Os­car Watch: Best Visual Ef­fects Con­tenders

Grav­ity

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The short list of visual ef­fects films that will head to the an­nual bake-off won’t be known un­til early in De­cem­ber, but the race is still a hot one that’s prov­ing more even with­out a hugely dom­i­nant film like

was last year. By Tom McLean Di­rec­tor: Marc Webb VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Jerome Chen Ef­fects Houses: Sony Pic­tures Image­works, Pixomondo, Pixel Play­ground, Gener8, Nerve, Blur Stu­dios, Arc, iSolve, Le­gend3D, Method Stu­dios, Flash Film Works, Hand­made Dig­i­tal, Re­liance Me­di­aWorks. Re­lease Date: May 2 Box Of­fice: $ 708m ($ 203m) The Out­look: There was a ton of de­tailed work in this movie: bring­ing Elec­tro to life, an­i­mat­ing the su­per­hero bat­tles and cre­at­ing elab­o­rate dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments — none of which is likely to over­come gen­eral an­tipa­thy to­ward the movie gen­er­ated by its over­stuffed and un­der­whelm­ing story. Di­rec­tor: An­thony and Joe Russo VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Dan Deleeuw Ef­fects Houses: ILM, Base FX, Scan­line VFX, Luma Pic­tures, Trix­ter, Cantina Cre­ative, Per­cep­tion, Lola VFX, the Em­bassy, Whiskytree, Rise Visual Ef­fects Stu­dios, Lo­gan, Sony Pic­tures Image­works, Tech­ni­color, Cap­i­tal T. Re­lease Date: April 4 Box Of­fice: $ 454m ($ 260m) The Out­look: This vi­brant se­quel took un­canny de­tail to a new level with the S. H. I. E. L. D. he­li­car­rier and the ex­ten­sive, ac­ro­batic ac­tion se­quences. The Academy in re­cent years has, how­ever, pre­ferred to re­ward films that use ef­fects for artis­tic ef­fect, which likely will leave the Win­ter Sol­dier out in the cold come Feb. 22. Di­rec­tor: Matt Reeves VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Joe Let­teri, se­nior VFX su­per­vi­sor; Dan Lem­mon, VFX su­per­vi­sor Ef­fects Houses: Weta Dig­i­tal. Re­lease Date: July 11 Box Of­fice: $ 500m ($ 208m) The Out­look: A cer­tain lock for a nom­i­na­tion, due to the amaz­ing job Weta did in cre­at­ing Cae­sar from Andy Serkis’ per­for­mance us­ing the lat­est in mo­tion= cap­ture tech­niques. That wasn’t enough in 2011, when the first film in this se­ries lost out to Hugo, but with two films in con­tention the odds fa­vor Let­teri and Weta. Di­rec­tor: Doug Li­man VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Nick Davis Ef­fects Houses: Sony Pic­tures Image­works, Frame­store, MPC U. K. & Van­cou­ver, Ci­ne­site, Rodeo FX, Nviz­ible. Re­lease Date: June 6 Box Of­fice: $ 369m ($100m) The Out­look: The sci-fi world of this movie is slick and be­liev­able — with the added ben­e­fit of see­ing Tom Cruise’s character die over and over again. The film was a huge hit over­seas but did only so-so in the United States, which in­di­cates the en­thu­si­asm for this film is far from univer­sal.

Di­rec­tor: Gareth Ed­wards VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Jim Ry­giel Ef­fects Houses: MPC, Dou­ble Neg­a­tive, Pixel Pi­rates, Scan­line VFX Van­cou­ver/ Los An­ge­les, Ham­mer­head Prods., Pixel Play­ground.

