Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Magnificent Seven ?

"Bake offs" sounds like something the Academy would have asked 1950s candidates for Best Actress to do. But no, it's a term for the winnowing of contestants in various Oscar races prior to the nominations themselves. They almost never go for visual effects that aren't solely computer generated which is why (we presume) that Where the Wild Things Are's fantastic blend of puppets, stunts, sets, makeup effects and CGI didn't place. The seven finalists for Oscar's Best CGI competition also known as best visual effects are:
  • Avatar
    flying dragons, 3D, actors as statuesque blue aliens, spaceships and exo-skeletons
  • District 9
    prawn-like aliens, grotesque transformations, and badass weaponry
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
    sinewy sinister black clouds, frequent apparating, and the usual
  • Star Trek
    world destruction, space drilling, and boldly going where 9 other films had gone before
  • Terminator Salvation
    heavy metal, resurrecting Ahnuld, aerial craziness and a brand new cyborg
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    giant f***ing robots... again
  • 2012
    mass global destruction imagined by sadistic computer artists
Sam Worthington -- the unofficial new mascot of the category!

My predictions for the Oscar nominees are in red. For those of you who've already forgotten what the semi-finalists were, know that those 7 films above were found worthier of effects honors than these eight: Where the Wild Things Are, Sherlock Holmes, GI Joe Rise of Cobra, Watchmen, Angels and Demons and animated pictures Coraline, G-Force and Disney's A Christmas Carol. Do you agree or think this branch need their eyes checked (or their minds opened) before they do any more baking?

Oscar Trivia: Should Avatar win the Oscar for visual effects it will be the 5th James Cameron film to do so: Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2 and Titanic were all winners. And he's only made 8 features. His only film to be nominated that did not win this category was True Lies.


badmotherfucker said...

If there's one good thing I can say about Watchmen, it's that the effects were a cut above.

And you mean to tell me CGI-less movies are eligible? Shame on you, Academy!

Unknown said...

Coraline's visual effects are outstanding simply because they were all accomplished arduously by hand. At the end of the day, the majority of CGI effects start look all the same to me. Coraline did a lot with a very old-fashioned technique, and looked just as good.

District 9 had some of the best CGI I've seen, and it was done on such a (comparatively, especially next to Avatar) small budget.

The clear choice for the award is obviously Avatar, though.

Jake D said...

I don't know, I feel like they did a decent job whittling them down. I wasn't too impressed with the effects in this Harry Potter, so it would have been nice to see Where the Wild Things Are get a slot.

Otherwise, I feel like the best will probably prevail in the end.

Jason H. said...

I agree that snubbing Where the Wild Things Are is atrocious. I wasn't impressed with 2012 or Terminator Salvation's effects, either. Of course Avatar will win, but I'd love to see District 9 win instead for its seamless implementation of the CGI: it was incredibly realistic.

Mike said...

Harry Potter? Seriously? That's just a slap in the face to Where the Wild Things Are. I'm happy as long as Avatar takes the prize though (which it should if I'm not mistaking). Also, The Lovely Bones sure has had its last breath of awards season, hasn't it?

ThaDropDownBear said...

Vaguely off topic but what do you all think of Worthington? I think his accent needs work but he's definetly a decent actor.

Unknown said...

Snubbing Where the Wild Things Are is ridiculous.

My Top 3 would be:

1. Avatar
2. Where the Wild Things Are
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

With major apologies to District 9 and Coraline.

I'm sure some people will disagree with my third-place choice, but I thought Half-Blood Prince's visual effects were, like virtually everything else about the film, a thrilling improvement on the earlier entries in the series. Though I'm sure I've mentioned that before.

crossoverman said...

I think what District 9 managed - CGI aliens in real settings - was in a way more impressive than Avatar's CGI aliens in a CGI setting. Although I guess the realism of Pandora and the Na'Vi are impressive in their own way.

Oh, and there are 10 other Star Trek films apart from the new one.

Anonymous said...

I'm with crossoverman. I was really impressed by the visual effects in District 9.

vv said...

Oops. That Anonymous is me.


