Oscars 2016 Category Breakdown: Best Visual Effects
Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it typically goes, voting-wise, historically and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.
What I do is go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have voted, how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win. So you know what the general favorites are.
Today is Best Visual Effects. A category that used to be automatic, but now the whole thing got blowed up. Fortunately that’s not part of the conversation this year. But still.
|Year||Best Visual Effects Winners||Other Nominees|
|1927-1928||Wings||The Jazz Singer
The Private Life of Helen of Troy
|1938||Spawn of the North (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1939||The Rains Came||Gone With the Wind
Only Angels Have Wings
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
Topper Takes a Trip
The Wizard of Oz
|1940||The Thief of Bagdad||The Blue Bird
The Boys from Syracuse
The Invisible Man Returns
The Long Voyage Home
One Million B.C.
The Sea Haw
Swiss Family Robinson
Women in War
|1941||I Wanted Wings||Aloma of the South Seas
The Invisible Woman
The Sea Wolf
That Hamilton Woman
A Yank in the R.A.F.
|1942||Reap the Wild Wind||The Black Swan
The Jungle Book
The Navy Comes Through
One of Our Aircraft is Missing
The Pride of the Yankees
|1943||Crash Dive||Air Force
The North Star
So Proudly We Hail!
Stand for Action
|1944||Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo||The Adventures of Mark Train
Days of Glory
Since You Went Away
The Story of Dr. Wassell
|1945||Wonder Man||Captain Eddie
They Were Expendable
A Thousand and One Nights
|1946||Blithe Spirit||A Stolen Life|
|1947||Green Dolphin Street||Unconquered|
|1948||Portrait of Jennie||Deep Waters|
|1949||Mighty Joe Young||Tulsa|
|1950||Destination Moon||Samson and Delilah|
|1951||When Worlds Collide||No other nominees.|
|1952||Plymouth Adventure||No other nominees.|
|1953||The War of the Worlds||No other nominees.|
|1954||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Hell and High Water
|1955||The Bridges at Toko-Ri||The Dam Busters
The Rains of Ranchipur
|1956||The Ten Commandments||Forbidden Planet|
|1957||The Enemy Below||The Spirit of St. Louis|
|1958||Tom Thumb||Torpedo Run|
|1959||Ben-Hur||Journey to the Center of the Earth|
|1960||The Time Machine||The Last Voyage|
|1961||The Guns of Navarone||The Absent-Minded Professor|
|1962||The Longest Day||Mutiny on the Bounty|
|1964||Mary Poppins||7 Faces of Dr. Lao|
|1965||Thunderball||The Greatest Story Ever Told|
|1968||2001: A Space Odyssey||Ice Station Zebra|
|1969||Marooned||Krakatoa, East of Java|
|1970||Tora! Tora! Tora!||Patton|
|1971||Bedknobs and Broomsticks||When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth|
|1972||The Poseidon Adventure (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1973||No Award Given.||No Category.|
|1974||Earthquake (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1975||The Hindenburg (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1976||King Kong (Special Achievement Award)
Logan’s Run (Special Achievement Award)
|1977||Star Wars||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|1978||Superman (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1979||Alien||The Black Hole
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||No Category.|
|1981||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Dragonslayer|
|1982||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||Blade Runner
|1983||Return of the Jedi (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1984||Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||Ghostbusters
|1985||Cocoon||Return to Oz
Young Sherlock Holmes
|1986||Aliens||Little Shop of Horrors
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
|1988||Who Framed Roger Rabbit||Die Hard
|1989||The Abyss||The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Back to the Future Part II
|1990||Total Recall (Special Achievement Award)||No Category.|
|1991||Terminator 2: Judgment Day||Backdraft
|1992||Death Becomes Her||Alien 3
The Nightmare Before Christmas
|1994||Forrest Gump||The Mask
|1997||Titanic||The Lost World: Jurassic Park
|1998||What Dreams May Come||Armageddon
Mighty Joe Young
|1999||The Matrix||Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Perfect Storm
|2001||The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
|2002||The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers||Spider-Man
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
|2004||Spider-Man 2||Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
|2005||King Kong||The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
War of the Worlds
|2006||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest||Poseidon
|2007||The Golden Compass||Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
|2008||The Curious Case of Benjamin Button||The Dark Knight
|2010||Inception||Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2
|2011||Hugo||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
|2012||Life of Pi||The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Snow White and the Huntsman
|2013||Gravity||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek: Into Darkness
|2014||Interstellar||Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past
|2015||Ex Machina||Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I used to beat people over the head with the fact that, in the post-Star Wars (modern visual effects) era, whenever a Best Picture nominee was in the Visual Effects category, it had never lost. And then Ex Machina came out of nowhere and beat Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant and Force Awakens. Force Awakens wasn’t a Best Picture nominee, but that was the one that we figured, if it was gonna happen, that was gonna be the one.
