‘Mank’ could be the 3rd black-and-white movie in 30 years to win cinematography Oscar, but another film is closing in on it

Mank” is the early Oscar front-runner to win Best Cinematography, according to the combined predictions of Gold Derby users, and it’s no wonder why. Black-and-white films stand out visually in an era when the vast majority of movies are shot in color. But monochromatic movies aren’t the slam dunk you might think. In fact, only two such movies have won that award in the past 30 years, which could be good news for “Mank’s” closest challenger in our odds, “Nomadland.”

Erik Messerschmidt is the cinematographer for “Mank,” which tells the true story of the title screenwriter who clashed with the wealthy Hollywood establishment and wrote the classic film “Citizen Kane.” The David Fincher-directed biopic is stylized to resemble the films of the 1940s era it depicts, which might especially appeal to the industry insiders who vote for the Oscars. And Messerschmidt just recently broke through with his industry peers on the small screen, earning an Emmy nomination for lensing Fincher’s series “Mindhunter,” though he has yet to be nominated for an Oscar.

So as of this writing Messerschmidt gets leading Oscar odds of 19/5, with 13 Expert journalists currently betting on him to win: Erik Davis (Fandango), Shawn Edwards (WDAF-TV Fox), Joyce Eng (Gold Derby), Tim Gray (Variety), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tariq Khan (Fox TV), Susan King (Gold Derby), Wilson Morales (BlackFilmandTV), Michael Musto (Queerty), Christopher Rosen (Gold Derby), Keith Simanton (IMDb), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and Susan Wloszczyna (Gold Derby).

However, the only two black-and-white movies that have won for cinematography since 1990 were “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Roma” (2018). Every other black-and-white nominee in that time has lost. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001) lost to “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005) lost to “Memoirs of a Geisha.” “The White Ribbon” (2009) lost to “Avatar.” “The Artist” (2011) lost to “Hugo.” “Nebraska” (2013) lost to “Gravity.” “Ida” (2014) lost to “Birdman.” And “The Lighthouse” (2019) lost to “1917.”

That could be good news for another potential first-time Oscar contender: Joshua James Richards for “Nomadland.” He has already been racking up plaudits from critics for capturing the vistas of the American West in the indie drama, winning prizes from Boston and Chicago journos in addition to nominations or runner-up citations from Los Angeles, Florida, Music City, and North Carolina critics. Now five Experts say he’ll overtake Messerschmidt: Thelma Adams (Gold Derby), Clayton Davis (Variety), Perri Nemiroff (Collider), Jazz Tangcay (Variety) and Anne Thompson (IndieWire).

Do you agree with most Experts that one of those Oscar freshmen will come away with a win?

Oscars Best Cinematography widget

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