Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Visual Effects
So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.
This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.
Today is Best Visual Effects. So you know, Best CGI. And occasionally the classy stuff too.
|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 Hawk
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
|2016||The Jungle Book||Deepwater Horizon
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
|2017||Blade Runner 2049||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Wizard of Oz and Kong: Skull Island… nominated in the same category at the Academy Awards.
So Visual Effects is one… you don’t necessarily need the precursors, but they help. Mostly it’s intuitive, but you do wanna look at the precursors to make sure you’re on the right track. There was only one year in the past like, ten, where the precursors just completely got blown up, and it’s one of the most shocking decisions I’ve seen the Academy make since I’ve been doing this. So generally you have a pretty good idea about this one.
But if you are gonna look at the precursors, you start with the actual visual effects guild, VES. They’ve got a bunch of categories, but the main one is basically “Best Effects.” The winner of Best Effects went on to win the Oscar category in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2016. Which is 10/16 years. Not so bad. They have a Supporting Visual Effects category as well, which produced the 2011 winner (of note, no film has lost Supporting Effects and then gone on to win the Oscar for Visual Effects). So 11/16 years your winner won one of the two big categories at VES.
Of the five years the Oscar winner didn’t come from VES:
- 2004 — the Oscar winner lost Best Effects to another nominee.
- 2007 — the Oscar winner lost Best Effects to another nominee.
- 2014 — the Oscar winner lost Best Effects to another nominee.
- 2015 — the Oscar winner wasn’t nominated for Best Effects (or anywhere at VES for that matter).
- 2017 — the Oscar winner lost Best Effects to another nominee.
Got that? It was nominated but lost, outside of that Ex Machina year, which is still one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen at the Oscars in all my years of covering it.
Also, 2017, Blade Runner lost to War for the Planet of the Apes and 2014, Interstellar lost to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Neither Apes movie was ever the favorite to win the Oscar, and we knew where that was going pretty easily. Which leaves 2007, where Transformers lost to The Golden Compass, and 2004, where Azkaban lost to Spider-Man 2. Both of which are now over a decade ago. It means you generally listen to what wins Best Effects.
But also, let’s look at BAFTA now.
BAFTA, going back to 2002 when VES started, has only been wrong three times! They are
- 2004: They had The Day After Tomorrow. Both Spider-Man 2 and Azkaban were nominated and lost.
- 2011: They had Deathly Hallows Part 2. Hugo was nominated and lost.
- 2015: They had The Force Awakens. Ex Machina was nominated and lost.
That means BAFTA had the winner every other time. And that includes The Golden Compass. So yeah. Between those two, you’re usually golden.
Oh, and you know what? We also have BFCA. Might as well look at them if we can. They’ve only given out awards since 2009. They’re 50/50 in all. 5/10. Technically the tenth category is this year, but they gave it to Black Panther this year and are gonna be wrong because Black Panther wasn’t nominated. Also, three of their misses are them giving it to the Planet of the Apes movies, which all lost at the Oscars. And the other one is the Ex Machina year. But other than that, they’re pretty much on point.
So yeah, generally VES Best Effects/Supporting Effects and BAFTA are gonna get you to where you need to go.
Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
They had a shortlist of ten this year, and I’m not overly surprised about this. The Black Panther omission is somewhat surprising, given how much people are all over that film’s jockstrap this year. But I didn’t think its effects were all that great, so I’m glad if it got left off anywhere, this was one of the categories. And they put on Christopher Robin, which, you know what? Had some nice effects. So good for that. Otherwise, the other four here were pretty obvious choices. Star Wars always makes it, Ready Player One is all effects, First Man is space, and they love space, and Avengers… obviously. Disney is 3/5 of this category, by the way.
Outside of Black Panther, the other four shortlisted films to not make the final cut were Ant-Man and the Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns and Welcome to Marwen. So yeah, nothing shocking there, even though a lot of us would have liked to see Mary Poppins maybe make it on over Christopher Robin. Still, nothing egregious.
