Best Cinematography | The Best of 2015

Being a visual medium as film is, the images on the screen are among the, if not the, premiere component that can make or break a film. As technology has grown and advanced over time, just about anyone can point an HD camera at something and call it a film, but it takes a special cinematographer to achieve true greatness. More than anything, our best cinematographers category is a celebration of that greatness, and a celebration of imagistic glory that can only be experienced on the big screen. It’s an unrivaled feeling to become engrossed and entangled in a giant moving picture to the point where it’s unclear where the movie theater ends and the movie itself begins.

Being a visual medium as film is, the images on the screen are among the, if not the, premiere component that can make or break a film. As technology has grown and advanced over time, just about anyone can point an HD camera at something and call it a film, but it takes a special cinematographer to achieve true greatness. More than anything, our best cinematographers category is a celebration of that greatness, and a celebration of imagistic glory that can only be experienced on the big screen. It's an unrivaled feeling to become engrossed and entangled in a giant moving picture to the point where it's unclear where the movie theater ends and the movie itself begins.

Dan Laustsen
5. Dan Laustsen
Crimson Peak

"We're using the shadows and you're feeling the reflections of the house. She's not alone but alone in her soul. And, of course, then she's running through the house and going out the front door and there's a big storm out there. There's no moonlight but, again, steel blue atmospheric light."
It really helps a horror film's case when it looks completely beautiful, I'm noticing. Dan Laustsen's work on Crimson Peak, without which I'm not certain this is anywhere near as great of a watch, takes the film into another stratosphere of eye candy. His camera work makes Guillermo Del Toro's Gothic vision come to life in unimaginable ways that makes you actually feel stuck in Allerdale Hall right along with Edith, as he shoots the space that both honors its cavernous space and feels utterly claustrophobic. – Jeff Pearson
Dan Mindel
4. Dan Mindel
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

"We did a lot physically, and the film warranted that. That's part of the responsibility we have doing movies like this with a long history and a huge existing fan base. Maintaining the franchise's integrity was really the mandate from J.J."
There are so many wonderful aspects to The Force Awakens, so something like its cinematography is understandably overshadowed. The shadow looms even further with all the other great instances of cinematography we saw this year, in particular the work done in The Revenant by Emmanuel Lubezki. So I’m glad we rewarded several cinematographers this year. Daniel Mindel’s work in The Force Awakens probably contains the most adventurous camera work seen in a Star Wars film to date and it really contributes to the intensity and overall feel of the movie. I knew we would see something special when I saw the opening wide shot of Teaser Trailer 2 (look it up on youtube) where the camera pans right across a desert landscape following a land speeder until a Star Destroyer that had crash landed is revealed on the horizon. One of the most impressive instances of camera work is when the Rebels surprise attack The Empire on Maz Kanata’s home planet and we see a long shot of Finn running around shooting stormtroopers while Poe Dameron’s X-Wing is simultaneously captured blasting planes out of the sky. Mindel’s capturing of the Millennium Falcon in action was also stylistically new and fun to watch. I hope to see more of this camera work in Episodes VIII and IX! – Anders Oster
John Seale
3. John Seale
Mad Max: Fury Road

"That was a big part of the boldness of George in recording a film and then putting it together. It would make his films far more enjoyable and easy to watch by actually shooting it in that way. It's always been a part of my work philosophy to try and record a film in such a way that you make it as smooth as possible for the audience to view it, because I feel if you can do that you're going to suck the audience out of their seat and go through that virtual window of reality you're creating and put them in the situation. And you've got to hold them there, you know?"
John Seale came out of retirement to lead Max and Furiosa into the desert. Or perhaps he’s been stranded there since The English Patient. Either way, I’m glad we followed him into the desolate, dystopian beauty. – Jarryd Baxter
Robert Richardson
2. Robert Richardson
The Hateful Eight

"And I think brilliantly so because when I watched the film, the colors scream on 70mm. They scream at you. The red in particular looks like we could have shot this film Kodachrome. I would almost say it was a Kodachrome movie except for there’s absolutely no grain anywhere. It’s really beautiful. It would be lovely if we could achieve more of this, more 70mm shooting, if people could afford it and if the cameras would be more available and not just for visual effects shooting but for entire pictures. That would be fantastic."
Robert Richardson's cinematography is obviously the star of the show here. The gloriously expansive 70mm captures the Wyoming landscape in all of its grandeur in the beginning of The Hateful Eight while it ultimately broadens the scope of the limited set that its characters ultimately find themselves. For such a small scale set, Richardson makes it feel huge, perhaps reflecting the fact that its all any of its characters will ever see again, their entire world inside of four snow-covered walls. – JP
Emmanuel Lubezki
1. Emmanuel Lubezki
The Revenant

"I think the wide lenses allow you to make the movie very immersive and that was one of our main ideas: to engage the audience in a very immersive way. The movie wanted to be visceral, so it allows us to get very close to the actors but still see the environment surrounding them. They are always connected to the environment."
I'm firmly convinced that Emmanuel Lubezki is low-key the MVP of modern filmmaking. It seems that everything he points his camera at becomes a wondrous piece of filmmaking, and The Revenant, if not one that proves the point, is a film that almost laughably displays his prowess. He makes full use of the broad expanses of snow-covered land and all natural lighting to create easily the most memorable visual experience of the year. It's a film that demands to be taken in in all of its widescreen glory, that quite simply redefines what can be done with a camera. If The Revenant were a nature documentary (and it pretty much is), it would probably still garner this spot for Chivo's work. – JP
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