BELOW THE LINE
HALL, PRIMES, JUR AND BARRETT
TAKE TOP HONORS FROM ASC
By Bob Fisher
Conrad L. Hall, ASC took top honors at the 17th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards in the feature film competition for Road to Perdition. His son Conrad W. Hall accepted the award. It was one of several emotional homages to Hall who died on January 4.
Andy Garica, who worked with Hall on Jennifer 8, opened the show by sharing his memories of Hall using a handheld umbrella to paint with dabs of reflected light to reveal glimpses of faces in a movie where the main character was blind.
The other feature film nominees were Michael Ballhaus, ASC (Gangs of New York), Pawel Edelman (The Pianist), Ed Lachman, ASC (Far From Heaven) and Rodrigo Prieto, ASC (Frida). Presenter Lucy Liu observed, “There is no simple way to recognize or even define great cinematography… Each of these films was a singular, artistic achievement.”
ASC President Richard Crudo remarked, “Conrad Hall taking top honors four times in 17 years is a remarkable and unparalleled achievement. He was a great artist who blazed new trails and inspired many filmmakers around the world.”
Crudo announced that a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame would be dedicated to Hall on May 1. He thanked Hollywood’s honorary mayor Johnny Grant for championing Hall and Kodak for sponsoring the tribute. Crudo invited the audience to attend the ceremony, which will be capped by a reception at the ASC clubhouse.
Outstanding Achievement Awards in television were presented to Robert Primes, ASC, who won the episodic television category for MDs; Michael Barrett, who won the broadcast television competition for movies/miniseries/pilot for the pilot of C.S.I. Miami; and Jeffrey Jur, ASC who won the cable television movie/miniseries/pilot competition for Last Call.
The organization made history when Janusz Kaminski, ASC presented the International Achievement award to Witold Sobocinski, PSC. It was the first time ASC has honored a cinematographer, whose principal body of work was compiled in Eastern Europe. Ralph Woolsey, ASC, a veteran cinematographer, who worked mainly in the television realm (Maverick, Cheyenne, Sunset Strip, etc), received the President’s Award from Robert Wagner, who collaborated with him on the classic TV series It Takes a Thief.
ASC also honored a Roger Ebert with special tribute. The presentation was made by Haskell Wexler, ASC who cited Ebert’s focus on the artistic value of films rather than the results of the weekly race at the box-office. Ebert turned the tables by announcing that he would feature Wexler’s Medium Cool at his “forgotten films” festival in Illinois.
The evening ended on an emotional high when Bill Butler, ASC (Jaws, Grease, The Conversation, etc) received the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award. The presenter was Bill Paxton who directed and stared in Frailty, a 2002 thriller shot by Butler. Paxton noted that Butler made the transition to shooting narrative films when he was 40 years old “because he wanted to make a difference in the world.”
Butler seized the opportunity to caution young filmmakers not to be seduced by marketing hype. He said cinematographers are always among the first to embrace new tools and add them to their palettes, but Butler noted that there is a distinct difference between the emotional qualities of film and digital images today. He said that difference affects the audience’s perceptions of stories and characters.
The organization also gave a nod to the future with the presentation of The John Seitz Heritage Award to film students Masanobu Takayanagi (American Film Institute) and Zack Resnicoff (New York University), by ASC Education Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, ASC. “Your education is just beginning,” Kovacs said. “You have to dedicate yourself to being students for life and never giving up on yourselves or your dreams.”
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