BFCA and BAFTA both went off the board, giving Black Panther a win. So we’re pretty much just using VES and experience. That’s really all we have.
Your VES winners were as such:
- Avengers: Infinity War — Best Effects, Animated Character, Composting and Effects Simulations.
- Ready Player One — Created Environment and Virtual Cinematography.
- First Man — Supporting Effects
Those were gonna be my top three regardless, so that’s not a huge help. Just gonna go with my gut on this one.
5. Christopher Robin — So I’ll start by saying… having this fifth feels like an Ex Machina type mistake. So I don’t think I’ll leave it fifth come Oscar night, but I also don’t think this can win. At least Ex Machina was nominated at BAFTA, which this was not. That also was a very broadly liked movie. This… not really. No movie has won Visual Effects and not been nominated at BAFTA since… 1998. So yeah. That’s before the era of visual effects as we know them now. I feel comfortable calling this a fifth choice currently. I’ll probably say put it fourth on Oscar night just in case it comes in and you don’t get caught with your pants down. But without any kind of major win anywhere, I can’t see it happening.
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story — Right now it’s fourth because it’s Star Wars, and maybe that gets it votes, but honestly, I don’t see any way in which this could win. Force Awakens couldn’t win this, and that was the one. You know? Last Jedi even did nothing last year. Rogue One was an afterthought, and this will also be an afterthought. It’ll probably be #5 come Oscar night, but for now, the fact that it’s Star Wars at least gives it a little bit of cache. But also, no BAFTA nomination… can’t consider it a legitimate contender. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s fourth or fifth, does it?
3. Avengers: Infinity War — Nominated everywhere and lost everywhere. Marvel’s never won this category either. Can’t see it being anything other than a third choice. The first Avengers couldn’t win over Life of Pi. Iron Man lost to Benjamin Button. I can keep going. Iron Man 2 lost to Inception. Iron Man 3 lost to Gravity. Winter Soldier and Guardians lost to Interstellar. Doctor Strange lost to Jungle Book. Guardians 2 lost to Blade Runner. See a trend? Outside of the Jungle Book year, where Jungle Book was just the film that was considered to be all about the visual effects, Marvel has lost to either a Best Picture contender or just a film with a really classy pedigree. Hard to see this not being more of the same. Who takes Marvel seriously within the Academy? Hard to see this just getting votes on principle. They don’t give a fuck about anything the internet cares about. So why would I see this as anything other than a third choice? VES? That’s a guild. That’s not an open vote. Where are the votes coming from? Sure, it could win, but I’m not betting anything on that happening. I’ll probably leave it the third choice and wait and see if I’m wrong.
2. Ready Player One — It’s Spielberg, and it’s a fairly classy film. That should get it a few votes. Not sure that really puts it above Infinity War, but it might, right? If people saw it maybe they’d vote for it. But honestly I think when you look at this category from the perspective of the average Academy voter (older, not really watching stuff like everything we saw already), it’s pretty clear which film on this list should be considered the favorite at the moment. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it does show you how things should be looked at going into Oscar night. I think this has a shot, but this isn’t anything higher than a second choice that could maybe come in.
1. First Man — It’s the only movie that is almost in the Best Picture conversation. That, to me, made it the automatic frontrunner from the jump. Think about it. Who’s still the majority of the Academy? Older, white voters. These are the people who won’t have seen Infinity War or Ready Player One. They’ll have at least seen First Man. Maybe they don’t know where the effects came from. I don’t know. But what I do know is that it worked for Interstellar in 2014, so I’m sticking with that path for now. Sure, Interstellar won the BAFTA for Visual Effects, so that had something this does not have. Still, when you’ve got a film with four overall nominations and the rest of the category only being nominated here with no clear frontrunner, I’ll call this the frontrunner. I think it still goes three deep, but I think this seems like the most likely winner right now. It also does have the Supporting Effects win at VES, which is what Hugo had, despite having lost everything else precursor-wise in its year. Sure looks like a winner to me from here.
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