By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood February 13, 2014 at 8:13AM
As expected, Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar-contending "Gravity" dominated the 12th annual VES Awards, grabbing six trophies at the Beverly Hilton Wednesday night, including outstanding visual effects-driven feature, while Disney's "Frozen" juggernaut went four for four, including outstanding animated feature (a first for the studio).
"Gravity"'s dazzling technical prowess also encompassed live action environment (exterior), live action virtual cinematography, feature models (ISS exterior), live action FX and simulation animation (parachute and ISS destruction) and feature compositing.
"One of the great things about this movie is everything coming together and everyone working together," remarked Framestore's VFX supervisor Tim Webber backstage. He also acknowledged that there was no line at all between cinematography and VFX, speaking on behalf of co-winner and Oscar frontrunner Emmanuel ("Chivo") Lubezki, who was unable to attend. Co-winners for virtual cinematography Richard McBride and Dale Newton admitted they've never worked on anything quite like "Gravity" before, in which there was much closer collaboration between departments and a workflow that resembled animation more than live action.
Speaking of which, "Frozen" additionally won for animated character (Bringing the Snow Queen to Life), environment (Elsa's Ice Palace) and outstanding FX and simulation animation (Elsa's Blizzard). Lead animator Lino Di Salvo reiterated the truth in acting that he emphasized throughout the production and recently gave a talk to Pixar about it.
Meanwhile, Cuaron was humble in accepting his Visionary Award (he was introduced by "Gravity" star Sandra Bullock who praised the game-changing Light Box): "I feel like an imposter here as a visionary," he said. The Oscar-nominated director praised Webber and Framestore as the true visionaries.
However, Doug Trumbull ("2001" and "Close Encounters"), who introduced his old pal and Life Achievement Award recipient John Dykstra ("Star Wars," "Spider-Man"), told me he was thrilled by both "Gravity" and "Frozen" and predicted the Light Box technique would be used more extensively throughout the industry.
Other winners included ILM's "The Lone Ranger" for supporting VFX and Weta Digital's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" for live action animated character (the only shut out for "Gravity").
Here's a complete list of the award winners: