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The Academy Award for Best Cinematography is an Academy Award awarded each year to a cinematographer for work in one particular motion picture.

In its first year, 1927-28, this award (like others such as the acting awards) was not tied to a specific film; all of the work by the nominated cinematographers during the qualifying period was listed after their names. The problem with this system became obvious the first year, since Karl Struss and Charles Rosher were nominated for their work together on Sunrise but three other films shot individually by either Rosher or Struss were also listed as part of the nomination. The second year, 1928-29, there were no nominations at all, although the Academy has a list of unofficial titles which were under consideration by the Board of Judges. In the third year, 1929-30, films, not cinematographers, were nominated, and the final award did not show the cinematographer's name.

Finally, for the 1931 awards, the modern system in which individuals are nominated for a single film each was adopted in all profession-related categories. From 1939 to 1967 (with the single exception of 1957), there were also separate awards for color and for black-and-white cinematography. Since then, the only black-and-white film to win is Schindler's List (1993).

Floyd Crosby won the last Academy Award to go to a silent film for Tabu in 1931. Hal Mohr won the only write-in Academy Award ever, in 1935 for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mohr was also the first person to win for both black and white and color cinematography.

No winners are lost, although some of the earliest nominees (and of the unofficial nominees of 1928-29) are lost, including The Devil Dancer (1927), The Magic Flame (1927), and Four Devils (1928). The Right To Love (1930) is incomplete, and Sadie Thompson (1927) is incomplete and partially reconstructed with stills.

1920s



1930s

Note: This was and still is the only time in the history of the Academy Awards that a write-in candidate won in any category: Mohr had not been nominated by his fellow cinematographers, but won the award on the strength of an overwhelming write-in campaign by the full membership.
From 1939, there were separate awards for Black and White and for Color:

1940s



1950s

For 1957, there was a single award: From 1958, there were separate awards for Black and White and for Color:

1960s



From 1967, there was a single award again:





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