ThaDropDown... i like Sam Worthington but haven't seen enough to really know. I thought he was much better in Terminator Salvation than in Avatar though, which is funny because the same isn't true of the films.

Stephen... but should you really win for "most improved?"

Mike... i know. it's hard to imagine that a Peter Jackson film can't even make the visual effects SEMI finals.... let alone the finals.

Andrew K. said...

On Harry Potter, the visuals were subtle and not over the top [like PT 4] and that scene alone with Gambon in the cave was done brilliantly. and i second coraline should have been here. oh well. whatever, right?

BrianZ said...

I'd like throw in my hope for a Star Trek win. Though D9 I think is equally as solid, Trek's amount of effects and there shear seamlessness is damn impressive.

Avatar wins best new technology but I still found it kind of tacky.

Unknown said...

Nathaniel, great point, but I'm not advocating for a Harry Potter win ;-).

I realize I worded that awkwardly, but I really do think Half-Blood Prince is one of the best pictures of the year (it easily makes my Top 5, never mind my Top 10). And I've even revisited it twice on DVD, just to make sure that my reaction wasn't based primarily on my surprise that I enjoyed this installment so much. It seems to be holding up to repeat viewings, and I'm even more convinced that my initial assessment was 'correct' (another awkward word choice - I'm not trying to say that I expect or even desire that others should agree).

2009, to me, is the year of the genre picture. Most of the mainstream dramas underwhelmed me this year, and my Top 5 looks like this:

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Avatar
3. Where the Wild Things Are
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
5. Up

And Sam Raimi is duking it out for the 'lone director' spot in my personal awards with Jane Campion and Lee Daniels. A fun year, though I'll certainly be disappointed come Oscar nom morning. But great movies are their own rewards, no?

Just so I don't come across as a typical 'fanboy', my Top 5 from last year is more indicative of my usual taste, and looks like this:

1. The Wrestler
3. Trouble the Water
4. Hunger
5. Rachel Getting Married

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the Sam Worthington thing at all, but I guess he's here to stay.

crossoverman said...

I wish Worthington hadn't gone straight into blockbuster/special effects driven film. He's actually a wonderful actor, as shown in the two Australian films he made - Australian Rules, Somersault - before he disappeared to Hollywood. In fact, Somersault was on my Top 20 Films of the 00s list.

Lucky said...

I don't know why they're not embracing Watchmen. I know a lot of people didn't like it, but how about Transformers?
I think Watchmen should be in serious consideration for FX and Art Direction, maybe Cinematography and Costume Design, too. Nevermind, I know it's not happening.

Lucky said...

Oh, and I think Worthington's got a contemprary drama alongside Keira Knightley (yep, she's not doing period this time!) coming up, so that could be interesting, we could see what he's got.

Kirby Holt said...

It still baffles me that they are still going with 3 nominees in this category instead of 5 ... there are obviously plenty of contenders every year.

Michael Parsons said...

I would have to say:

Avatar - The biggest (still unseen)
Coraline - The most imaginative
District 9 - Seamless and on a budget
Watchmen - Bought the comic to life
Where The Wild Things Are - The subtlety of character expressions.

Glendon said...

I guess Watchmen's boys in blue never had a chance once Avatar's came out.


Kirby -- agreed. Some categories make sense to limit them but not this one. It makes no damn sense mathemtically speaking that animation should have 5 nominees --which means that roughly 25-30% of the animated films released get nominated! -- and visual effects should have 3 considering the dozens and dozens of movies that use them.

Glendon -- good color chart point!

Scene-Stealers said...

No only was "Where the Wild Things Are" the best movie of the year, but it's so polarizing that the only chances for Oscars are in the technical categories. This snub isn't surprising. Does the nomination then come from the Best Costume category? It's all we can hope for now, I guess...


Scene-Stealers -- the real issue for me with Where the Wild Things Are is CINEMATOGRAPHY. If it doesn't get some attention there I will never ever stop complaining ...until the oscar race is over ;)

it's so aggravating that so many crafts people in the Academy refuse to acknowledge certain people. Lance Acord is AMAZING and they just don't care. ARGH.