Roger Deakins continues to prove he’s the best cinematographer working today

86th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Over at the Cannes Film Festival, the buzz seems to change each and every single day to the fancy new toy, or in this case…movie. Recently, the big exciting debut was Sicario, which got some of the fest’s best reviews a day or two ago. Chief among the praise was the cinematography of Roger Deakins, a legend in his field. He’s my choice for the best Director of Photography in the business right now, and one of the most overdue people in the industry in terms of not having an Oscar on his mantle. Could Sicario give him his first Academy Award win?

When I ran down my picks for the best cinematographers right now in Hollywood, I made Deakins my number one pick. This is what I had to say: “My pick for the best in the business right now, Deakins is the most overdue cinematographer ever, if you ask me. Just look at this partial bit of his resume: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men, Prisoners, The Shawshank Redemption, and Skyfall. That would be more than a career’s worth for many, but that’s just a drop in the bucket for Deakins. It’s a crime that he’s yet to win an Oscar for Best Cinematography, but until that day arrives, this small honor will have to do. He’s going to have an Academy Award eventually though, he’s just too good not to win at some point. (Best work to date: The Shawshank Redemption)” Those words are just as true now, and with another nomination last year in Best Cinematography for Unbroken, he’s getting closer and closer to a win. The Academy will have to acknowledge him at some point, as he’s just too good to ignore, especially with literally a dozen nominations to his credit.

Working with director Denis Villeneuve seems to have really upped his game of late, as they collaborated first on Prisoners (getting Deakins in as the film’s sole Oscar nomination) as well as Sicario over at Cannes. Then, we just learned that they’re teaming up again for a Blade Runner sequel. The thought of Deakins going deep into science fiction is an exciting one to me. That probably won’t break his Oscar losing streak, but he doesn’t lack for opportunities. Again, as the best in the business, it’s only a matter of time. It eventually happened for Emmanuel Lubezki (two fold), so it’ll happen for Deakins as well.

If it’s not going to ultimately be for Sicario (which might just wind up with another nomination), Deakins has some other strong shots over the next few years. There’s the aforementioned sequel to Blade Runner, his next pairing with Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for Hail, Caesar!, and Angelina Jolie’s drama Africa. Working with the Coen Brothers could be his best shot, but even if none of these come to fruition, awards wise, Deakins is never far from another opportunity. He’s in demand and willing to do just about anything once, usually to amazing effect. He’s classy and versatile, making for pretty much the perfect DP if you ask me.

Sicario seems like it’s going to be this year’s version of Zero Dark Thirty, putting it into heavy contention for awards. Of course, that’ll include Deakins, but also Villeneuve for Best Director, Emily Blunt for Best Actress, Josh Brolin and/or Benecio del Toro for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the standard issue Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. As long as that’s the case, Deakins will potentially have another shot at glory, and that’s what really has me looking forward to this one when it drops in September. It’s high up on my 2015 “to see” list, but Deakins really makes it crack the top ten in a big way.

Deakins is a cinematic treasure, so while we wait for the fall to arrive, be sure to check out the best of his cinematography. The Shawshank Redemption is his finest hour, but you can’t go wrong with any combination of that as well as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men, Prisoners, Skyfall, and Unbroken. They all look gorgeous and are a credit to his immense talents. Celebrate him, sit tight for Sicario, and begin to anticipate things like Africa, Blade Runner 2 (or whatever it’s called), and Hail, Caesar! (plus whatever he announces his involvement with next). Deakins is the best we have, plain and simple…

Stay tuned for more on Deakins and his impending campaign for Sicario!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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