis, “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Darius Khondji, “The Lost City of Z” (Amazon Studios)

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, “Call Me By Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Toby Oliver, “Get Out” (Universal)

Ben Richardson, “Wind River” (The Weinstein Company)

Tobias A. Schliessler, “Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Newton Thomas Sigel, “Marshall” (Open Road Films)

Ben Smithard, “Goodbye Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Alexis Zabe, “The Florida Project” (A24)

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

Roger Deakins has lost this race 13 times but could finally prevail for “Blade Runner 2049.” Denis Villeneuve‘s sequel to Ridley Scott‘s 1982 sci-fi classic certainly boasts striking images. And with its stunning visual and sound effects, the film could dominate the tech categories and sweep Deakins along. The cinematography branch has nominated him for “The Shawshank Redemption” in 1994, “Fargo” in 1996, “Kundun” in 1997, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2000, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” in 2001, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” in 2007, “No Country for Old Men” in 2007, “The Reader” in 2008, “True Grit” in 2010, “Skyfall” in 2012, “Prisoners” in 2013, “Unbroken” in 2014, and “Sicario” in 2015.

Hoyte Van Hoytema could reap his first Oscar bid for Christopher Nolan‘s WWII epic “Dunkirk.” Shot in 70mm almost entirely with IMAX cameras, the film is visually sumptuous and should appeal to both the branch and the academy as a whole.

Edward Lachman has been nominated for two previous collaborations with Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven” in 2002 and “Carol” in 2015). Third time could be the charm as they reunite for “Wonderstruck,” which combines black-and-white with color photography to tell two parallel stories of two children separated by 50 years.

Four-time also-ran Bruno Delbonnel (“Amelie” in 2001, “A Very Long Engagement” in 2004, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in 2009, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” in 2013) could return to the race with “Darkest Hour,” Joe Wright‘s biopic of Winston Churchill.

Janusz Kaminski won both his Oscars for films by Steven Spielberg (“Schindler’s List” in 1993 and “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998) and could be back in contention for their latest collaboration, “The Post.”

We are predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.

Best Picture | Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short

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