The Oscars

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District 9

Image via Wikipedia

Like everyone in the entertainment industry now knows, the 2010 Oscars have been announced. I haven't commented yet on the list, as I'm going to let conjecture and speculation reign for a little while before I add my two cents (or more!).  I'm also not going to discuss any other awards like best picture or best director, as they are out of my knowledge base.

However, I will comment on the top three visual effects nominees, Avatar, District 9, and Star Trek. Avatar of course was the blockbuster of the year. Currently raking in a total of $2.05 billion worldwide, with a domestic gross nearing $600 million, this is one huge film, budgeted at $240 million. Lots of my friends in the industry have seen this multiple times. It's definitely a 3D film not to be missed, and this is a film that did stereoscopic films correctly (shooting in stereo, rendering with two cameras). District 9 was an underdog, powered by a $30 million budget, a fledging director (whom I acquainted with at VFS), an interesting story, and top notch vfx. This film went on to earn $200 million worldwide with a $115 million domestic gross. Great job Neill! Star Trek was a franchise reboot done correctly by JJ Abrams and his team. This film went on to make $383 million worldwide with a $257 million domestic take home while costing $140 million.

All in all, these three films had wonderful visuals. But what about the other four that didn't make it? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Terminator Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and 2012.   As any industry professional should, I saw all seven films in the theatre. These films were made for being seen on the big screen. What did I think of all seven? Here's my quick recap on the vfx.

  • Avatar: Spectacular CG environments and multiple completely CG creatures that the audience empathizes with.
  • District 9: Seamless character work with integrating CG characters and live action performers.
  • Star Trek: Lots and lots of CG FX work in bringing characters and locales to life. A couple CG face augmentation shots, lots of environments.
  • Harry Potter: A number of complete CG shots, well integrated FX.
  • Terminator: Big and new terminators, miniature and stunt work blended well with CG environments and characters. Many great matte paintings.
  • Transformers: Big metal robots fighting. Oh, and small metal robots too. Spectacular destruction sequences.
  • 2012: Amazing FX destruction sequences, completely CG water sequences (both above and below).
    Avatar (2009 film)

    Image via Wikipedia

Judging from the selections, I can only guess that the three finalists were chosen because they had a simple and decent story, and the characters (both CG and live) brought the film to life.  In many of the non-nominated four, I didn't really care for the characters or how they would end in the movie, even while they were very FX heavy and some of the best work this decade, the characters fell flat, and I think the nomination committee chose their finalists not on the complexity of the work, but on the characters portrayed in the films and how they brought them to life.  You empathized with Neytiri and crew in Avatar. You felt Chris Johnsons rage and sadness in District 9, and you were blown away by the reimagining of the traditional characters in Star Trek. You realized that the vfx was a part of the story, not that the story  was written around the vfx (which is more evident in 2012 and Transformers 2). I'm glad that the three were chosen the way they were! I do have to give a shout out to Neill (congrats man!) and Bob (a vfx supervisor who I worked with up north on Outer Limits) representing Canada at the Oscars this year in VFX.
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I'm really glad that D9 got an oscar nomination for best CG (not to mention best film!). It's really inspiring to see what can be done nowadays with such a considerebly small budget that D9 had, when compared to all other summer blockbusters. The VFX work on this movie is amazing!

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