May 16 Box Of­fice: $ 525m ($ 201m) The Out­look: By far the best up­date from the orig­i­nal idea of the ac­tor in a rub­ber suit stomp­ing on a model town, the ef­fects were put to ex­cel­lent use in telling a story that fi­nally con­nected the way fans al­ways knew Godzilla could. The ef­fects work, how­ever, doesn’t rise to the level of in­no­va­tion the academy prefers to see — and it’s even less likely that they’d honor Godzilla over the more artis­tic win­ners they’ve picked in re­cent years. Di­rec­tor: James Gunn VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Stephane Ceretti Ef­fects Houses: Frame­store, MPC. Luma Pic­tures, Method Stu­dios, Lola VFX, Cantina Cre­ative, Sony Pic­tures Image­works, CoSA VFX, Se­cret Lab, Rise Visual Ef­fects Stu­dios, Tech­ni­color VFX. Re­lease Date: Aug. 1 Box Of­fice: $ 770m ($ 331m) The Out­look: With dig­i­tal char­ac­ters Rocket and Groot steal­ing the show at ev­ery turn, it’s easy to see why that work — plus the rest of the galac­tic can­vas on which the movie takes place — has many prog­nos­ti­ca­tors pre­dict­ing Mar­vel Stu­dios’ first-ever Os­car win this year. Di­rec­tor: Peter Jack­son VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Joe Let­teri Ef­fects Houses: Weta Dig­i­tal. Re­lease Date: Dec. 17 The Out­look: The third time was the charm for Jack­son’s The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy when it came to awards; the same could hap­pen here if the movie de­liv­ers spec­ta­cle on a com­pa­ra­ble scale. The pre­vi­ous two en­tries were nom­i­nated and this one likely will be too, but with The Hob­bit se­ries gen­er­at­ing less en­thu­si­asm than LOTR, will have to be enough. Di­rec­tor: Fran­cis Lawrence VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Charles Gib­son Ef­fects Houses: Dou­ble Neg­a­tive, MPC, the Em­bassy Visual Ef­fects, Scan­line VFX, Pixomondo, Ris­ing Sun Pic­tures, Lola VFX, Whiskytree, Skul­ley Ef­fects. Re­lease Date: Nov. 21 Box Of­fice: $ 285m ($130m)* The Out­look: His­tory doesn’t bode well for this fu­tur­is­tic tale — nei­ther of the pre­vi­ous films were nom­i­nated in this cat­e­gory. And Mock­ing­jay of­fers a lot more sub­tlety in the ef­fects — a fac­tor that could play in its fa­vor, but is un­likely to make a strong enough im­pres­sion to land a nom­i­na­tion. Di­rec­tor: Rob Mar­shall VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Matt John­son Ef­fects Houses: MPC Re­lease Date: Dec. 25 The Out­look: Has the po­ten­tial to outdo Malef­i­cent in the dark fairy-tale mode and the stu­dio is giv­ing it a big awards push. John­son pre­vi­ously won this cat­e­gory in work­ing on The Golden Com­pass, so any­thing is pos­si­ble — just un­know­able un­til the movie is fin­ished and seen. Di­rec­tor: Christo­pher Nolan VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Paul Franklin Ef­fects Houses: Dou­ble Neg­a­tive, New

Deal Stu­dio. Re­lease Date: Nov. 7 Box Of­fice: $ 453m ($122m)* The Out­look: Things look ex­tremely good for In­ter­stel­lar for a num­ber of rea­sons. Not only did Nolan’s last non- Bat­man film, In­cep­tion, win this cat­e­gory, but In­ter­stel­lar’s fidelity to sci­ence and the cre­ative am­bi­tion of the film are ex­actly the type of movie the Academy has been giv­ing out the statue to the past few years. Di­rec­tor: Robert Stromberg VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Carey Vil­le­gas Ef­fects Houses: MPC, Dig­i­tal Do­main, The Se­nate, Method Van­cou­ver Re­lease Date: May 30 Box Of­fice: $ 757m ($ 241m) The Out­look: If there’s a dark horse in the race, it’s Malef­i­cent. Popular, vis­ually am­bi­tious and not a se­quel ( for the most part), the va­ri­ety of ef­fects work could push Malef­i­cent to­ward the top of the list. Di­rec­tor: Dar­ren Aronof­sky VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Ben Snow Ef­fects Houses: ILM, Look Ef­fects, Tech­ni­color, Mr. X Gotham. Re­lease Date: March 28 Box Of­fice: $ 362m ($101m) The Out­look: A ma­jor un­der­dog, the im­pres­sive­ness of the ef­fects work here is un­likely to be enough to jog vot­ers’ mem­o­ries enough to vote for this early-year re­lease. Throw in a mixed crit­i­cal re­sponse, mid­dling do­mes­tic box of­fice re­turns and its re­li­gious el­e­ments and this be­comes a big long shot.

