Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, director of photography on The Revenant, won the award for best feature film cinematography from the American Society of Cinematographers at the organization’s 30th anniversary awards dinner held Sunday night at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel.
This is Lubezki’s third consecutive ASC feature award and his fifth overall, including those for Children of Men (2006) and The Tree of Life (2012). He won last year for Birdman and the prior year for Gravity. Both are records, making him the most honored cinematographer in the organization’s history. Yesterday he received the BAFTA cinematography award for The Revenant.
The ASC win makes Lubezki the frontrunner to win this year’s Oscar for best achievement in cinematography to be handed out at the Academy Awards on Feb. 28. Having won the Oscar the last two years for Birdman and Gravity, he is set up for a possible three-peat.
The competition was especially stiff this year, with Lubezki beating out four cinematographer luminaries – John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road), Janusz Kaminski (Bridge of Spies), Roger Deakins (Sicario) and Ed Lachman (Carol). Seale, Deakins and Lachman are also Oscar nominees plus Robert Richardson (Hateful Eight).
“People talk about how brutal the movie is, the conditions. From my perspective, it was an amazing experience,” said Lubezki. He thanked the film’s director, Alejandro Iñárritu, for his “passion, his incredibly energy. I think that’s what I’m going to remember most about the film. I share a big chunk of this award with him for taking me on this incredible journey and for being a great teacher and friend.”
Other top awards went to Vanja Cernjul in the episodic television category for Casanova and to Pierre Gill in the TV movie/miniseries/pilot category for Marco Polo. (Gill won an ASC Award in 2004 for Hitler: the Rise of Evil and was also nominated for Joan of Arc in 2000 and The Borgias in 2014). The titles for the ASC TV awards are now somewhat anachronistic since Casanova was for Amazon and Marco Polo was for Netflix.
There was a tie in the two-year-old “Spotlight” award category – celebrating work honored in film festivals or in limited release by up-and-coming cinematographers – between Adam Arkapaw for Macbeth and Matyas Erdely for Son of Saul. The third nominee was Cary Joji Fukunaga for Beasts of No Nation.
Director Ridley Scott received the ASC Board of Governors award. Scott is a renowned filmmaker known for the visual panache in his films. He has been nominated for the best director Oscar for Black Hawk Down (2001), Gladiator (2000) and Thelma & Louise (1991). He did The Martian, which is up for the best picture Oscar. Academy Award-winner Geena Davis, who starred in Thelma & Louise, accepted the award on behalf of Scott who is out of the country but thanked the ASC by video.
Director of photography John Toll was honored with the ASC Lifetime Achievement award. It was presented to him by his wife Lois Burwell, an Oscar-winner for make-up on Braveheart, where she first met the DP. Toll won consecutive cinematography Oscars for director Edward Zwick’s Legends of the Fall in 1995; and Braveheart, directed by Mel Gibson in 1996. He won two ASC Awards for Braveheart and The Thin Red Line.
Toll thanked the DPs whose crews he had worked on when starting out. “This was my film school, and I had the best instructors in the world,” he said. He also gave a shout out to his camera, grip and lighting crews. “I’ve worked with many of the same people for years, and rely heavily on their incredible experience and expertise,” he declared.
Lowell Peterson received the Career Achievement in Television award. He previously received ASC television nominations for telefilm Just Ask My Children, and for two TV series, Second Chances and Profiler. And he’s been nominated for Emmy’s for his DP work on Six Feet Under.
Peterson told the audience that his dream job would have been as a contract-DP at Warner Bros. in the 1940s. “But in a way, that’s what I got,” he noted. “The closest thing today is probably a television series cameraman, where you can work for 10 years or longer with the family that creates a show – the camera department, the electricians, the grips, the stand-ins, and the actors who create the evolving characters that are unique to TV.”
Bill Bennett was the recipient of the ASC Presidents Award. He is known for having lensed over 1,000 television commercials for beverage makers, global communications companies, airlines and, most notably, for memorable spots for automobiles. Those have earned him the nickname of “the car guy.”
The ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction went to Grover Crisp. The award is presented to an ASC associate member recognized for having made a significant contribution to the motion picture industry. Crisp is an executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment, specializing in digital mastering and film preservation.