Oscar History

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Visual Effects Finalists: Superheroes Rule, Subtlety Drools

Yesterday the finalists for Oscar's Visual Effects prize were announced. In the end there will be five nominees but for the next month ten films can dream of winning the nomination before the great culling on January 10th, 2013. Once again we see a preference for computer generated imagery with only Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises as obvious examples of films which tried mightily to rely on in-camera practical effects and stunt work. At a recent "Evening With Christopher Nolan" here in NYC (more soon) Nolan revealed his preference for in camera work with computers relegated to touch up work. 

Did you know that that infamous collapsing football field that led into the seige of Gotham was actually, in part, a collapsing football field (!) and not a figment of a computer artists imagination!? 

Snubs: Generally speaking you can expect the more subtle fx work to be shut out each and every year. This is why Skyfall probably won't be nominated in the end. But my eyes were instantly drawn to the absence of Looper which is a shame, since it's most effectsy sequences, like that finale in the cornfield, were weirdly hypnotic and even the tiny touches like the frequent telekinetics were unfussy and unshowy but totally served the film. Plus, it's a good film which is more than can often be said about nominees in this category. It's also strange, at least in a multi-year context, to see The Impossible miss the finals when Hereafter's less impressive tsunami (in a less impressive film at that) went on to actually be nominated. More traditionally nominatable CG heavy movies shown the door were Battleship, Men in Black III, and Dark Shadows.

Which 50% of the films still standing will prevail? 

still hanging. I hate this film more and more in retrospect.

  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • The Avengers
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • John Carter
  • Life of Pi
  • Prometheus
  • Skyfall
  • Snow White and the Huntsman

Your guess work in the comments, please.

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Reader Comments (16)

Life of Pi for the win. Is the only Best Picture contender. You only give it a C-? Really?? It´s an A like a skyline

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuis

I'm also very surprised that Looper didn't make the cut. If I were to predict the nominees I would say:

Life of Pi - LOCK, deserves to win
The Avengers - LOCK
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Is the standout special effect in The Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield's ass? Because I could get behind... err, I could support that.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Luis - I actually totally agree with Nat's rating on Life of Pi. Don't get me wrong I was impressed by the visuals as much as anyone, but the film itself was mediocre, I thought. So much blatant spirituality and that unbearably feel-good framing device completely threw me off.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

The Avengers
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
Life of Pi

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Prometheus, Life of Pi, and probably The Avengers and TDKR seem likely. Not sure about Cloud Atlas and The Hobbit. I liked Amazing Spider-Man a good bit, but I don't see any chance it gets in here.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

James and Squasher88: Outside of occasional Best Picture nominees, this is maybe the most "pop-hit" category they have, so I'm guessing Cloud Atlas (remember Scott Pilgrim?) and, especially, John Carter were cynically included to help make guessing the nominees a bit easier. Prometheus is unlikely, but possible.
My guess:

The Avengers - Lock, hopefully winner
Life of Pi - Gets in on being the kind of thing Oscar loves. Could be the winner, especially if they've tweaked how the flourscent whale looks.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - As much as I'm betting the Academy won't go hog wild on the tech nods for it, this is such an EASY guess for this category that I'm surprised no one's bit on yet.
The Dark Knight Rises: Blatant tech showcase if ever there was one and a giant hit too. Even if it is "subtle", it's in.
5th slot race: Beyond those four, I think the fifth slot is kind of up for grabs between Skyfall, Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I say:

Life of Pi (Winner)
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Cloud Atlas

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonny

My Top Ten in Order of Likelihood:

1. The Avengers-That gigantic pile of money doesn't guarantee it a win, but it guarantees a nomination.

2. Life of Pi-Best Picture nomination, prestige film, beautiful work-it's a sure thing, and the likely winner (especially considering Hugo won here last year).

3. The Hobbit-Like Volvagia, I'm surprised that more people aren't predicting this. The Harry Potter films kept getting in toward the end-this seems likely as well.

4. Prometheus-Beautiful, with the Ridley Scott-prestige factor, it will be a fine "nominated but has no chance of winning" sort of nominee.

5. The Dark Knight Rises-I'm really undecided between this and Number 6 for the fifth slot, but the Nolan fanboys (there has to be some in the Academy) should help this in. The football field sequence is its clincher.

6. Cloud Atlas-The lack of Box Office has me questioning this one, which otherwise I think would have made it. It's going to land at least one place, even with it being a gigantic flop.