VES as a guild has a lot of categories, which is good for them and giving out specially designed awards for their craft. But for guessing the Oscars — it’s too much. They’ve been around since 2002, and the film that won the Effects in an Effects-Driven (now “Photoreal”) category has gone on to win the Oscar in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
They also have a category for Animated Character in a Live-Action Feature, which also went to the film that won the Oscar in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2012. So most of the time, your Oscar winner is gonna win more than one of the categories at VES.
Also, of the years where VES didn’t pick the winner of the Oscars in the main category…
- 2004 — Spider-Man 2 won the Oscar, even though Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban won both VES categories. I can only guess that was do to the major critical and commercial success of Spider-Man.
- 2007 — Transformers won VES in the Effects Driven category, but somehow lost the Oscar to (Academy Award Winner) The Golden Compass. To this day, I don’t know how to explain that one. I don’t know if anyone can.
- 2011 — Hugo won the Oscar, and also won Supporting Visual Effects from VES. Rise of the Planet of the Apes won Effects in Effects Driven.
- 2015 — Ex Machina wins the Oscar despite winning nothing from VES and Force Awakens, Mad Max and The Revenant winning all the major awards there. That was one of the shockers of the decade, Oscars-wise. I can legit only point to about two other awards in the past ten years as surprising as that.
Generally, though, you can kind of telegraph how it’s gonna go from looking at the precursors and doing some general contextualizing.
BAFTA has only missed this category four times going back to 1999 (2000, 2004, 2011 and 2015). BFCA has missed three times since they started handing out the award in 2009.
BAFTA and BFCA this year both went to The Jungle Book.
At VES, your big award, Photoreal FX, went to The Jungle Book. It also won four other awards. Effects Simulations, Animated Performance, Virtual Cinematography and Composting. Deepwater Horizon won Supporting FX and Outstanding Model, and Doctor Strange won for Created Environment. Kubo also picked up an Animated Effects award.
Best Visual Effects
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Not an overly surprising category. Truly didn’t expect them to go for Deepwater. But it makes sense. And the Kubo nomination is one of my favorite nominations this year. Love it. Hope it wins.
5. Doctor Strange — Marvel’s never won this category, and I can’t see this being the first one. Bigger, more respected films like Iron Man and The Avengers couldn’t win this category. What chance does this have? The voting body at large doesn’t watch these movies enough for this to get anywhere. Easy fifth choice. I wouldn’t even for a second consider this having a shot. To see this win would be… not an all time shocker, but a shocker for years to come.
4. Deepwater Horizon — The film didn’t go over very well. It’s a disaster movie, and those tend to do okay here, but with two overall nominations, in heavy technical categories, I can’t see this doing well in an open vote. How many people saw this, liked it enough and thought the effects were better than the next three films to take it? I’d be really surprised if this won. I can’t see it getting much of anywhere. Maybe on pure data you could say this is a third choice, but not a whole lot more than that. Whatever you think this film’s chances are in this category, it’s not the favorite, nor is it anywhere near the favorite.
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — You could say it’s a fourth choice and not get a whole lot of argument from me. Force Awakens couldn’t win this category, and that had way more support than this does. People liked this film, but not enough to automatically take it. Plus, with the other two films in this category, it’s hard to see this winning without a single precursor to its name. That would be a real surprise. Ultimately not a shock, because it’s Star Wars, but still a very big surprise.
2. Kubo and the Two Strings — The fact that this is the second choice speaks to both the amount of love for this film that’s out there all across the aisle and also the probable likelihood of it actually winning the category. Wouldn’t this surprise us all, if it happened? Then again, it would surprise us all if it won Best Animated Feature, and I don’t think we have two surprises in store for us. It was nominated all across the guilds, and has support enough to get a few votes. I think it’s your second choice. It will never be considered a favorite, but I think this has more of a shot than most people would think at first glance.
1. The Jungle Book — It won the most VES Awards, it won BFCA, it won BAFTA. BAFTA has only missed four times in almost 20 years. All the evidence points to this being an easy winner. It would have still probably been an easy winner had a Best Picture nominee been in this category. Oh, and by the way — THEY MADE THE ENTIRE FILM IN A SOUNDSTAGE IN DOWNTOWN LA. It looks gorgeous. This movie is entirely visual effects. This is a big favorite here. And while it doesn’t seem like a category with favorites, and I’m treating it as though it’s not a lock, this might be one of the more certain outcomes in the ceremony.
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Tomorrow is Best Director.