Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
*Mauro Fiore, Avatar
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Richardson, the only American in this group, is a star cinematographer: he's illuminated the films of Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese as well as Tarantino, earning five nominations and two Oscars, for JFK and The Aviator. Ackroyd, from England, does gritty up grand, mostly for Ken Loach's miserabilist films, and nailed the heat, dust and smoldering threat of bomb-cratered Baghdad in The Hurt Locker. (Ackroyd's work on the new Green Zone, another Baghdad-set action drama, is even more spectacular.) Berger, an Austrian, was a dark-horse winner of this year's award from the American Society of Cinematographers for his symphonic black-and-white portraiture in The White Ribbon, which was just the second foreign-language film to take the ASC prize. Fiore has never been nominated, and the Academy members may wonder whether Avatar even suits this category when most of its imagery was computer-generated, but if they're thinking about the grandest, best-looking picture of the year, they have to pick the Pandorans.
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