'Slumdog': ASC shooting star

Drama's cinematography streak rolls on; Nolan gets Governors award

Anthony Dod Mantle's lensing of "Slumdog Millionaire" took the top honor Sunday during the 23rd annual American Society of Cinematographers Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.

Mantle, who also won at the BAFTAs a week earlier, led a competitive field that also included Roger Deakins, a double nominee for "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader"; Chris Menges, also nominated for "Reader"; Claudio Miranda for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; and Wally Pfister for "The Dark Knight."

"Slumdog," like fellow best picture Oscar nominee "Button," was lensed with a combination of digital and film cameras.

"The most important thing is each story has to be told in the right way, and every story can work on different formats if emotionally you know why you are doing what you are doing and stand your ground," Mantle said after the ceremony.

He added that there seems to be "an open-mindedness coming. It does mean that the standards, the definition and the tolerance are going hand in hand."

During the ceremony, Pfister presented his longtime collaborator and "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan with the ASC Board of Governors Award. The honor recognizes contributions to the art of filmmaking.

Nolan and Pfister shot the opening six minutes and several action sequences of "Dark Knight" in the 65mm Imax format, a first for a narrative studio feature. That decision, Pfister said, came from "Chris' love, respect and passion for cinematography. He knows that 65mm film is the highest image-capture medium available. He knows that this is important to an audience — their appetite for the large format helped lead 'The Dark Knight' to an all-time boxoffice record for Imax releases."

Said Nolan: "If I have done anything to be worthy of this, it is working with people who share my love for the high technical standards that have always been the backbone of the filmmaking process. I'm often these days asked to defend my love for film, the medium — that's like a stone mason being asked to defend marble. I love film. The ASC is truly one of the guardians of the standards."

He added: "I defend my position using facts and figures about resolution and bit depth. What you do as cinematographers is not quantifiable, logical or rational. It's hard to explain why it has the effect on us that it does. It is magic, and you are magicians."

Clint Eastwood presented the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award to his collaborator Jack Green. The director of photography has lensed Eastwood films including "Unforgiven," which earned an Oscar nomination for cinematography, "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

The ASC International Achievement Award was given to Donald McAlpine, who has lensed titles including "Moulin Rouge"; the Career Achievement in Television Award was presented to Robert "Bobby" Liu, whose credits include "Lou Grant"; and the Presidents Award was bestowed on Isidore Mankofsky, whose credits include "Love, Lies & Murder."

In the television competitions, Nelson Cragg won in the episodic category for the "For Gedda" installment of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," and David Stockton topped the TV movie/miniseries/pilot category for the pilot of CBS' "Eleventh Hour."

Nathan Levine-Heaney of Florida State University and Aaron Dunson of the University of North Carolina received the Bud Stone Heritage Awards. Each year, the ASC dedicates its student award to the memory of a different cinematographer. This year it broke tradition by dedicating the honor to the late Stone, who was president of Deluxe Laboratories for 18 years.

Deluxe Entertainment president and CEO Cyril Drabinsky made the presentation, remembering Stone as "a friend and guiding light."

The ceremony opened with a montage celebrating the ASC's 90th anniversary. ASC president Daryn Okada said the milestone made this year's awards "especially meaningful. Our cinematographers, through their profound passion and commitment, continue to deliver amazing artistry."

The awards capped a weekend of ASC activities. Plaques were presented to the nominees during Friday's nominees dinner at Twist in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, and the nominees presented several seminars Saturday during the annual ASC open house at Mole-Richardson Co.
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