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The unspoken rule for Oscar-winning cinematography is this: Pretty landscapes win. Veteran Hollywood cameramen know this and privately bemoan it. The late William Fraker once joked that, when location scouting and coming across an especially gorgeous vista, he thought sarcastically, "Well, there's an Oscar in them thar hills!"
But this year, several acclaimed films depict nature as a harsh, unyielding force--a place less of beauty than menace, and a reflection of these films' troubled, challenged characters. In "True Grit," "Get Low," "Winter's Bone" and "The Way Back," the comfort of a pretty picture in nature has been sometimes stunningly replaced by a more muscular, intense and sensorial experience.
"Get Low" cinematographer David Boyd describes the feeling as …