Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant. What do these three brilliant films have in common? Answer: they all share the same cinematographer, Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki, who just won his third Academy Award in a row. That’s a pretty huge achievement, yet with all the talk being about Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an Oscar, Lubezki’s historic achievement has been largely overlooked.
While cinematography might not be one of the most high profile awards handed out on Oscar night, it seems to me that considering the calibre of films that Lubezki has been working on and the fact that he has become the first cinematographer to win the award for Best Cinematography three years in a row, ‘Chivo’ needs some more recognition.
he has become the first cinematographer to win the award for Best Cinematography three years in a row
Cinematography is a complex art and in each of the past three years Lubezki has shown that he is the master of this art. The cinematographer, alongside the director, is responsible for every shot we see in the film, from the vast emptiness of space to the harsh snowy wilderness Lubezki has captured it all with stunning beauty.
With the first film of his winning triumvirate, Gravity, Lubezki placed the audience in the vast majesty of the cosmos and made us feel as if we were experiencing zero gravity, yet, with seamless camera work he was able to put us inside the space helmets of the lead characters and create moments of extreme tension. The juxtaposition between the huge expanses of space and the intimacy one felt with Sandra Bullock’s character in particular was what made the film so gripping and Lubezki was central to this.
The second film for which Lubezki won an Oscar was an altogether different challenge. Birdman, was shot as if it was one continuous take, which presents huge challenges for actors and cinematographers alike. With this style of shooting there is no room for mistakes, camera movements have to be planned meticulously in advance and one mistake can ruin an entire sequence. Lubezki’s camera flowed seamlessly as we picked up one character and left another, the film was a refreshing answer to the fast cut editing that has become the norm for modern Hollywood. Lubezki and the film’s director Alejandro González Iñárritu, deserved an Oscar for sheer bravery alone, the fact that they managed to execute this style so perfectly, made their wins beyond reproach.
Lubezki has shown us that he is one of the great visionaries working in modern cinema.
The final effort of Lubezki’s award winning trio was arguably his greatest accomplishment. Anyone who has seen The Revenant could not help but marvel at the films stunning vistas. Using only natural light, Lubezki managed to capture both the beauty and brutality of the films landscape. We experienced the cold alongside Leo and the bear fight sequence is surely one of the most amazing cinematic moments of recent years. The film was in a battle with the elements and yet Lubezki again managed to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to create something special. If you have not yet seen The Revenant I would urge you to search it out while it is still in cinemas, it is a film that reminds us what is so great about seeing a film on the big screen, no tablet or computer could do it justice.
Over the past three years Emmanuel Lubezki has shown us that he is one of the great visionaries working in modern cinema. He is unafraid to go against the status quo and has shown audiences things they could never have imagined. He deserves unending praise for what he has accomplished and hopefully in time he will get the wider recognition he deserves. Sure winning one Oscar is good, but winning three in a row, that’s a proper achievement.