Many people consider Roger Deakins, whose credits include No Country for Old Men, Sicario, The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, Sid and Nancy, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, one of the greatest living cinematographers. But until tonight, he was better known to people not accustomed to sitting through the movie credits for being one of the Academy Awards’ most frequent losers. Deakins was nominated for Best Cinematography 13 times between 1995 and 2017, including twice in 2008 alone, yet he’d never actually won. Luckily, the 14th time was the charm: Deakins finally took home his first Oscar tonight, for Blade Runner 2049.
Deakins’ charming acceptance speech also demonstrated the self-effacing quality that has made him one of Hollywood’s most revered but least-awarded directors of photography. He’s so skilled at serving the needs of each individual film that he never makes you stop and admire an individual shot when you’re meant to be watching a movie. (He’s been a lifesaver for Joel and Ethan Coen, for whom he’s shot nearly every movie since the mid-1990s, taking the edge off their penchant for self-conscious stylization.) His three-film collaboration with Denis Villeneuve, with Prisoners, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049, has pushed Deakins into slightly more flamboyant territory, and with the latter’s $150 million-plus, he was able to paint on a truly grand canvas, making his own mark even when following up one of the most visually influential movies of all time.
Last year, the Academy broke its longest-ever drought when it gave 21-time nominee Kevin O’Connell his first Oscar for sound mixing, so perhaps it’s yet one more way the voters’ longtime habits are finally shifting. Just hold on, 17-time sound mixing nominee Greg P. Russell. Your day will come.