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'Skyfall's' Deakins wins ASC: Will overdue Oscar come his way?

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Gold Standard

February 11, 2013|By Glenn Whipp
  • Roger Deakins won the American Society of Cinematographers Award for his work on "Skyfall."
Roger Deakins won the American Society of Cinematographers Award for his… (Francois Duhamel / Columbia…)

Go to Roger Deakins' IMDB page and you'll see that the celebrated cinematographer has won 65 awards. And IMDB hasn't yet updated the page to include Sunday night's victory at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, where he took the top prize for his stellar work on the new Bond movie, "Skyfall."

You might also notice that Deakins has 10 Oscar nominations. Yet none of the 66 trophies and plaques and certificates that Deakins has won over the years for work on such films as "No Country for Old Men," "Revolutionary Road," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and, yes, "The Big Lebowski" have come from the academy. Voters, in the parlance of the latter movie, clearly dig the dude's style, but when push comes to shove, give the Oscar to someone else. Another line from "Lebowski" neatly sums up our reaction: Strong men also cry. Strong ... men ... also ... cry.

Can Deakins break through this year with "Skyfall?" As in the past, there has been no shortage of accolades coming Deakins' way, including an award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. The ASC win Sunday was his third from the group, following "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Man Who Wasn't There." They've also given Deakins a lifetime achievement award, so, clearly, they respect his talent.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2013

As does the cinematographers branch, since 10 Oscar nominations don't come out of nowhere. Deakins' losses over the years with the academy at large have sometimes been defensible (in 2007, voters preferred Robert Elswit and "There Will Be Blood" to "No Country for Old Men" and "Jesse James"), sometimes not (Deakins' sublime, atmospheric black-and-white photography on the Coens' "The Man Who Wasn't There" lost to the first "Lord of the Rings" movie).

This year, Deakins' nomination comes not on a collaboration with the Coens (five of his 10 Oscar nods have come from working with the brothers) or on an indie film, but on a blockbuster. Yet "Skyfall" comes with its own baggage. Bond movies have won a mere two Oscars over the years. "Skyfall's" five Oscar nods could well double that overall total -- Adele's title song is a strong favorite to win -- but the fact that the critically acclaimed commercial hit couldn't break through with a best picture nomination suggests that many academy members still believe the series is beneath them.

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Deakins' primary Oscar competitor is "Life of Pi's" Claudio Miranda, whose blockbuster did receive a best picture nomination. Miranda's work on the Ang Lee film overcame technical challenges to deliver indelible images, and it'd be hard to muster the will to gather pitchforks and torches and storm the academy's headquarters if he won. (And with a BAFTA win yesterday, Miranda remains the odds-on favorite to take the Oscar.)

And yet, the Oscars are as much about timing as anything else, and with Deakins hitting double digits in nominations, the moment certainly feels right for reward. Remembering the wall-to-wall visual splendor present in "Skyfall," you can understand why ASC voters ticked off the box next to Deakins' name. We'll soon learn if academy members follow suit or if, like composer Randy Newman, Deakins will have to wait for the reward that will eventually come his way.

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Glenn Whipp

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