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'Life of Pi' Continues Tech Surge at Visual Effects Society Awards

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 6, 2013 at 4:29PM

The big winner at the Visual Effects Society Awards with four wins was VES visonary award-winner Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," which clearly had the support of the room at the Beverly HIlton Tuesday night. Another big winner was "Brave," which swept the four top animation categories. As for star presence, although Harrison Ford presented the life achievement award to veteran VFX master Richard Edlund, who met him 37 years ago on the first "Star Wars," and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts presented the evening's last awards, to best animated VFX to "Brave" and live action VFX to "Life of Pi," the star of the evening with this group was presenter Andy Serkis of Gollum fame.
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"The Life of Pi"
"The Life of Pi"

The big winner at the Visual Effects Society Awards with four wins was VES visonary award-winner Ang Lee and his "Life of Pi," which both earned standing ovations at the Beverly Hilton Tuesday night. "They said it was unfilmable," recalled accepting winner Bill Westenhofer of Rhythm & Hues.

Another big winner was "Brave," which swept the four top animated feature categories. As for star presence, although Harrison Ford presented the life achievement award to veteran VFX master Richard Edlund, who met him 37 years ago on the first "Star Wars," and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts presented the evening's last awards for best animated VFX to "Brave" and live action VFX to "Life of Pi," the star of the evening with this group was presenter Andy Serkis, of Gollum fame.

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford

Lee graciously recalled the training that ILM VFX Master Dennis Muren gave him on "Hulk," and how he gradually came to understand the VFX process. He enjoyed not working with opinionated actors, he admitted, when he returned to the even more VFX-driven 3-D "Life of Pi." "This is not visual effects," he said. "It's visual art." The only downside: "It's too expensive," he said, underscoring the evening's dark side.

At the start of the night VES chief Eric Roth stated that visual effects companies face an uncertain future even though "we have become the center of the entertainment universe...Globalization is here and hard financial realities." He challenged studio leaders and the biggest most successful VFX houses to help the struggling smaller ones to survive by finding a new economic business model. "Life of Pi" visual effects house Rhythm & Hues is in financial trouble. It shouldn't be.

Weta Digital's Joe Letteri and "The Hobbit" Star Andy Serkis
Weta Digital's Joe Letteri and "The Hobbit" Star Andy Serkis

"Our industry is going to be OK," Roth wound up. Something's wrong when the sector of the industry that is most crucial to success in eye-popping visual entertainment is not able to stay afloat.

(Immersed in Movies looked at the VFX tipping point here.)

The full list of VES award-winners is below.

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi"

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
"The Impossible"

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Brave"

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Richard Parker

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

Rhythm & Hue's Bill Westenhofer
Rhythm & Hue's Bill Westenhofer


"Brave" - Merida

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"The Avengers" - Midtown Manhattan

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Brave" - The Forest

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
"The Avengers" - Helicarrier

Outstanding FX Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Brave"

Outstanding FX Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Storm of God

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Storm of God

Visionary Award
Ang Lee

Lifetime Achievement Award
Richard Edlund
 

This article is related to: Awards, Awards, VFX, Oscars


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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.