Robert Ro­driguez and Frank Miller VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Ste­fen Fang­meier Ef­fects Houses: Prime Fo­cus. Re­lease Date: Aug. 22 Box Of­fice: $ 39m ($14m) The Out­look: While the orig­i­nal Sin City wowed and im­pressed when it was re­leased in 2005, the long-de­layed se­quel elicited mostly yawns. Frank Miller’s art­work re­mains strik­ing on the comic-book page, but with noth­ing new to add almost a decade later, this is as sure a loser as you can get. Di­rec­tor: Jonathan Liebesman VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Pablo Hel­man Ef­fects Houses: ILM, Im­age En­gine, Base FX, Tip­pett, Vir­tuos, Hy­bride VFX, Atomic Fic­tion, Shade VFX, Lola VFX. Re­lease Date: Aug. 8 Box Of­fice: $ 477m ($191m) The Out­look: Another dark horse, Tur­tles fea­tures a lot of in­no­va­tive tech un­der the hood that might move the Academy’s nee­dle closer to a nom­i­na­tion than it oth­er­wise would. That plus a solid box­of­fice per­for­mance gives Tur­tles more than a chance at a nom­i­na­tion, but not too much

more given the Academy’s pref­er­ence for more artis­tic fare. Di­rec­tor: Michael Bay VFX Su­per­vi­sor: Scott Far­rar Ef­fects Houses: ILM, Method Re­lease Date: June 27 Box Of­fice: $1.09b ($ 245m) The Out­look: The ef­fects on the Trans­form­ers films — this is the fourth — have got pro­gres­sively bet­ter, in large part be­cause ILM had con­ti­nu­ity in work­ing on them all. The sheer im­pres­sive­ness and com­plex­ity of the ef­fects, how­ever, may be enough to win the fran­chise its third nom­i­na­tion in this cat­e­gory de­spite it be­ing a se­quel. Di­rec­tor: Bryan Singer VFX Su­per­vi­sors: An­ders Lang­lands, Lou Pec­ora, Derek Spears, Hol­ger Voss Ef­fects Houses: MPC, Ci­ne­site, Ris­ing Sun Pic­tures, Mokko Stu­dio, Hy­draulx, Method Stu­dios, An­i­mal Logic VFX, Legacy Ef­fects, Dig­i­tal Do­main, Rhythm & Hues. Re­lease Date: May 23 Box Of­fice: $ 746m ($ 233m) The Out­look: De­spite their pop­u­lar­ity, none of the X-Men films to date have been nom­i­nated for an ef­fects Os­car. Like most X-Men tales, this one is stuffed to the gills with neat tricks and cool con­cepts — but like a gourmet at a huge buf­fet, the over­all im­pres­sion is one of white noise that is un­likely to earn a nom­i­na­tion. * Still in re­lease at press time All box of­fice fig­ures cour­tesy of Box Of­fice Mojo and cur­rent as of Nov. 25, 2014.

The third an­nual World An­i­ma­tion and VFX Sum­mit is in the books and it seems all any­one can say about it is: Wow! But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what peo­ple have been telling us about this year’s event, which was held Nov. 2-5 at the scenic Cal­i­for­nia Yacht Club in Ma­rina del Rey, Calif.:

“The cal­iber of speak­ers and direc­tors was truly im­pres­sive,” says Trevor Lai, founder, CEO and cre­ative di­rec­tor of China-based Up Stu­dios.

“Not only are the pan­els in­for­ma­tive, with ac­tual use­ful in­for­ma­tion, the op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with oth­ers in the in­dus­try is un­matched,” says Craig Miller, writer with cred­its on The Smurfs, Cu­ri­ous George.

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