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Cinematographers Awards: ‘Tree of Life’ Is Top Film

Emmanuel Lubezki wins for ”Tree of Life.“ ASC Awards predict the Oscars’ cinematography winner about half the time

Emmanuel Lubezki, who has taken home most of this season's cinematography awards for his work on Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," won the feature film award from the American Society of Cinematographers on Sunday night in Hollywood.

The Tree of LifeLubezki won the award once before, for "Children of Men" in 2006. He was considered the odds-on favorite coming into the ceremony, though fellow nominee Guillaume Schiffman won the cinematography award for "The Artist" at the BAFTA Awards earlier on Sunday.

Other feature film nominees included Robert Richardson for "Hugo," Jeff Cronenweth for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and Hoyte van Hoytema for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

Films winning the ASC Award have gone on to win the Oscar about half the time, including five times in the last 10 years. 

Also read: Terrence Malick 'Tree of Life': Get Ready for the 6-Hour Version?

The ASC's three television categories went to Martin Ruhe for "Page Eight" in the motion picture/miniseries category; Jonathan Freeman for "Boardwalk Empire," episode 21, in the one-hour series category; and Michael Weaver for the "Suicide Solution" episode of "Californication" in the half-hour series category.

The American Society of Cinematographers is not a guild or union, but an invitation-only professional organization of about 350 top cinematographers.

The ceremony took place in the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Presenters included Antonio Banderas, Amy Brenneman, Jon Cryer, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller.

The ceremony also featured five honorary awards, a number of spactacular clip reels showcasing the work of nominees and winners, and an equal number of heartfelt but lengthy speeches from the honorees.

The Board of Governors Award was presented to Harrison Ford by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who told a story about encountering Ford just after the actor and pilot landed the helicopter he used to get to and from the set of of "Cowboys & Aliens." When Libatique said, "Nice helicopter," Ford retorted, "Listen, if you get me out early today, I'll fly you home."

(Libatique did, and Ford flew him and director Jov Favreau home.)

In his acceptance speech, Ford talked about the value of good collaborators, including a top cinematographer and "the second most important person on the set, the dolly grip."

Concluded the actor, "There is art and there is craft, and there can be no art without the craft that gets it there."

Dante Spinotti received the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award from director Michael Mann, who remembered a long night late in one shoot when he was trying to finish an enormous number of shots at the end of the film.

At one point, he said, he complained to Spinotti: "Dante, what's going on? Turn down the key [light]s! It's getting too bright!"

The unflappable Spinotti, he said, took a sip of his espresso and said, "Michael, I can't. It's the sun."

Other honorary winners were William Wages (ASC Career Achievement in Television Award), Francis Kenny (ASC Presidents Award) and Fred Godfrey (ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction).

The winners:

Feature Film: Emmanuel Lubezki, "The Tree of Life
Television Episodic Series/Pilot, One Hour: Jonathan Freeman, "Boardwalk Empire," episode "21"
Television Episodic Series/Pilot, Half Hour: Michael Weaver, "Californication," episode "Suicide Solution"
Television Movies/Miniseries: Television motion picture/miniseries: Martin Ruhe, "Page Eight"

Board of Governors Award: Harrison Ford
ASC Lifetime Achievement Award: Dante Spinotti
ASC Career Achievement in Television Award: William Wages
ASC Presidents Award: Francis Kenny
ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction: Fred Godfrey


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