This time, we have shifted our attention to the art of VFX.
And considering the upcoming Oscar awards in which one award would be given to a film with the best VFX, we ran through the list of VFX-ridden films and drew out the best five among them who stand to qualify.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently came out with a list of the 20 films still in the running for this year’s Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
The shortlist includes Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi superhero tentpoles like Wonder Woman, Logan and Thor: Ragnarok.
A possible final five
This time around the front runner of the awards are not one but two films. They are War for the Planet of the Apes and Blade Runner 2049. Another likely winner would come in the form of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes surely has some of the most photo real creatures ever realized on screen. Weta Digital has been mastering this art over many films predominantly on two previous Apes outings both of which received VFX Oscar nominations.
It might just be the Apes franchise’s time for Oscar recognition, led by visual effects supervisors Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon, animation supervisor Daniel Barrett, and special effects supervisor Daniel Whist.
Hot on heel of Apes is Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 which immediately had the challenge of meeting the standards of one of the most well-regarded visual effects films of all time in the 1982 original.
That’s a standard the new film met, and possibly surpassed, with a diverse array of offerings from cityscapes to holograms and a completely photo real rendition of Sean Young as she appeared in 1982.
Also, in an era where pretty much every effect can be digital, it did seem like the filmmakers tried to capture as many things practically as possible, including real plates of Mexican favelas, miniatures, and practical sets and vehicles.
The work here has been led by visual effects supervisors John Nelson, Paul Lambert (Double Negative), Richard R. Hoover (Framestore), and Richard Clegg (MPC), and special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer.
As noted, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi remains a slight unknown right now but based on the two most recent VFX Oscar-nominated Star Wars efforts like The Force Awakens and Rogue One,one can be sure the visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic will be stunning and considered too.
Before Dunkirk, both of Christopher Nolan’s previous two films Inception and Interstellar won an Academy Award for best visual effects. Those two films and Dunkirk use visual effects in seemingly subtle ways and always tend to combine CG with large-scale practical effects and miniatures. That’s certainly the case in this war film which has several ships at sea shots, and a number of aerial dog-fights, all of which feel incredibly authentic (often because they are shot for real). IMAX film cameras were used to capture many scenes in Dunkirk.
One challenge for Dunkirk in terms of VFX Oscar consideration might be that much of the effects have been kept under wraps by the filmmakers (Nolan, who shot Dunkirk on film, regularly states that he is not a fan of digital). Interestingly, that may well produce a surprise advantage; when voters see any breakdowns showing what was shot for real and what was visual effects, the impact could be far greater.
In our list the final contender is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Put simply, the film just has so much rich visual effects work that it’s hard to imagine it not being included as a nominee.
Effects are made up of several CG creatures (some even worked on by multiple vendors), complex environments that take fractals to new levels, and some of the best de-ageing visual effects done so far in Young Kurt Russell.
It is interesting to note that the first Guardians of the Galaxy was also nominated for best visual effects, and this sequel is pretty much wall-to-wall with similar spectacular scenes that go even further.