Roger Deakins is one of the most celebrated cinematographers in the world. Yet, in spite of a whopping thirteen Academy Award nominations, he has still never been handed an Oscar. This year, he will be competing for the award again after his effortlessly breathtakingly work on Sicario, and there are rumblings that he might finally win it after years of missing out. In the meantime, let’s reflect on the great work that scored him Oscar nods in the past – in particularly, the best shots from these 13 movies.
The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994)
Roger Deakins’ first Oscar nomination came for The Shawshank Redemption. He described the shoot as “chaotic and difficult” in an interview with HitFix recalling that he had to fight his producers for more lights to film at both the abandoned prison and warehouse sets. However, it’s fair to say that the end result was a resounding success with iconic images like the one above – Tim Robbins’ character at the movie’s emotional peak shot from above as the rain pours down on him.
Fargo (Coens, 1996)
After the business idea Jerry pitches to his father-in-law is rejected, Roger Deakins utilises this shot of Fargo’s protagonist walking across the snow-covered parking lot to his vehicle. The precisely framed, extreme long shot perfectly captures Jerry’s emotions at this point in the narrative in a way that is visually striking.
Kundun (Scorsese, 1997)
What do you get when you mix one of cinema’s most visually exciting directors with one of its most proficient cinematographers? The answer is Kundun. Martin Scorsese and Roger Deakins worked together only once on this under-appreciated epic shot over 103 days in Morocco. Scorsese tends to work with Robert Richardson or Michael Ballhaus, but he asked Deakins to collaborate on Kundun because of his experience working on documentaries. Scorsese thought this would be useful when working with so many non-professional actors.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coens, 2000)
Deakins used an innovative practice when he shot O Brother, Where Art Thou? back at the turn of the millennium. Rather than colour correcting the images with chemicals, he used digital technology to control every aspect of the colouring in post-production. It gives this comedic adaptation of The Odyssey – and this shot in particular – the dust-bowl like aesthetic of its Great Depression era, rural Mississippi setting.