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Crafts Roundup: Handicapping the VFX Oscar Race

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood December 12, 2013 at 2:05PM

The VFX Oscar race has come down to zero-gravity and an innovative light box, a menacing dragon, Jaegers vs. Kaiju, three dystopian adventures, a "Star Trek" reboot with Khan, "Lone Ranger" train mayhem, and two Marvel superhero stalwarts. So let's go under the hood in anticipating the likely ammunition for the Academy's January 9th "bakeoff" in paring down the five nominees.
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Gravity

The VFX Oscar race has come down to zero-gravity and an innovative light box, a menacing dragon, Jaegers vs. Kaiju, three dystopian adventures, a "Star Trek" reboot with Khan, "Lone Ranger" train mayhem, and two Marvel superhero stalwarts. So let's go under the hood in anticipating the likely ammunition for the Academy's January 9th "bakeoff" in paring down the five nominees.

Frontrunners:

  • "Gravity": Photo-real outer space 3-D immersion and weightlessness as we've never experienced before in Alfonso Cuaron's breathtaking blockbuster. A reverse-engineered, animated jigsaw by Framestore, propelled by the light box with its LED panorama of projected footage on the panels (say goodbye to the green screen some day) and robotic motion control cameras by Bot & Dolly.
  •  "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug": Weta Digital's back with the best dinosaur ever seen onscreen (keyframed rather than performance-captured and voiced with menace and wit by Benedict Cumberbatch) along with a rollicking barrel flume chase that would make a thrilling theme park ride.
  • "Pacific Rim": Industrial Light & Magic added ray tracing (via the Arnold renderer) to its arsenal, which was easier to set up and enhanced the masterfully animated Jaegers and Kaiju, atmospherics, and water simulation with greater realism, taking the CG mise-en-scene to a new level of sophistication.


Contenders and long shots, after the jump...

This article is related to: Visual Effects Society, Best Visual Effects, VFX, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Crafts Round-up


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.