TECH SUPPORT: Best Visual Effects — Volume II

Posted by · 12:17 pm · October 22nd, 2009

Sharlto Copley in District 9As more films have been unleashed, the race for the visual effects Oscar now appears clearer than it did three months ago.  I’m starting to feel the race for the final three will really be down to a handful of films.

As I explained in August, a shortlist of seven films will be announced in December or January.  After the branch screens the films, the three nominees will be announced on the same day as all the other categories.  We can expect the nominees to be big budget films – and also big hits, which is why how they perform on release is so important.

Summer titles such as “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” strike me as highly unlikely to survive to the year’s end.  Nor do I believe “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” will able to distinguish itself enough from its predecessors, only one of which was nominated here.

Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” did not have the reliance on visual effects that I thought would be necessary for a nomination and I frankly doubt its chances. “Watchmen,” on the other hand, has slightly more potential in my opinion but still remains almost too innovative for a berth here.

The two summer films which I do fully expect to be in the running had very different critical reception – though I’m not sure if that will determine their fate in this category.  I felt significantly dumber after watching “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” That said, the box office was nothing short of massive, as were the effects.  It’s certainly still among the top contenders.

J. J. Abrams’s “Star Trek,” on the other hand, managed to successfully reboot a franchise that has previously seen success in this category.  Its effects were not as showy as “Transformers” but they were still integral to the film, and very much at the forefront.

2012The film that came from off my radar to the top tier of contenders, however, is Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9.” Every moment of this South African tale was gripping, due in no short part to the exceptional effects.  Blending explosions, the mother ship and convincing aliens at the heart of the film will likely earn it a nomination here in my opinion.

So what still has to show itself?  I’d primarily look to three films.

Roland Emerich’s “2012” will be arriving shortly.  I remain doubtful of the film’s quality (as I’m sure most do).  However, there is no doubt that top-notch visual wizardy will be required to create the disasters on display.  So if it strikes a chord with the public and the Academy, a nomination is possible.

Fundamentally, however, it is James Cameron’s “Avatar” that, despite remaining unseen, seems almost certain to play a prominent role.  From what has been shown, it’s clear visual effects will be at the forefront of the movie and the history of Cameron’s films in this category is impressive, to put it mildly.

Lastly, I’ll speak about “The Lovely Bones.” Like Cameron, Peter Jackson is a master of visual effects.  While this latest effort will likely be more akin to “Heavenly Creatures” than “King Kong” in the effects department, if it becomes a major player, I could see Jackson’s crowd in the race once more.

It’s hard to believe we’re two-thirds of the way through October.  In a few weeks, we’ll be in the midst of awards season.  What are your thoughts on the visual effects race?

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Tech Support

15 responses so far

  • 1 10-22-2009 at 12:27 pm

    Glenn said...

    I’m thinking “Avatar”, “District 9” and “Star Trek” with “Transformers” to miss ala “The Matrix” sequels. Just ’cause.

  • 2 10-22-2009 at 12:29 pm

    al b. said...

    Visual Effects has always been my favorite category, and this year, it will only get more exciting! I definitely see District 9 as the winner here, even more-so than Avatar! The Academy tends to give the award to the more challenging of films in the category (The Matrix over Phantom Menace in 1999 and Golden Compass over Transformers in 2007) so District 9 really is the front runner if the disappointing word of mouth of Avatar is any indication.

  • 3 10-22-2009 at 1:10 pm

    red_wine said...

    Avatar had this in the bag 4 years ago, right at the moment of its conception. The entire movie is one long special effect, with all but 14 shots having some kinda special effect and the majority of the film being entirely computer generated. The sheer amount of special effects is so much that it easily qualifies as animation.

  • 4 10-22-2009 at 1:27 pm

    Loyal said...

    Avatar Avatar Avatar

    I guess District 9 and Star Trek will be nominated as well.

  • 5 10-22-2009 at 2:07 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    there needs to be 5 nominees for this category now for sure, id say lovely bones, avatar, district 9 or wild things

  • 6 10-22-2009 at 3:19 pm

    leocdc said...

    Why can’t be 5 nominations??

    Can somebody explain that to me?

  • 7 10-22-2009 at 4:21 pm

    Brian said...

    Though I’m not at all an effects geek (no offense intended, as I am a geek in many, many other ways), I agree that it is time to extend this category to five nominees. Effects are certainly as relevant to modern filmmaking as is art direction or costuming, both of which I love. One argument against expanding the category could be that all films involve costuming, sound, art direction, etc., but not all involve visual effects. I agree to a point, but I would also argue that while costuming and art direction play a part in all filmmaking, if we are honest, only a few distinct types of film are considered for awards in those categories. There are certainly as many “effects” films as there are “costume” films.

  • 8 10-22-2009 at 5:40 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    I can only echo the sentiment that it’s time this category is expanded to five nominees. There are easily more than five films this year with visual effects that wouldn’t be embarrassing to see nominated. With five slots it’d allow for recognizing unique, artistic visual effects work and not just the three BIG movies too, which generally is the case.

    For example, it’s hard to imagine The Lovely Bones squeezing into the top three even though it could very well include some of the more imaginative uses of visual effects this year. The same with The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

  • 9 10-22-2009 at 8:28 pm

    Morgan said...

    If District 9 is nominated I could see it winning in an upset over Avatar. The harsh unforgiving nature of the near total daylight scenes, the pathos of the creatures’ expressions, and frankly, the ingenuity and skill it took to create this quality of SFX in a fraction of Avatar’s budget, is going to sway more than a few Academy voters. In my opinion this race is between those two films.

  • 10 10-22-2009 at 11:17 pm

    Glenn said...

    Oh FFS. Why do people want every category expanded? Let’s just nominate everything that was moderately good at something!

  • 11 10-22-2009 at 11:35 pm

    al b. said...

    kinda off topic:

    The new Avatar trailer is fantastic! There is a more epic feel to the film, with a little more insight into the actual plot. The visuals look nothing more than spectacular!

  • 12 10-22-2009 at 11:47 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    al b whered you see the new trailer?

  • 13 10-23-2009 at 7:23 am

    al b. said...

    It was showing in front of Saw VI.

  • 14 10-23-2009 at 9:40 am

    Ben M. said...

    My best guess at this point is Avatar to win, with Star Trek and 2012 as the other nominees. Transformers and District 9 are strong contenders as well, while I see films like Harry Potter and Lovely Bones perhaps making the bake-off but missing out on the final cut.

  • 15 10-23-2009 at 4:16 pm

    John said...

    For the first time in a very long while, there are three movies that could easily take this award, STAR TREK, DISTRICT 9, and AVATAR. If AVATAR disappoints, the maligned TRANSFORMERS or the well-liked HARRY POTTER could make the cut.