It was retro night at the 24th annual awards dinner of the American Society of Cinematographers. Austrian director of photography Christian Berger, AAC, was the surprise winner for best work on a feature film for his black-and-white cinematography for The White Ribbon. Another theme at the gala was the virtue of film over digital cinematography.
Eagle Egilsson won in the television series category for “The Venice Kings” episode of Dark Blue, on TNT. And Alar Kivilo, ASC, CSC, received the top honor in the miniseries/pilot award for his work on Taking Chance on HBO. The ceremonies took place on Feb. 27, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in the venue’s packed ballroom.
This is only the second time since the ASC started handing out awards in 1986 that a DP working in black and white has won the award. In 2001 Roger Deakins received the accolade for The Man Who Wasn’t There. Berger is also the second cinematographer recognized by the ASC for work on a foreign feature. French DP Bruno Delbonnel, AFC/ASC, won the award in 2004 for A Very Long Engagement.
In the face of fast-encroaching digital cinematography in films like Avatar, DP Caleb Deschanel, the recipient of the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, stood up for the continuing appeal of film in his well-received acceptance speech. “I love the uncertainty of shooting on film and not knowing what you are going to get,” he said. “It’s the jolt you get when you see those images for the first time. I love the mystery of seeing them on screen.” The award presenters were his daughters, Zooey and Emily Deschanel.
The ASC International Award was presented to British cinematographer Chris Menges, DP on films including The Killing Fields and The Mission. The soft-spoken Menges praised his many collaborators.
The Board of Governors Award went to actor Morgan Freeman. The ASC recognized his body of work, which includes an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby and five other nominations including this year for playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus.
Sol Negrin, ASC, known for his work on Kojak, McCloud and other television series was honored with the group’s Presidents Award. He was cited for his ongoing work teaching “the next generation” of cinematographers.
John Flinn III, ASC, won the Career Achievement in Television award. Shows he has lensed include Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I. and Babylon 5.
Berger won out over fellow nominees Robert Richardson, ASC, for Inglorious Basterds; Barry Ackroyd, BSC, for The Hurt Locker; Maurio Fiore, ASC, for Avatar; and Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS, for Nine. Berger, Richardson, Ackroyd and Fiore are also nominees for the best cinematography Oscar along with Delbonnel for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
The last DP shooting B&W who got the best cinematography Oscar was Janusz Kaminski, ASC, for Schindler’s List in 1993. He is also the sole example since 1967 when the Academy did away with separate Oscars for best color and B&W cinematography.
The other nominees in the Television Episodic Series/Pilot Category were Jeffrey Jur, ASC for FlashForward “The Gift,” Michael Price for Ugly Betty “There’s No Place Like Mode,” Christian Sebaldt, ASC for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation “Family Affair” and Glen Winter, CSC for Smallville “Savior.”
Nominated along with Kivilo were Rene Ohashi, ASC, CSC for Jesse Stone: Thin Ice and Jerzy Zielinski, ASC for The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.
The ASC was founded in 1919 and today has more than 300 members from the U.S. and other countries around the globe.
Venue: Grand Ballroom, Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel
Parking: Hotel self-parking, $12. Valet parking also available.
Food: Good hotel catering, choice of beef, fish or vegetarian.
Drinks: Pre-event free bar and wine at tables was free.
Swag: None, a sign of the times.
Length: 3 hours
Overall Score: 8/10
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