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Emmanuel Lubezki/THE TREE OF LIFE Tops ASC Awards

The Tree of Life Brad Pitt Jessica Chastain Terrence Malick
Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

Following numerous US-based critics’ citations, Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life has earned him the American Society of Cinematographers’ Award at the ASC’s 26th annual awards. The ceremony was held Sunday night at the Hollywood and Highland Grand Ballroom in Los Angeles.

An Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography, The Tree of Life is a complex family drama starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. The film marked the second time the Mexican-born Lubezki took home the ASC Award; he had previously won for Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006). An earlier ASC nomination for Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) preceded Lubezki two victories.

Additionally, Lubezki has been nominated for five Academy Awards. Besides his three ASC movies, he was also shortlisted for Cuarón’s A Little Princess (1995) and Malick’s The New World. At the Oscars, Lubezki’s work on Children of Men lost out to Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography for Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Since the first ASC Awards 25 years ago, only ten ASC winners have gone on to win the Academy Award as well. They were: Dean Semler for Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990), John Toll for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995), John Seale for Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (1996), Russell Carpenter for James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), and Conrad L. Hall for Sam Mendes’ American Beauty (1999) and Mendes’ Road to Perdition (2002).

Also: Dion Beebe for Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood (2007), Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and Wally Pfister for Inception (2010).

Looking at the list above, the ASC and the Academy have usually chosen the same movie whenever it also happens to be either the year’s Best Picture winner (Dances with Wolves, Braveheart, The English Patient, Titanic, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire) or a Best Picture contender with many nominations (There Will Be Blood and Inception, each with eight nods). That doesn’t bode too well for Lubezki and The Tree of Life.

The other 2012 ASC winners were Jonathan Freeman for the "21" episode of Boardwalk Empire in the One-Hour Episodic Television Series or Pilot category; Martin Ruhe for Page Eight in the Television Movie or Miniseries category; and Michael Weaver for the "Suicide Solution" episode in Californication in the Half-Hour Episodic Series or Pilot category.

In addition, Michael Mann handed Dante Spinotti the Lifetime Achievement Award. Among Spinotti’s movie credits are Mann’s Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, and Public Enemies; plus Fabio Carpi’s Basileus Quartet, Bruce Beresford’s Crimes of the Heart, Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, and Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand and Tower Heist.

And finally, Star Wars and Witness star Harrison Ford received the Board of Governors Award; Francis Kenny (Bean, Scary Movie, the TV series Justified) the President’s award; William Wages (Surface, Burn Notice) the Career Achievement in Television Award; and Fred Godfrey the Bud Stone Award of Distinction.

The Tree of Life photo: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox

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