Best Visual Effects Predictions (as of 10-25-12):
Life of Pi
The Dark Knight Rises
Say what you will about the movie industry being inundated by Visual Effects-heavy output with cuts that fly by almost as fast as the eye can comprehend, but the imagery has continuously gotten more impressive over the past decade. If anything in the movies has certainly advanced, it’s what can be created with a computer. The art of VFX, much like the Academy Awards themselves, still get a bad rap though. Nonetheless, last year’s winner, Hugo, pushed Visual Effects to another level by using 3D imagination as a portal not only into Paris of the early 1900s and the mind of a young boy, but to the heart of cinematic magic in general. It was both progressive and nostalgic.
Similarly, Inception and Avatar used diverse means of creating alternate universes that were to that point unseen in the landscape of cinema. Now more than ever, as the Kubrick quote goes, if it can be written or thought, it can absolutely be filmed.
This year, there’s no shortage of high-concept VFX work for audiences to chew on. We’ve already seen the computer-generated B-Movie spin in Prometheus and the realistic metropolitan annihilation in The Dark Knight Rises. Additionally, The Avengers was one of the most beautifully photographed, digitally enhanced action movies I’ve ever seen. There’s an image in that film where Captain America uses his shield to protect Black Widow that’s been burned into my memory. If you blink you’ll miss it, but it’s stunning if you see it. And those films are just the tip of the iceberg. As far as the Oscars are concerned, those are still on the bubble, in fact.
Considering Peter Jackson and his WETA team’s past success in advancing the art of digital effects, one has to assume that The Hobbit is still the leader in the clubhouse. The effects will likely be as good as can possibly be. However, working against the film might be the feeling of ‘been there, done that.’ They’ve awarded Lord of the Rings multiple times already. Will The Hobbit be different enough to stand out from what’s already been seen? Also, Jackson seems to have lost his touch when it comes to storytelling. His last two films have been universally panned. If the whole can’t live up to the quality of the effects, this one has potential to be an all around lost effort.
For those who’ve seen it, Life of Pi seems to be not only a lock for a nomination but for the win. This looks like the kind of inventive, wildly imagined achievement that the Academy has taken to awarding over the past few years. Where The Hobbit may feel like a bit of old news, Life of Pi has the potential to be elevated by originality. Likewise, Cloud Atlas looks to create a spiritual, metaphysical, and somehow relatable world, all at once. I’m skeptical about how the film will play to wide audiences, but it has the potential to touch adults and grown-ups alike (see: Hugo). If the film lands, many people might be underestimating its across-the-board promise. Additionally, the film’s score is outstanding (far and away the best I’ve heard this year) and the cinematography looks standout. When the sounds and pictures meet-up, effects have a way of following.
If voters are feeling some old-fashioned (like, so late 90s), realistic VFX, they may go for a film like Flight or The Impossible. For now, though, I think there’s too much spectacle out there for a film that isn’t necessarily conceptualized from scratch to break through.
Life of Pi
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Cabin in the Woods