Roger A. Deakins has long been considered one of the best cinematographers in the world, but while he’s being nominated for 13 Oscars, he had yet to win. That changed Sunday night when Deakins won for Achievement in Cinematography for his work on Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
Deakins’ work was up against a number of truly visually arresting films, including the luxuriant photography in The Shape of Water, Hoyte van Hoytema’s visceral IMAX work in Dunkirk, and the atmospheric work of Darkest Hour. Also nominated in the category was Rachel Morrison, for the bleak visuals of Netflix’s film Mudbound. Morrison is the trailblazing cinematographer who was the first woman to be nominated in the category in all of Oscar history.
Taking the stage, a somewhat relieved-looking Deakins thanked the Academy, but immediately stressed that his work in Blade Runner 2049 was a collective effort and the win wasn’t his alone. It was earned by his collaborators and crew, he said, many of whom he’d been working with for decades — though he met some of them for the first time while shooting the film in Budapest.
It’s hard to overstate just how much impact Deakins’ work has had over the course of his career, but hitting upon a few of his previously nominated films can give some idea of the breadth of his work. The filmmaker has been a longtime creative collaborator with the Coen brothers, earning nominations for Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, and True Grit. His first nomination dates back to 1994, for The Shawshank Redemption, and in the years since, he’s also picked up nominations for Skyfall, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Sicario, among others. Deakins’ work has been so widely acclaimed for so long that it had become something of a running joke that he’d never received an Oscar up until this point. Leave it to Blade Runner — a franchise indelibly linked to awe-inspiring imagery — to finally earn Deakins his first Oscar win.