One of the “surprise” nominations Thursday morning that I felt like I saw coming once the BAFTA nominees were revealed was “Ida's” recognition in the Best Cinematography category. Part of my reasoning was that just last year, the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) handed it the organization's inaugural Spotlight Award. If industry cinematographers were still nominating the film a year later (i.e., the BAFTA nod), then surely it still had enough heat to make it in. And so it did. Now, a day later, this year's ASC Spotlight Award nominees have been unveiled.
Once again, a foreign black-and-white film, Finland's “Concrete Night,” is in the mix as director of photography Peter Flinkenberg got a nomination.
Also in play, and what an awesome inclusion, is Darius Khondji for his jaw-droppingly gorgeous work on James Gray's “The Immigrant.”
Rounding things out is Daniel Landin, whose atmospheric work on Jonathan Glazer's “Under the Skin” got its share of precursor recognition this year.
“These nominees have created some of the more inspiring and imaginative visuals our members have seen recently,” ASC Awards Chairman Lowell Peterson said. “We're proud to recognize their innovative work, and we hope at the same time to raise the profile of these films, so more audience have a chance to see their outstanding imagery.”
And that's the goal of the ASC's Spotlight Award. I remember when I first heard that the idea of initiating this honor was being kicked around a few years ago, I thought it was a great idea. The metric is a little bit ambiguous – “to recognize outstanding cinematography in features and documentaries that are typically screened at film festivals, internationally or in limited release” – but I've taken to just considering it a sort of “indie” offshoot of the awards. And why not? Great work like the above deserves recognition from the guild. I only hope that it doesn't become overtly ghettoized, because if something like “Ida” is good enough to be an Oscar nominee, maybe it should be good enough to be a full-on ASC nominee and not merely relegated to a side category. Reality being what it is, though, it's great to have the venue.
Winners of this year's ASC Spotlight Award will be announced alongside all other winners at the 29th annual ASC Awards on Feb. 15.