Should the Oscar for Best Cinematography Be Split into Two Separate Categories?
We've talked quite a bit about online petitions lately. First it was Kentucker Audley satirically urging independent filmmakers to give up their dreams for the greater good of the film industry. Then, in the wake of the Sarah Jones tragedy, it was a petition to have her recognized during the "In Memoriam" segment at Sunday's Academy Awards. And now, fellow No Film Schoolers, we have another petition to unleash on you, a petition to split the Oscar for "Best Cinematography" into two separate categories. Read on to see what all of the fuss is about.
Traditional cinematography vs. computer-driven cinematography. This is the issue at hand. It's something that I have talked about extensively in a previous post, so I'll just do some paraphrasing of the arguments both for and against creating a distinction between the two.
In one sense, it’s an entirely technical matter. Films like Gravity and Inside Llewyn Davis (both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography) were created in two vastly different ways, and therefore it isn't prudent to judge their images by the same standards. On the other hand, however, it can be argued that the method and technology don’t particularly matter as long as the images have the same effect on an audience. In the end, it's about utilizing the tools of cinematography (whether physical or digital) to tell the story.
Here are the trailers for those two films, in case you haven't seen them enough already.
Personally, I fall into the first camp, the one in favor of creating a distinction between traditional and virtual cinematography. And now that a heavily CGI-reliant film has taken home the Best Cinematography Oscar for 4 out of the past 5 years, the fine folks over at HowToFilmSchool do as well. In attempt to effect change in the industry and the way it views cinematography, they have created a petition which asks the Academy to split the Best Cinematography Oscar into two separate categories.
Here's what the petition says in full:
Too many times has a film which uses a large number of computer generated images won the award for Best Cinematography. As film making, cinematography and CGI continues to evolve, so should our appreciation and understanding of the various aspects of modern cinematography.
In no way are we saying that the past winners are undeserving, but we strongly believe that proper credit is not being given where it is due.
The award should be divided into conventional live action photography and another for CGI based photography in order to give cinematographers the recognition they deserve.
We'll leave it up to the judgement of the Academy on criteria and how the awards should be divided, but we strongly believe that any film which uses a large number of green screen elements, composites and multiple CGI sequences should be in it's own category.
I have no doubt that the petition itself can reach the 5,000 needed signatures, especially with a little bit of love and sharing from you, dear NFS readers. However, what happens after this petition reaches the Academy is entirely up in the air.
The problem lies in the fact that many films rely on a combination of both traditional cinematography and digital compositing these days, which means that the Academy would have to draw a very distinct line between the two in order to create separate categories. How this would be accomplished is an interesting quandary because it would likely involve deriving a very specific percentage for each film based on the amount of digital assets that it contains. After that, the question becomes where the line between the two is drawn? Should films with higher than 50% be considered virtual cinematography, or 70% or 10%? No matter where the line exists, it is certainly going to be arbitrary in some way, which makes the process all that much more difficult.
Honestly, this is a complicated issue, and I have doubts that we'll see a distinction between traditional and virtual cinematography any time soon. However, if you'd like to see this issue make its way to the Academy for consideration, make sure you take 30 seconds to sign the petition. Who knows what might happen at next year's awards.
What do you guys think about this issue? Should the Academy split the award for Best Cinematography into two separate awards, one for traditional live-action cinematography and one for virtual cinematography? If there should be a split, what would be the ideal way to determine which category any given film should fall into, especially considering that many films combine both elements? Let's hear your thoughts down in the comments!