By Christian Holub
February 09, 2020 at 10:06 PM EST
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Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise: 1917 catapulted into frontrunner status as an award-season latecomer on the back of its impressive one-take filming style. In recognition of that achievement, the Academy just awarded Best Cinematography to Roger Deakins for his work on the WWI film.

Deakins spent his acceptance speech thanking everyone on his camera team, from gaffers to focus-pullers. He ended it by thanking director Sam Mendes on their behalf: “I think they would all want me to say thank you Sam Mendes for the most wonderful experience, we’ll never forget it.

1917 is Deakins’ fourth collaboration with Mendes; he earned a nomination for 2012’s Skyfall, but did not win then. Over the course of a 40-year career, Deakins has established a reputation as one of the best cinematographers in the world. Yet he didn’t win his first Oscar until 2018, for his cinematography work on Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Now it feels like the Academy might be making up for lost time.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As part of the 1917 preview panel at New York Comic Con in October, Deakins explained some of the experience of shooting the movie to look like one continuous shot.

“It was this awesome challenge, and you knew where it was going. After we did a few shots we were like ‘oh that’s really cool.’ And not just for the sake of being cool, it was really immersive,” Deakins said at the panel. “You’re doing a long extended take, the longest takes were probably eight-and-a-half minutes, you’re doing tricky camera things and the guys are doing their performance and everything’s got to be in sync because it’s all a ballet. So you’re doing one hard moment, then another, then another, and you’re almost to the end of the shot and you’re just like ‘oh man, I hope I don’t blow this one!’ Because then it would be all back to the beginning. It was a real trip.”

For his second Oscar, Deakins beat out Rodrigo Prieto (The Irishman), Lawrence Sher (Joker), Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse), and Robert Richardson (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

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1917

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