7. Skyfall-If it's scoring a number of places, I could see it happening, but that doesn't seem likely.

8. John Carter-If the VE branch can completely ignore the Box Office, this is strong enough to factor. But they can't completely ignore the Box Office, and I doubt anyone in the industry wants to reward John Carter.

9. The Amazing Spider-Man-As Roark says, there's only one Visual Effect worth mentioning in this film, and unless they have an Oscar for Best Personal Trainer, that's not it.

10. Snow White and the Huntsman-Huh? Really, over Looper or The Impossible?

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life Of Pi, Prometheus.
Hm, John T's Top Five so much look like a natural line-up to me that I have to assume that at least one of them will be replaced, but I can't decide which one and who's next in line. Let's hope that it's not Skyfall, cause one Nolan film with several in-camera effects is enough in this category. Maybe it's The Amazing Spider-Man, but I assume that the visual effect Roark and John believe to have seen in it wasn't even The Amazing Andrew's Ass but the stunt double's ass. Whatever, right now I will probably agree with John that Cloud Atlas is the most likely spoiler and could kick out Prometheus or maybe even The Dark Knight Rises.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I've seen The Avengers, Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi, Prometheus, and Skyfall and my favorite VFx work is Prometheus. Life of Pi was beautiful but a little too CGI-looking for my taste. I expect it will win the Oscar though.

Also, I thought Looper's effects looked extremely cheap so I'm not so sad that it's left off.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Right now, my nominations out of this list would probably be along the lines of:

-Marvel's The Avengers
-The Dark Knight Rises
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

(I'm pretty confident with these three, all being huge movies during the year. The other two slots are harder for me to pick...and although I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man, I really really REALLY hope they don't pick the awful looking Lizard, so I'm definitely actively hoping it doesn't get picked for a more deserving one. Not a bad movie, just bad CGI).

For my last two, I'd probably place my bets on:
-Life of Pi (I keep feeling a "Tree of Life" scenario with Life of Pi)
-Prometheus (I didn't love it as much as I hoped, but the Visuals/Art Direction were the two things that everyone seemed to universally agree were fantastic...so, I think it's in!)

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan M

I've just realized that Chris Corbould, who won this award recently for his work on Inception, was the special effects supervisor on three of this year's finalists: The Dark Knight Rises, John Carter, and Skyfall. The Dark Knight Rises is his fourth film for Christopher Nolan, Skyfall is at least his sixth Bond film as special effects supervisor (save for the fact that it's not a Bond film of course), and the twelfth Bond film he's worked on altogether. His body of work this year probably deserves a nod, but it should be for the Nolan film - which actually is both his best work in 2012 and his best shot at a nom - and not for Disney or the Nolan imitation.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Other than Andrew Garfield, yes... I'm liking Spiderman less and less. But Andrew Garfield. Sigh. I can't bring myself to hate him. Never.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Haven't seen enough of these movies to make predictions entirely on the merits, but prior nominations in this category offer some clues:

• Each Lord of the Rings entry not only was nominated in this category, but won. Advantage: The Hobbit (for a nomination, anyway).
• When there is a Best Picture nominee with a significant visual-effects component, it tends to get nominated. They also tend to win: you have to go back to 1970 to find the last time a non-BP nominee beat a BP nominee in this category (Tora! Tora! Tora! over Patton). Advantage: Life of Pi—but I suspect The Hobbit, too.
• The first three Alien movies were nominated—and the first two won. Advantage: Prometheus.
• For all the superhero movies we've been treated to/assaulted with over the past decade, only Iron Man (2 for 2), Spider-Man (2 for 3), Batman (1 for 2), and Superman (1 for 1) have been nominated.
• Only two James Bond films have ever been nominated in this category, and the last one was Moonraker in 1979. As Nat pointed out earlier on the blog, no Bond film has gotten a nomination for anything in the last 30 years.

Predictions (in descending order): The Hobbit, Life of Pi, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises. Cloud Atlas is first alternate—although I'd personally prefer seeing it on the list ahead of TDKR.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

I'm big visual effects fan and so far the three sequences that impressed me are: the battle on the flying ship from "The Avengers" - the destruction of the football field in "The Dark Knight Rises" a truly kinetic example of pure cinema- and most of ' Prometheus" space hardware had a that hyper real Scott touch.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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