ASC Awards Salute Artistry
Acclaimed cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, ASC was given top honors for his soulful rendering of "Road to Perdition" on Feb. 16 during the 17th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards in Los Angeles. The award was presented by actress Lucy Liu, who admitted that at one time, she endeavored to become a cinematographer herself. Hall recently died on Jan. 4 at age 76 after complications with cancer. The award was accepted on his behalf by his son, cinematographer Conrad W. Hall ("Panic Room"). Hall previously won the award for "Tequila Sunrise," "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and "American Beauty."
"He had to go out on top," noted Hall about his talented father. "He never really wanted the attention. In his unique and humble way, he would have given all the credit away."
It was an emotional night for many at the event, and presenters like Andy Garcia and Joe Mantegna took moments to reminisce about Hall, who they each worked with on "Jennifer 8" and "Searching for Bobby Fischer," respectively. ASC president Richard Crudo made the exciting announcement that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce will dedicate a star on the Walk of Fame to Hall, one of only five cinematographers to have the same honor. The dedication is slated to take place May 1.
Crudo also gave a special award to a visibly surprised Bob Fisher, a journalist who has remained a long-standing supporter of cinematographers for decades. Fisher has written thousands of articles advocating the craft and artistry for cinematographers and was given a full membership to the ASC for his work, loyalty and friendship through the years.
"I've been so lucky to stumble into writing about these artists...I don't want to talk anymore because I don't want to make a fool out of myself," he said bashfully to a standing ovation.
Bill Butler, ASC whose body of work includes "The Conversation," "Jaws," "Grease" and "Rocky II-IV" was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented by Bill Paxton who directed Butler's recent film "Frailty." Paxton read various notes from directors Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin and Stephen Spielberg, past collaborators with Butler who were unable to make the ceremony. Butler, who was recognizably moved by the adulation of his peers, asked, "Can you believe the ASC for giving me a Lifetime Achievement Award for doing something you love?" He dedicated his award to the many crews and technicians he has worked with throughout his long career. "It's really their work that makes you look good," he pointed out.
Butler also took the opportunity to caution filmmakers about getting sucked into digital hype, citing that it lacked believability. "I look at digital now as when the zoom lens first came out. It wasn't used properly, it was overused and for a while it wasn't used at all until people learned when and how to use it," he said. "I predict digital will go through that same maturation and someday it will grow up."
An Outstanding Award in the episodic television competition was given to Robert Primes, ASC, for his work on the "Wing and Prayer" episode of "MDs." "I hope producers and studios will consider cinematographers when deciding whether to shoot digital or film," said Primes, who shot the winning episode on 24P.
Michael Barrett took home the award for TV movie/pilot/miniseries in broadcast television for the "C.S.I. Miami" pilot titled, "Cross Jurisdiction. "I'm very fortunate to have great collaborators and inspirations," he said. Barrett was also nominated in the episodic competition.
Jeffrey Jur, ASC won the movie/miniseries/pilot competition for cable television for "Last Call." He said, "There's nothing better than recognition from your peers, it's more like recognition from your heroes."
Roger Ebert was given a special award by the organization, it is the first time the ASC has recognized a film critic with such an honor. Despite recent surgery and a swollen mouth, Ebert was excited to accept his award. "This is the one group who can appreciate the imperfections of the human face," he joked. Ebert also recounted a few anecdotes about Haskell Wexler, ASC, who presented the award to him.
The International Achievement Award was presented to Witold Sobocinski, PSC, by Janusz Kaminski, ASC. As the 13th recipient of the award, the Polish cinematographer is the first honoree to hail from Eastern Europe. Kaminski talked about how although many Western audiences have not been exposed to Sobocinski's work, the films "The Wedding" and "Promised Land" had a great impact on him. A soft-spoken Sobocinski mentioned his best friend and son, the late cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski ("Marvin's Room," "Angel Eyes"), in addition to describing the American films he watched in his youth. "As a student I saw ASC behind names and recognized this as quality, artistry and originality," he said.
Veteran television cinematographer Ralph Woolsey, ASC was honored with the Presidents Award and brought the crowd to its feet when presenter Robert Wagner told the audience that 2006 would be the 50th anniversary for Woolsey as an ASC member. "Everyone is my teacher," he said as he thanked the countless crew and vendors during his career.
"You just know when you're getting a Lifetime Achievement Award you can be sure of one thing, you're getting old," said Oscar-nominated director Norman Jewison ("Moonstruck," "Fiddler on the Roof," "In the Heat of the Night"). Jewison was given the Presidents Award -- the only award for non-cinematographers -- and presented by actor Greg Kinnear. With collaborations with some of the best cinematographers in the world (Roger Deakins, Laszlo Kovacs, Wexler), Jewison rejoiced in his fortune to work with such talented filmmakers. "God, just think how lucky I've been!" he exclaimed. He proudly announced his next film "The Statement," would be yet another fruitful filmmaking partnership -- this time with his son Kevin Jewison.
As the night looked to legendary greats in movies, a moment was also taken to acknowledge the future with the John Seitz Heritage Award. Film students Zack Resnicoff of New York University and Masanobu Takayanagi from the American Film Institute both garnered the award.