Best Visual Effects

In interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I’ve decided to dedicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too.  These posts are in the interesting of examining all arena of the Oscar race, even those categories that instinctively draw the urge to visit the fridge when they are handed out.  Today: Visual Effects.

  • Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould for Gravity
  • Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White for The Hobbit: The    Desolation of Smaug
  • Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick for Iron Man 3
  • Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier for The Lone Ranger
  • Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton for Star Trek Into      Darkness.

Of all the technical categories (most of which are admittedly a snore), this is probably the most fun.  It is also one of the oldest – it is among the very few awards still in existence from the very first awards handed out back in 1929.  Then called “Best Engineering Effects”, the first award went to the first film to win the top prize, William Wellman’s “Wings.”  Therefore it is not at all surprising that since the art of the cinema has moved so heavily toward big-budget action-oriented movies, the visual effects get better and better.

The nominees in this category, as with Best Picture, are flexible.  They can range from two to five nominees.  Fortunately, in the past five years, the list has remained solid at five.  The nominees this year range form the sublime (Gravity) to the ridiculous (The Long Ranger), yet they are all perfect examples of their craft.  Choosing the winner is always pretty easy. A a good indicator of a win here is that the past five winners – Life of Pi, Hugo, Inception, Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – have been best Best Picture nominees (but not winners).

Gravity is the only film in this category to be nominated for Best Picture, and was the top nominees at the Visual Effects Society.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the tradition of nominating every leg of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga.  All three of “The Lord of the Rings” films won in this category, but the first installment of The Hobbit last year failed to win here.  Is it just not as popular?

Iron Man 3, like The Hobbit is a regular fixture of this award, yet, like Spider-Man before it, hasn’t won in this category.

The Lone Ranger is this year’s head-scratcher; a nominee in a slot that many felt should have been filled by Pacific Rim.  The fact that the movie was one of the year’s most hated big-budget action pictures makes it even more of a mystery.

Star Trek Into Darkness is nothing surprising as a nominee.  Star Trek does not has as a long history with this award as you might think.  Being a science fiction perennial you are surprised to find that only two previous films – Star Trek The Motion Picture, 2009’s Star Trek – have landed in this category.

Who Will Win: Gravity
Who Should Win: Gravity
Darkhorse:The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects

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Posted by on 01/21/2014 in Blog


In the midst of the hype over the release of The Hunger Games this weekend, I heard a very familiar argument that I have heard over and over on the unending question of whether a book is better than a movie or vice versa.  The release of The Hunger Games, like the release of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings or Twilight seems to raise this question.  The general answer that I hear from most people is always the same: “The book is always better”.  I say “not so fast”.

Movies and books are two totally different mediums.  There are things that you can get from a book that you can’t get from a movie and also there is something that you can get from the movie that you can’t get from the book.  I think the argument is moot, but if you want to find a definite answer to this question, let’s break it down:

The Book
Books offer an intimate form of storytelling by way of simply connecting the author and the reader.  There are no producers, directors or actors in the way.  You can wrap your mind around the story and fall into “a hole in the page” as writers call it.  The vision of the world inside the book is provided only by the limits of your imagination.  Plus, there are narrative structures and background stories that on film might seem slow and boring, or just plain confusing.  The downside is the emotional involvement.  We care about characters and events on the page but you don’t get the fleshed out visual that you can get from a movie.  Plus the community experience isn’t there.  While it is possible to have 100 watching the same thing at the same time, it is impossible to have that same collective experience.  Sure there are book clubs and fan groups, but it just isn’t the same.

The Movie
Movies offer a visual, three-dimensional world in which you can immerse yourself.  They offer a palette that contains a range of emotional content that might come off rather flat on the page.  Plus, you can get a measure of involvement with the characters because of the fact that you can look right into their eyes and you can interpret what they are thinking and feeling.   The downside is that much of the full dimension that you might get from a story or a character is limited by time so that only the essential pieces remain.  Very few films make time to flower our their stories to involved 20 or 30 characters.  There simply isn’t enough time.

What’s your opinion?

Is the Book better than the Movie?

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Posted by on 03/26/2012 in Blog