How Historic Will It Be If Emmanuel Lubezki Wins His 3rd Straight Oscar?

Lubezki celebrates with one of his Oscars. Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Images

On Sunday night, Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki will likely cement his reputation as one of the finest cinematographers working today: After Oscar wins in the last two years for Gravity and Birdman, the Mexican DP is widely expected to pick up his third Best Cinematography trophy in a row for The Revenant. (GoldDerby has him at a 92 percent chance at winning.) In terms of pure critical respect, Lubezki is already at the top of his field; his long, wide-angle tracking shots have become as much of a cinematographer's trademark as Vittorio Storaro's shadows and Roger Deakins's silhouettes. But in terms of Oscars history, a win on Sunday would make him part of three fairly exclusive clubs. Let's examine them.

People Who Have Won Three Oscars
In Academy Awards history there have been 110 three-time winners, so it's not that uncommon. Even so, if Lubezki wins his third on Sunday night, he'll jump to a spot in Oscar history alongside such legends as Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis, and his Revenant director Alejandro Iñárritu. (Unless, that is, Iñárritu takes home another trophy a few minutes later.) He's likely not going to manage to beat the all-time Oscar champ, though: That's Walt Disney, whose 22 trophies are likely to remain the record for quite some time

People Who Have Won Three Cinematography Oscars
The 51-year-old Lubezki has a solid chance at finishing his career as the most decorated cinematographer in Oscar history, as a win for The Revenant would put him equal with Storaro and the six other DPs who are tied for second place in the Oscar rankings. One more would put him on top alongside Golden Age of Hollywood cinematographers Leon Shamroy and Joseph Ruttenberg, who share the record with four. He's got 20-odd years to do it; don't bet against him.

People Who Have Won Three Oscars in a Row
Really, when we talk about Lubezki's achievement we're mostly talking about the streak. How hard is it to keep an Oscar streak alive? Very. Lubezki is already one of a select group of 21 people who have won consecutive Oscars, a diverse group that includes Katharine Hepburn, Alan Menken, and Tom Hanks. (Joseph Mankiewicz, incredibly, is among them twice over, winning back-to-back Oscars for both writing and directing A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.) 

But if Lubezki were to triumph on Sunday night, the cinematographer would enter truly rarified air: Only six people have kept their Oscar streak alive for a third year. Two of them are visual-effects artists Jim Rygiel and Randall William Cook, who won a trio of Oscars together for the Lord of the Rings films. Costume designer Edith Head and art director Cedric Gibbons both went three-in-a-row in the early '50s, while Tom and Jerry producer Fred Quimby managed the astounding feat of winning for four consecutive years in the '40s. (Oscar voters loved Tom and Jerry.)

But the streak record is held, once again, by Walt Disney, who won eight consecutive Oscars for animated shorts in the 1930s, plus two special awards in that run for his contributions to film. To beat that record, Lubezki would have to hope the Academy smiles upon his next movie, Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups, which comes out in March — and then a new film of his each year until 2021. He's going to need a lot of long takes.