6 Lesser-Known Triumphs By Celebrated DP Roger Deakins
This past weekend was a good one for celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins. He took home both the British Academy of Film and Television Award for Best Cinematography and the American Society of Cinematographers award, both for his work on Skyfall. They're two more accolades for a man who has a ton of them — though, curiously, despite eleven career nominations, he's never taken home an Oscar. Perhaps this is the year.
Anyway, despite a career filled with iconic work — most often in service of the Coen Brothers or Sam Mendes — Deakins still has a handful of less heralded films on his C.V. Here's a quick look at some of the Roger Deakins movies you might not normally think of when you think of Roger Deakins.
Passion Fish (1992)
John Sayles used Deakins's skill with light to create murky interiors for Mary McDonnell's boarded-up recluse. The film was praised for its screenplay and acting, but you can see signs of Deakins's underrated work with domesticity he'd replicate in Revolutionary Road and the Gunderson scenes from Fargo.
The Secret Garden (1993)
Underrewarded in all aspects, The Secret Garden might be the film where Deakins was called upon to do the most world-building of his career. It's enough to make you wish he'd give prestige dramas a rest and give children's drama another shot.
The Siege (1998)
In 1998, American cinema was really only guessing as to what a post-terrorist-attack America would look like. Like the Bush administration on crack, is basically what Edward Zwick's unsubtle action-drama posited. Deakins delivered handsome, unshowy work on what ended up being a mere potboiler, but a deficit of artistic merit in the film itself doesn't degrade how phenomenal Deakins made it look.
Anywhere But Here (1999)
Probably the biggest anomaly in the Deakins filmography, this story of single mother (Susan Sarandon) and exasperated daughter (Natalie Portman) starting their life anew in Beverly Hills looks appropriately sun-kissed. There's a space in the cinematic landscape for Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman to look beautiful and have romantic misadventures, and I'm glad Roger Deakins got in on that action at least once.
In Time (2011)
Defending this one is tough, but you can see what would appeal to Deakins with this a futuristic story about an America populated solely by beautiful young actors. In practice, the film is a dreadful bore, best serving as a reminder to the viewer that he or she could be watching Gattaca right now.
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Not sure how a film can be a disappointment with three Oscar nominations? Here's how! This was supposed to be Jennifer Connelly's big lead-actress arthouse breakthrough but it didn't turn out that way. Still, Ben Kingsley and Shoreh Aghdashloo richly deserved their nominations, and more importantly to our purposes, the film looks like a million bucks. So chilly and severe, without resorting to literal sand-and-fog imagery.
Hopefully Deakins will get that Oscar this year. Everyone seems to agree it's long overdue.
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