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Oscar Discussion: Which Film Had the Best Visual Effects of 2012?

There are a few Oscar categories in which we can always expect some blockbusters to earn nominations. Two of them involve sound; and indeed, this year each includes the latest James Bond actioner Skyfall. Another is Best Visual Effects, which this year includes Prometheus, The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Life of Pi, an adventure film to be sure, yet one with more of an art-house feel. And it’s likely to win the Academy Award.

Interestingly enough, it’s not a rare thing these days for the visual effects Oscar to go to a movie that’s also up for Best Picture. In fact, it’s been the case the past four years. And that’s less to do with blockbusters making their way into the top category than it does with quality pictures embracing the spectacle of computer effects and 3D cinematography. That’s not to say a movie with groundbreaking visuals, another Jurassic Park or The Matrix, won’t snag the honor in the future, but any old superhero or sci-fi/fantasy flick doesn’t tend to cut it anymore.

Two of this year’s nominees are easily cut out as heavy competitors. Prometheus has some amazing visuals and it’s nice to see it sort of resume a franchise tradition (Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 were all nominated in the category, with the first two winners, but Alien: Resurrection and the Alien vs. Predator films were not), but it's not likely to win. And it’s hard to really see why Snow White and the Huntsman is included at all. As for this year’s superhero movie, The Avengers, it has a bit of a shot, but fans of the movie will likely just have to make do with the recently announced appearance the ensemble team will make together at the ceremony.

The Avengers did at least pick up two Visual Effects Society Awards the other night, receiving recognition for Outstanding Created Environment for its midtown Manhattan setting and for Outstanding Models for the Helicarrier. Meanwhile, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey only earned one VES Award, for Outstanding Virtual Cinematography. Unfortunately for fans of the franchise, it’s already the first of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth (LOTR) movies not to be nominated for Best Picture, and it may very well be the first to lose for Best Visual Effects.

On the other hand Life of Pi won four VES Awards on Tuesday, including the top award of Outstanding Visual Effects in an Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture, one recognizing the computer-animated character of Richard Parker (the tiger) and two honoring the craft that went into the “Storm of God” sequence. It would seem this would all add up to Pi having the Oscar in the bag. But then again, last year the top VES winner didn’t match the Academy’s choice, and it’s worth considering that the Oscar is voted on by more than just other effects artists. It’s a popular vote.

So, perhaps you readers can tell us, democratically, which film had the best effects and should (and will) win the Oscar?



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