Hang in There, Roger: Why Hasn't One of the Best DPs in the World Won an Oscar Yet?

Seriously, why hasn't Roger Deakins won an Oscar yet?

Roger Deakins is the Leonardo DiCaprio of DPs. Known as one of the best and most accomplished cinematographers in the world, Deakins has racked up a total of 13 Oscar nominations in his 42-year career and has taken home exactly zero gold statues. It took DiCaprio 6 nominations before he finally won for The Revenant, but Deakins is still over here being brilliant, wondering, "Hey, what gives?"

Fandor's Daniel Mcilwraith explores this travesty by putting all of the great DPs Oscar-nominated films side by side the films he lost to in this gut-wrenching video essay.

Back when I didn't follow celebrity news or know very much about actors and their accumulation of accolades, I had no idea that DiCaprio hadn't won an Oscar. In fact, I was corrected my first year working here at No Film School for referring to the actor as "Oscar-winning."

This is the phenomenon—or as I call it, curse—that Roger Deakins is experiencing now. The DP with a filmography fit for 9,000 kings hasn't taken home an Academy Award. Not for Sicario. Not for Shawshank. Not for Fargo. Not for No Country for Old Men. Not for O Brother, Where Art Thou. Not for Prisoners. It's just unbelievable.

Now, winning awards isn't as important as, say, consistently putting out genius-level work every time you show up on a set. But still. I can easily imagine Deakins winning a lifetime achievement Oscar before he receives one for Best Cinematography, and frankly, that makes me sad. It makes me even more sad knowing I can't even root for him this year, since Hail, Caesar wasn't even nominated. 

Another year, another snub. Sorry, Roger. Maybe next year, you damn genius.

What are some other world-renowned DPs who totally deserved an Oscar but never got one? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment

16 Comments

Ranking art is silly. People should stop watching / attending the ceremony.

February 6, 2017 at 6:48PM

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Jesse Yules
Director
410

Just because he hasn't won any doesn't make it any less true that he is extremely talented.

February 6, 2017 at 6:55PM

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MacArthur Bougeré
Director of Photography
74

He's often said that he doesn't care about the awards and for him it's just about bringing a story to life visually. Very much respect for that and I think because of that mentally he's lost for mostly political reasons, but he's gotten several top ASC awards and really that means even more than an Oscar.

February 6, 2017 at 7:04PM

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Matthew Miller
Director of Photography
145

I think most of these films are like comparing apples against oranges. Films like Titanic, Lord of he Rings, Life of Pi, Gravity are so heavily VFX dependent, it is really hard to measure creativity behind the camera veiled under their dazzling animations. I think there should be a different award category for cinematography of such films all together. The normal cinematography award should go to more naturalistic films with minimum green screen.

February 6, 2017 at 10:03PM, Edited February 6, 10:06PM

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Ayan Banerjee
Film Maker
218

I agree. I suppose there is merit, on some level, to not differentiating between heavy green screen vr. little to no green screen, but still: It seems pretty clear that the winners over Roger have been international films or heavy VFX films, which should at least raise the question "is our awards process adequate?"

August 15, 2017 at 6:21AM

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He will for Blade Runner 2049. You heard it here first.

February 6, 2017 at 10:57PM

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Seth Burke
Director/Editor
140

Precisely. Because of exactly what Ayan said above. It's pretty common knowledge that everything changes after nominations are set and things widen up to the whole academy for voting in each category. And the academy has had a trend towards sci-fi and VFX films in recent years, only failing to be the case with Revenant. Avatar, Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, Gravity, Birdman... also he probably split himself in 2008.

February 7, 2017 at 9:12PM

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For me an obious DP in this category is Gordon Willis, responsible of the photography on The Godfather series and Anie Hall and Manhattan among others. He wasn't even nominated for his best work and had to wait for an Oscar to the lifetime achievement on 2009. "The prince of darkness" deserved better.

February 7, 2017 at 3:09AM, Edited February 7, 3:12AM

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Tomàs Sunyer Tarrida
Cinematographer
86

If you're looking for fairness and equality, Hollywood probably isn't your place!

February 7, 2017 at 9:14AM

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BD
1092

I think part of the issue is the way the Academy works. You are nominated by your peers, but the vote for the Oscar is given by the whole Academy. Roger's peers see his greatness and naturalism and nominate him every year. Academy voters tend to favor more 'showy' lighting. I think Roger will eventually get an Oscar - but it may be for Lifetime Achievement.

February 7, 2017 at 11:47AM

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The Oscars have little relevance to films or people that have the most lasting impact on the cinematic form and history. Deakins is one of many either missed out completely or given awards for not their best work when they are older and voters realized they missed it. Not to mention the many forgettable and mediocre work (not by my opinion but by the works or persons lasting influence over decades) that are hailed by the Academy as "the best".

In short - the Oscars suck for recognizing greatness but very useful for your career in Hollywood.

February 7, 2017 at 3:05PM, Edited February 7, 3:05PM

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Stephen A van Vuuren
Filmmaker
641

Very curious to see what he does with the Blade Runner reboot

February 7, 2017 at 6:40PM

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Good article except for that first line "Roger Deakins is the Leonardo DiCaprio of DPs".
You want to compare his to DiCaprio?
Deakins is well beyond any comparison to him, no matter how you want to work it.
All respect to Deakins guys, and don't compare apples to bananas.

February 7, 2017 at 7:58PM

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I think he compared Deakins to Dicaprio because they are both generally regarded as masters of their individual crafts. That isn't to say that the effort they put in, or they are similar in any other way to each other, just like comparing two dedicated workers, it was a harmless line.

February 9, 2017 at 11:27AM

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What? Like Robert Yeoman? Who for some reason lost to Birdman? Are the people who give away these awards wearing their grandma's glasses when they sit in theater?

February 8, 2017 at 2:38AM

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Stefanos Knapp
DoP, Operator, CA
96

I hope he doesn't care, because his work has been such an influence to so many, and he has garnered the respect of even more. He even has a forum where he directly helps people with their work for goodness' sake -- what more could the Acadamy want from a class-leading DP?

February 11, 2017 at 11:22AM

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