Friday, January 04, 2008

F/Xtra F/Xtra...

As many readers already know some less publicized Oscar categories have what’s referred to as “bake offs” in which the field of potential nominees is whittled down by committee. In some cases the remaining candidates show ‘vote for me!’ best-of clip reels before nominating members of the AMPAS vote for the official Oscar Nominee shortlist. Varying methods of this winnowing process happen in categories such as makeup and effects. Recently the always hotly debated foreign film category adopted the semi-finals game.

This year in Visual Effects (the one category that annually rewards the biggest blockbusters) seven finalists have survived the bakeoffs. Three of the following will be named nominees by the end of January.

300
The Bourne Ultimatum
Evan Almighty
<---The Golden Compass
I Am Legend
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Transformers


Did you just doze off? Are you nodding your head with sleepy eyes in awards fatigue induced apathy.
A little context might help wake you up. It’s far more interesting to view these finalists through the prism of what's already been vetoed. AMPAS voters wisely ignored the tacky CGI fests that were The Rise of the Silver Surfer and Stardust (neither of which made the semi-finals) . But among the semi-finalists that did not make the finals what is it that Spider-Man 3, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ratatouille, Beowulf, Sunshine, Live Free or Die Hard and National Treasure: Book of Secrets and The Waterhorse: Legend or the Deep are lacking in relation to um... Evan Almighty?

Some of the rejected are givens. Few probably want to hear Waterhorse with a preface like "The Oscar Nominated..." But among the booted eight are some eye-popping wonders. What, pray tell, is lacking in Sunshine's visuals? Nothing I'd argue. Animated films never fare well here but my guess is Pixar's annual advancements in the CG Animation medium are statue worthy. It's nice to see old school effects like Bourne Ultimatum in the running but given the complete Casino Royale shut out last year, Bourne enthusiasts shouldn't get their hopes up.

And while we're on the subject of bake-offs, wouldn't it be great to have "best of" clip reels for all the categories for voters to ponder. Or, since 2007 cinema has been so retrograde about gender politics, how about a literal bake off for Best Actress. Angelina Jolie is an awesome movie star and humanitarian but can she bake a cherry pie?

14 comments:

J.D. said...

How the hell did Evan Almighty get in over OotP?! That makes even less sense than their Eragon > The Fountain theory last year! :(

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh man, I Am Legend? The practical effects (the bridge and NYC and such) were good, but those monsters? Christ almight they were woefully done. They just looked like the cover of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Yay for the lack of Spider-Man 3, purely because I want to see it get zero nominations as punishment for being complete dirge.

Also, the moment the visual effects of Sunshine started to completely take over was the moment the movie plummetted to depths of mediocrity.

Kamikaze Camel said...

almighty*

ML said...

Ouch for Spider-Man 3 and Harry Potter 5...

17 Year Old Blogger said...

I am Legend special effects were very good. I read that they had to take people off the streets who wandered into the set during shooting. They had to "age" New York a couple of years. The Times Square looked very good and real with the old posters and billboards. It does deserve to be there but not to be nominated. I think it should end up like this:

Golden Compass
Transformers
Pirates 3

NATHANIEL R said...

well I think that's how it WILL end up. whether or not it "should" is another matter ;)

i don't much like the film but 300 seems like a more worthwhile thing to honor in f/x than pirates of the caribbean...

Kurtis11 said...

Julie Christie would slaughter the competition. She probably has a few grandchildren, and she's had quite a few more birthdays than anyone else in the running for Actress '07. That's a lot of cake.

Luke said...

It's nice to see a nod to Bourne but I am surprised Die Hard didn't beat it as far as old school FX go.

300 has no business being nominated. In my book award-worthy effects should work in context of the rest of the film (in addition to being jaw-dropping). And 300 is so unashamedly a style-over-content project. Honouring its tacky slow-motion sequences would be akin to nominating its music for being loud.

NATHANIEL R said...

Luke, you just insured its nomination! For what more common reason is there to nominate scores or sound than unmissable intrusive LOUDNESS

Anonymous said...

Ugh...once again Nathaniel knows best :) I continued to predict Transformers/Spidey/Pirates throughout the whole year and didn't listen to nat :P... well...

1. Transformers (LOCK) (based on like its own merits)
2. Pirates of the Caribbean (based on POTC 1 and 2)
3/4. The Golden Compass (based on Narnia and to a lesser extend LOTR) / 300 (based on actually nothing :P)(not sure yet how these two go)
5. I Am Legend (based on I, Robot and What dreams may come - in regards to the CG sets)
6. Evan Almighty (based on Night at the Museum being a finalist last yr)
7. The Bourne Ultimatum (based on Casino Royale as a finalist last year)

Still, I'm sad this year's most imaginatve if not as breathtaking as these massive CG megaproductions effects: those of Across the Universe were totally shut out from the competition from the start. This year's Eternal Sunshine

Anonymous said...

I'm just disappointed that "Ratatouille" and "Beowulf" didn't make it farther in the competition. Animated films deserve a shot at the grown up's table as much as those other films listed, and it would have been a nice statement for voters to make here that animated films can be taken out of the animation ghetto every now and then and compete with the live-actions. And even if voters are still iffy about motion capture (it's an acquired taste I guess), it has to mean something more than seeing some animals building an ark.

Anonymous said...

I loved "300", so I'll be rooting for that to be nominated here and win. But "Transformers" is winning regardless though.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I fully expect I Am Legend to be nominated actually. Hello! They nominated Narnia with it's low-grade effects. Legend is one of the years biggest films, has a lot of effects (the whole film is an effect, basically).

Remember when they passed over Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow for I, Robot? A green-screen film beaten by a Will Smith sci-fi flick? Hmm...

Luke said...

Kamikaze, I believe the full name of this genre is "Will Smith sci-fi flick butchering an acclaimed piece of sci-fi literature".