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2024 Oscars: Best Cinematography Predictions

Nominations voting is from January 11–16, 2024, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 23, 2024. Final voting is February 22–27, 2024. And finally, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10, and air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. We update predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.

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For the first time since 2017, the Oscar cinematography nominees match the nominees for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC): the frontrunning “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” Poor Things,” and the surprising “El Conde.” They are represented by cinematographers Hoyte van Hoytema, Rodrigo Prieto, Matthiew Libatique, Robbie Ryan, and Ed Lachman.

Van Hoytema won his first Feature Film prize at the 38th ASC Awards March 3 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, putting him in the Oscar driver’s seat. Significantly, four out of the five Oscar nominees were shot on Kodak film (“El Conde” was the lone digital). This is the first time since 2010, which confirms the importance of analog cinematography to filmmakers (2023 saw more than 60 movies released on film).

In addition, all five films have elements of color and black-and-white, though “El Conde” is all monochrome except for the last sequence. It’s integral to “Oppenheimer’s” overlapping narratives while both “Maestro” and “Poor Things” go from monochrome to color. “Killers of the Flower Moon” boasts authentically simulated black-and-white newsreel footage of the Osage Nation (shot with Martin Scorsese’s 1917 Bell & Howell 2709 camera and Kodak black-and-white Eastman Double-X 5222 film stock).

“Oppenheimer” represents the culmination of van Hoytema’s IMAX collaboration with Christopher Nolan. The duo achieves a new kind of intimate spectacle with this psychological thriller about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the “father of the atomic bomb.” The cinematographer uses the large-format IMAX camera to explore the landscape of faces; namely, Oppenheimer’s in color from his perspective and antagonist Admiral Lewis Strauss’ (Robert Downey Jr.) in black-and-white from his. A shout out to Kodak for engineering 65mm monochromatic film for IMAX at the request of the director and cinematographer. This helped van Hoytema redefine portraits and close-ups in the same 70mm IMAX presentation.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” Scorsese’s tragic historical crime drama, brings out the best in Prieto (previously nominated for “The Irishman,” “Silence,” and “Brokeback Mountain”), who experiments with different photographic looks for visual and emotional impact. It’s about the serial murders of the Osage Indians after oil is discovered on their land in 1920s Oklahoma. Shooting in 35mm, Prieto captures the organic colors of the Osage culture and the beauty of the landscape, the early Autochrome look of the ’20s for scenes involving characters of European descent, and high contrast, dark, and gritty look for the reign of terror.

Bradley Cooper directs and stars in “Maestro,” a sweeping exploration of legendary conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein through the lens of his complicated marriage to Chilean-American actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). Spanning more than 30 years, with Libatique (previously nominated for “A Star Is Born”) shooting the first half in black-and-white and the second half in color (mostly all in 1.33). It’s a bittersweet love story about the couple becoming soulmates and how they later drift apart when Bernstein gets tangled up in contradictions revolving around musical superstardom and his hedonistic double-life with same-sex lovers.

Yargos Lanthimos’ twisted “Frankenstein” gender-bender is a more complex feminist, coming-of-age exploration than “Barbie,” shot by go-to cinematographer Robbie Ryan (previously nominated for “The Favourite”). Bella (Emma Stone), a distraught Victorian woman, commits suicide and is re-animated by iconoclastic scientist Dr. Baxter (Willem Dafoe) with the brain of her unborn child. The first part of her rebirth is shot in expressionistic black-and-white, emphasizing the fish-eye lens to jarringly distort her feral perspective. Then she runs away on a series of whirlwind adventures and sexploits with and without slick and debauched lawyer Duncan (Mark Ruffalo). These are shot in color but especially color-reversal Ektachrome 35mm film. The use of various textures, contrast, and color with different stocks and lenses brilliantly conveys Bella’s bold transformation into a sexually liberated and independent woman way ahead of her time.

Pablo Larraín’s “El Conde” envisions Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as a vampire seeking death in a black comedy, best described as “Nosferatu” meets “Succession.” Lachman (previously nominated for “Carol” and “Far From Heaven”) uses the lighter large-format Alexa Mini LF Monochrome camera (with Orson Welles’ preferred Ultra Baltar lenses) for a brilliant expressionistic black-and-white look that melds the modern with the classical.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

Contenders

Hoyte van Hoytema (“Oppenheimer”)
Rodrigo Prieto (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
Matthiew Libatique (“Maestro”)
Robbie Ryan (“Poor Things”)
Ed Lachman (“El Conde”)

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