If you've ever been watching a movie and found a particular moment or shot strikingly beautiful, thank the cinematographer. A cinematographer, often credited as the "Director of Photography" (DOP), is the person on set responsible for choosing how the film's image will look- determining camera choice, lens', position, lighting, framing, filters, etc. The cinematographer and director work hand-in-hand to create the distinct look of the film. The weight of the cinematographer's vision varies from director to director- often when a director is confident in his DOP, he'll simply tell him how he wants the film to look and then trust his judgement. This is the relationship between director, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki.
Shot from Tree of Life (2011)
Sometimes known by his nickname, "Chivo" ("Goat" in Spanish) Lubezki has often been heralded as the most celebrated cinematographer to ever live. With a list of visual feats that include, but are not limited to: Sleepy Hollow (1999), Ali (2001), A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Children of Men (2008), Tree of Life (2011), Gravity (2013), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), and The Revenant (2015), there is a distinct stylistic flare and beauty that remains consistent in Lubezki's filmography, despite the film's content or success. In fact, it'd be near impossible to argue that some of the most memorable aspects of many of those films wasn't their image (want to see the brilliance of Chivo's cinematographic skill, but don't have time to watch each film? check out this short compilation of his most stunning shots).
Still from Gravity (2013)
So, why is this especially important right now? 1 month from today, Emmanuel Lubezki will make Oscar history by becoming the first cinematographer to win three consecutive Best Cinematography awards. Walking away from the past two ceremonies with Oscars for Gravity and Birdman, Lubezki looks to three-peat with his nominated magnum opus, The Revenant. As is, he shares the title of "Cinematographer with the most consecutive Oscar wins" with three other expert DOP's: Leon Shamroy, Winton Hoch, and John Toll. The Revenant, with it's vast shots of barren landscapes, extreme closeups of a rugged and emotive LeoDio, and incredible achievement of being shot in all natural lighting, makes Lubezki the clear front-runner in the category; his only competitor being Roger Deakins, for Sicario (2015), who will walk home empty handed for the 13th time in his career.
On the set of The Revenant (2015)