The 2021 Academy Awards ceremony may be postponed until the end of April, but the race is going on anyway. For our industry, the Oscar for “Best Cinematography” is the one that is closely followed, so let’s get going: These are the likely contenders (and the cameras used) in the race for the 2021 Oscars.
Every year, the American magazine Variety presents possible Oscar candidates and lists the most likely winners in each category. Year after year, the “Best Cinematography” Oscar is not only about which cinematographer is going to win, but also which camera was used. The most popular brand of them all? Well, you know the answer, don’t you?
Feature Films for “Best Cinematography” 2021 Oscars
According to Variety, their list is still labeled as pre-season, so these predictions are not set in stone just yet but I think this list offers a good indication whether a certain feature film hasa decent chance in the 2021 Oscars race for best cinematography. The top ten list goes as follows:
- “Mank” (Netflix) // DoP: Erik Messerschmidt // Red Ranger Helium Monochrome, Leica Summilux-C lenses
- “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) // DoP: Joshua James Richards // ARRI ALEXA Mini, ARRI AMIRA, Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses
- “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) // DoP: Martin Ruhe // ARRI ALEXA 65, ARRI ALEXA Mini, Hasselblad Prime DNA lenses
- “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) // DoP: Sean Bobbit // ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, Hasselblad DNA LF lenses
- “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) // DoP: Newton Thomas Sigel // ARRI ALEXA LF, ARRI ALEXA Mini, ARRIFLEX 416, Hasselblad DNA LF lenses, Angenieux Optiomo lenses, Canon 11-165mm Zoom, Zeiss Super Speed lenses
- “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) // DoP: Tami Reiker
- “Tenet” (Warner Bros.) // DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema // ARRIFLEX 765, IMAX MKIII, IMAX MKIV, IMAX MSM 9802, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio, Panavision Sphero 65 and System 65 lenses, Hasselblad lenses
- “Minari” (A24) // DoP: Lachlan Milne // ARRI ALEXA Mini, Panvision PVintage lenses
- “News of the World” (Universal Pictures) // DoP: Dariusz Wolski // ARRI ALEXA LF, ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, Panavision Sphero 65 lenses
- “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) // DoP: Phedon Papamichael // ARRI ALKEXA LF, Panavision C- and T- series lenses
For the full 30-entry list, please head over to Variety magazine.
Observations on the 2021 Oscars
There are some facts hidden in this list that I think are worth mentioning. First, the rise of streaming services seems to be unstoppable. There are four Netflix releases on this top ten list and one from Amazon Studios. This represents 50% of the top ten nominees for the 2021 Oscars in the category “Best Cinematography”. This is of course at least partly due to the fact that a lot of cinemas are closed because of the ongoing pandemic.
Second, there is only one feature film on this list that was shot with a RED camera, but admittedly it is at the top of the list. The vast majority of the feature films listed above were shot with ARRI camera systems. Some Panavision and IMAX systems were also used. But other brands like Canon or Sony (VENICE) are completely absent from this list. To be fair, Sony VENICE appears three times further down in the top 30 list. RED systems appear one more time.
The dominant camera brand is therefore, as in previous Acadamdy Awards, ARRI. As explained in Jeff Loch’s opinion piece on whether camera technology is blinding us, he wrote that the cost of the camera package is virtually negligible for a feature film with a large budget. And I think this becomes very obvious in the list above. If you have the funds, why would you be so crazy to experiment? Just get the most trustworthy and prestigious camera you can get, and that just seems to be an ARRI ALEXA.
The question is: Can any of the other manufacturers come up with something that can really compete with ARRI’s dominance in the high-end feature film business? At this stage I doubt it.
Which feature film will make the race for the 2021 Oscars in “Best Cinematography”? Share your thoughts in the comments below!