All props to In Contention‘s astute Oscar pundit (I’m sure he’ll hate that description) Kris Tapley for pointing out that of Skyfall’s potential nominations — Sound, Sound Editing — Cinematography is certainly among them. Best Supporting Actor is also possible for Javier Bardem. Standing in Skyfall’s way overall? It’s really as simple as “Bond. James Bond.” It’s also a genre movie, and as we all know, the Academy no-likey the genre movie. I have long believed they should create a bigger category than just “Best Visual Effects” to honor the changing of the guard in Hollywood films to include a category: Best Effects-Driven Film. That way, they can honor movies that would never make it into their Best Picture lineup because of their own prejudices, but that deserve recognition as film achievements nonetheless. Those movies this year would easily include: The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Avengers and perhaps The Hobbit. They have Best Animated and Best Foreign Language, they might as well acknowledge Best Effects-Driven.
But back to Roger Deakins. You might be surprised to look at his filmography and note when he didn’t win:
2011 True Grit –> Wally Pfister, Inception
2009 The Reader –> Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire*
2008 No Country for Old Men & Jesse James –> Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
2002 The Man Who Wasn’t There –> Andrew Lesnie, Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring
2001 O Brother Where Art Thou –> Peter Pau, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
1998 Kundun –>Russell Carpenter, Titanic*
1997 Fargo –>John Seale, The English Patient*
1995 Shawshank Redemption –>John Toll, Legends of the Fall
And the films he was never nominated for, here.
The conclusion: Cinematography goes with Best Picture when there is a near sweep of the categories. But when it doesn’t go to Best Picture it either goes to a strong Best Picture candidate as a consolation prize or else it’s totally off the wall, like Legends of the Fall. To beat Deakins now, though, you have to either sweep or be a movie that almost wins Best Picture, or has strong enough support in the Academy to overcome what is now an embarrassing oversight.
Vids after the cut.