For the purposes of this post, I’m highlighting a painful reality about Deakins’ career: the man has been nominated for 14 Oscars, and never won. Now, of course, I’d love to tell you how absurd it is that Roger Deakins doesn’t have an Academy Award. But in analyzing all of his nominations, it became clear that, despite how great a Roger Deakins film looks (and they all look great), he shoots movies in insanely competitive years.
This year, Deakins is nominated for shooting Blade Runner 2049, and, like every other year he’s been nominated, he has a damn good shot at winning. One can only hope. Because if there’s a year he deserves it, it is truly this one.
Deakins nominated for: The Shawshank Redemption
Lost to: Legends of the Fall
Other nominees: Forrest Gump, Three Colors: Red, Wyatt Earp
Should’ve won: We’ll see this a lot in Deakins’ path to win an Oscar: he delivers astounding work on a smaller-scale film, and eventually loses to the big, sweeping epic. This is a tough call, because while I love the coldness of Shawshank, John Toll’s cinematography on Legends of the Fall is exquisite. And, still, I think I’d place Piotr Sobociński’s work on Three Colors: Red above Deakins as well.
Deakins nominated for: Fargo
Lost to: The English Patient
Other nominees: Evita, Fly Away Home, Michael Collins
Should’ve won: Same deal. Deakins delivered incredible work on Fargo, but he lost to the vastness of The English Patient. Both films are shot so damn well, but I honestly think The English Patient wins out here.
Deakins nominated for: Kundun
Lost to: Titanic
Other nominees: Amistad, L.A. Confidential, The Wings of the Dove
Should’ve won: Titanic. The technical marvel of that film cannot be ignored. L.A. Confidential comes in second for me.
Deakins nominated for: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Lost to: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Other nominees: Gladiator, Malèna, The Patriot
Should’ve won: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, no question. That film changed cinematography. But oh how I love Deakins’ sepia tones in O Brother.
Deakins nominated for: The Man Who Wasn’t There
Lost to: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Other nominees: Amélie, Black Hawk Down, Moulin Rouge!
Should’ve won: What a tough year. The Man Who Wasn’t There IS noir, and I love every frame of it. But Amélie would get my first place vote.
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James | No Country for Old Men
Deakins nominated for: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford & No Country for Old Men
Lost to: There Will Be Blood
Other nominees: Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Should’ve won: I’m not sure if this category has ever been stronger, but it certainly hasn’t been stronger since. You could make the case for every nominee, including both of Deakins’ nominations. There Will Be Blood is one of my favorite looking films of all time, and I am in no way upset that Robert Elswit won an Oscar for it. But Deakins’ work on The Assassination of Jesse James redefined what a person can do with a movie camera. Deakins would’ve won here, had the film been marketed properly. So, the winner here is Deakins, finally.
Deakins nominated for: The Reader (shared nomination with Chris Menges)
Lost to: Slumdog Millionaire
Other nominees: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight
Should’ve won: I’ve seen The Reader twice and, sadly, cannot recall a standout frame from it. I’d be fine with Benjamin Button or The Dark Knight winning, but I think Anthony Dod Mantle’s award for Slumdog is appropriate.
Deakins nominated for: True Grit
Lost to: Inception
Other nominees: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Social Network
Should’ve won: Yep, this goes to Inception, with Black Swan in second, and The Social Network at third. Strong year.
Deakins nominated for: Skyfall
Lost to: Life of Pi
Other nominees: Anna Karenina, Django Unchained, Lincoln
Should’ve won: Over the past few years, it has become in increasingly heated debate about how cinematography is defined. I usually (key word) prefer practical aesthetics to computer effects. Much of Life of Pi was computer generated, while much of Skyfall was shot practically. They both look great, but which is better? Ultimately, my vote would’ve gone to Deakins here, giving him two Oscars so far.
Deakins nominated for: Prisoners
Lost to: Gravity
Other nominees: The Grandmaster, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska
Should’ve won: And here I get to completely contradict myself, because this award absolutely belongs to Gravity, despite being such an effects-heavy film. So it goes.
Deakins nominated for: Unbroken
Lost to: Birdman
Other nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner
Should’ve won: Birdman first, Ida second, The Grand Budapest Hotel third.
Deakins nominated for: Sicario
Lost to: The Revenant
Other nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve won: Insanely tough year. My vote still goes to The Revenant, but any five of these nominees justly could’ve won.
Deakins nominated for: Blade Runner 2049
Lost to: ???
Other nominees: Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound, The Shape of Water
Will win: With the exception of Darkest Hour (or not, seeing as it was shot by mastero, Bruno Delbonnel), this category is a four way split. The visual power of Dunkirk cannot be ignored, while The Shape of Water could sweep the technical awards, and of course we cannot discount Rachel Morrison’s nomination for Mudbound. She’s the first woman nominated for best cinematography, and the support she has from her peers is very vocal. Still, what if? What if Roger Deakins wins his first Oscar for a lavish-looking sequel? If I voted, it’d be between Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk, with my vote ultimately going to Deakins.
By my estimation, Roger Deakins should have two Oscars so far, for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Skyfall. And potentially a third this year, for Blade Runner 2049. I know, it sounds crazy; his work is so good he should have more, but he’s been up against some damn fierce competition. How many Oscars do you think Roger Deakins should have?
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