The American Society of Cinematographers has named the three cameramen who will be receiving honorary recognition at next year’s ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards on February 1. So, if Emmanuel Lubezki is as safe a bet as most seem to think in the feature film category, you can start composing the winners lineup already. Dean Cundey, Eduardo Serra and Richard Rawlings, Jr. will all be celebrated for their careers’ work.
Cundey is the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, it’s a nice acknowledgement for a figure who’s been sielined of late. In a career spanning five decades, the 67-year-old California native has brought a distinctive visual pop and sheen to effects-driven mainstream cinema, cutting his teeth on B-horror before breaking through with John Carpenter’s tightly shot “Halloween.” Since then, he’s collaborated with such blockbuster merchants as Steven Spielberg (“Jurassic Park”), Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”) and Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”).
Cundey has twice been nominated for the ASC Award, for “Apollo 13” and Spielberg’s “Hook,” missing out on an Oscar nod on both occasions — somewhat surprisingly, in case of the former film. His lone Oscar nod to date came for the technical tour de force of Zemeckis’ “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”; he lost to “Mississippi Burning.” Lately, however, his gifts have been rather ill-applied: recent credits include “Jack and Jill” and “Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster,” with “Alvin and the Chipmunks 4” in the pipeline. How did it come to that?
“Dean has continually raised the bar with his magnificent imagery, and I”m certain he will continue to do so for many years to come,” said ASC awards chairman Lowell Peterson — it’s hard to apply that statement with complete conviction to his recent filmography, but it’d be great to see a big-league director set him a challenge again.
The ASC’s International Achievement Award, meanwhile, will be presented to 70-year-old Eduardo Serra — one of the deftest light-painters currently in the business. The Portuguese-born cinematographer came to prominence in the French film industry, forming a particularly strong partnership with the director Patrice Leconte, and now maintains a successful career on both sides of the Atlantic.
Multiplex-goers will be most familiar with his work on the last two films in the “Harry Potter” franchise, while he’s recently collaborated with Claude Chabrol and Edward Zwick. But for my money, his two greatest achievements — and it’s not often one can say this — are the two for which he received Oscar nominations: his marbling of skin and Venetian canals in “The Wings of the Dove” (1997) and his extraordinary evocation of Vermeer’s aesthetic in “The Girl With a Pearl Earring” (2003). He lost the awards to “Titanic” and “Master and Commander,” respectively; I’d have given him the win on both occasions.
Somewhat shockingly, Serra has never been nominated by the ASC. (Seriously, how did they pass on “Earring?”) So they kind of owe him one.
The ASC’s third honorary award recipient, Richard Rawlings, Jr., is being recognized for his small-screen work, on such series of “Desperate Housewives,” “L.A. Law,” “Chicago Hope” and “Gilmore Girls.” A four-time Emmy nominee, he received a 1989 ASC win for the series “Paradise.”