Friday, December 10, 2010

Oscars Visual FX Finalists: Love of Teal & Orange Light Shows Continues Unabated

The Academy's visual effects branch has released its list of finalists for the eventual nominations. For the first year the category will be five-wide. It had always been limited to three nominees in previous years. Given how much of modern cinema is f/x driven, the expansion makes sense. But their finalist-list only serve to remind us that the category, which is technically called Achievement in Visual Effects really ought to be retitled Biggest Computer Generated Imagery. It's hard to find 5 worthy* nominees from this list, isn't it?

Commentary and the list after the jump.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Last Airbender
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Shutter Island
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Tron: Legacy
  • Unstoppable

*And by worthy, we mean 5 extraordinary efforts rather than 5 adequate CGI spectacles. No one was really pushing the boundaries this year, were they? Other than maybe the team on Inception (an easy call for the win.) Didn't at least a couple of these films even get dinged in reviews for sloppy effects moments? At the very least this list proves that cheap 3D conversions of 2D films doesn't bother the Academy. And when you're honoring "excellence", shouldn't you be concerned about that sort of thing. I am guessing that James Cameron would not approve.

Animated features are not ineligible for this prize yet an animated feature has never been nominated. I don't know much about visual effects so consider this me talking out of my ass... but my ass would like you to know that the visual effects in Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon impressed its sweet cheeks more than some of these films did.


Glenn said...

In terms of animated films I'd say Megamind (despite being far worse than TS3 and Dragon) had some great ones. Although I'm not that sure of how the visual effects in computer animated films work? Where's the line between merely computer designed animation and computer designed effects?

I hate that they've expanded this category and then couldn't even bother putting stuff like Monsters or, crazy as it may sound, Enter the Void onto the list. Only those sort of left field choices (previous years could include Eternal Sunshine, Frida...) could make me care about a visual effects category with 5 nominees. As it is they're just giving the chance for more bad movies to get called "Oscar nominee!"

James T said...

I don't know if I agree with your ass or not but isn't every animated movie one big visual effect? I might be wrong, of course.

Example: If you consider the cartoons in Who Framed... visual FX, why isolate something in a 100% animated film?


James T -- good point but they've previously had ratatouille on their short list so the F/X people must know something my ass doesn't about animated films having special f/x

Glenn -- that's so true. The only non light show CGI fest here is Shutter Island, right? (and maybe unstoppable -- i haven't seen that one) Oh and I guess INCEPTION which is just the mammoth future winner.

BeRightBack said...

The Last Airbender? Really?

Roger Ebert, what did you think?

Since "Airbender" involves the human manipulation of the forces of air, earth, water and fire, there is hardly an event that can be rendered plausibly in live action. That said, its special effects are atrocious. The first time the waterbender Katara summons a globe of water, which then splashes (offscreen) on her brother Sokka, he doesn't even get wet. Firebenders' flames don't seem to really burn, and so on.

MJS said...

Seems like they just nominated the top fifteen highest grossing movies that could be said to clearly have effects...

Nate B. said...

Wasn't The Nightmare Before Christmas nominated for Best Visual Effects? Of course this was before they had the animated category.

adam k. said...

Isn't Tron: Legacy kind of uber-effects-heavy and aspiring to be an event film? I would assume that if it does well, it could take the trophy away from Inception. I was not overly impressed by the effects in the latter, to be honest. I'm usually a fan of the "less is more" brand of visual FX, but the overall look of that film did very little for me. I don't understand why the cinematography is being so praised either. I did like the music a lot, though, for the most part. Though I remember the action music being uninspired.

My favorite effects were probably those in Scott Pilgrim vs the World, actually. Maybe not technically groundbreaking, but truly creative, memorable, and fun.

adam k. said...

That said, I'd put my money on:

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter
Iron Man 2
Tron: Legacy

/3rtfu11 said...

The color scheme you described reminds me of the ending of T2. I’ve been watching it religiously since getting my first HDMI cable!


oh adam -- "creative memorable and fun" is no way to vote on BEST.

(kidding! obviously creative and memorable and fun are IDEAL reasons to vote for visual effects in a fun comedy movie. too bad they don't think that way.)

Jin said...

We had 5 nominees in 1979 for visual effects. The nominees were Alien, The Black Hole, Moonraker, 1941 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Anyway I'd go with Inception, even though visual effects in that movie looks minor in comparison to other finalists.

Unknown said...

I would love for Scott Pilgrim to get nominated. In terms of the actual technique they were nothing special, but Edgar Wright used effects to make a totally new type of movie. It's the best hybrid of film and video game I have ever seen and perhaps will ever see. If only the writing could have held up all the way to the end...

Alex Constantin said...

Clash of the Titans???
that's funny. and sad.

The Social Network should've definitely been there. I shamefully admit not knowing that Armie Hammer (an actor unfamiliar to me) didn't actually have a twin brother :D yet, I did ask myself: how did they find 2 gorgeous identical brothers so easily?


alex -- yeah i didn't know it wasn't twins acting either when i saw the NYFF premiere. but there's plenty of gorgeous identical twins in the world. :) i thought that was a weird complaint that Fincher had that he couldn't find twins. It's like when poeple are making a musical and they're all "it's really hard to find people who can sing, dance and act" um. it's not. There are a ton of them. You're just not looking.

Mierzwiak said...

I love "invisible" special effects, but Academy doesn't think that way.

I can tell you winner right now - TRON: Legacy.

As for other nominations, they're pretty obvious (?):
- Alice in Wonderland
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
- Inception
- Iron Man 2

Alice will be nominated, but it shouldn't be. Everything in this movie looks fake and plastic. The only good effect was Helena Bonham Carter's head, but it's nothing new, they did the same thing with Martin Short over 10 years ago:

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

My money's on

Harry Potter
Tron: Legacy
Alice in Wonderland
Iron Man 2

with Inception or Harry Potter taking home the prize.

Dimitra said...

The trophy is between Inception and Tron:Legacy, no doubt about it.

The Last Airbender?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...that was a good one...

Volvagia said...

What should happen is: CGIsmiths field a list of 30, toss that list to the cinemtography branch (they should know what's beautiful and groundbreaking) to narrow down to 15 and then vote on that list. (The Sorcerer's Apprentice? REALLY? That looked really ugly. Not "adequate." UGLY.) VFX, which should be about how beautiful the film looks and how it progresses the field, should, as a category, be an interplay between the cinematographers and the aforementioned CGIsmiths. Probably over half the list wouldn't live through that. (Narnia, Clash, Hereafter, Airbender, Lightning Thief, Persia, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Unstoppable, Iron Man 2, HP7, Alice in Wonderland and maybe even Tron: Legacy.) Of course, no question Scott Pilgrim should be the winner at this point. (Inception v. Scott Pilgrim v. Shutter Island. Inception: Effects look mostly standard except for the folding city. The other major thing was accomplished with hydraulics. Scott Pilgrim: Unique, fun, universe creating effects popping up every second. A free flowing comic-book/video-game aestethic. Shutter Island: A few explosions and the occasional basic dream sequence effects set, near as I can tell. What's so special?