Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Visual Effects – Everyone clear a path for ‘Gravity’

02.20.14 4 years ago 5 Comments

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

The season of Oscars Lowdown (née Oscar Guide) might as well begin with the biggest no-brainer category of the bunch, just to go ahead and get it out of the way. But it’s worth pointing out that it’s always unfortunate when there’s an obvious winner in any category, particularly Best Visual Effects as it seems a number of times over the last few years – “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” etc. – there has been a clear dominant player and all other nominees are just along for the ride.

Still, this year’s likely victor is a landmark every bit deserving of the trophy coming its way.

The nominees are…

“Gravity” (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould)
And here it is. “Gravity” has been dazzling movie-goers ever since it premiered to adoration and adulation at the Venice Film Festival in August of last year. It has marched past $700 million at the box office, a towering achievement of the form. The visual effects are more than just state of the art, however. They are a testament to the ingenuity evident every step of the way in this film, new methods invented out of whole cloth for capturing Alfonso Cuarón’s moving, exciting vision. Clear a path, people.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds)
The latest installment of Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” series managed a single Visual Effects Society win recently amid the torrent of “Gravity” love. These films are still accomplishments even if they don’t really feel new anymore. And the folks at Weta Digital deserve all the respect in the world. While the novelty of some of this stuff has worn off, the introduction of the dragon Smaug in this film is something fresh. I suppose if there are people out there who absolutely loathe “Gravity,” they might be inclined to vote for this one.

“Iron Man 3” (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick)
Every Iron Man movie, including “The Avengers,” has been nominated in this category, and with due cause. The world of Tony Stark on screen comes alive in exciting ways every single time – yes, even in the otherwise taxing “Iron Man 2.” The latest sequel was a fresh departure but maintained all the dazzling CGI work that has kept audiences interested in this franchise. It may feature the series’ best work to date, but, like most of the other nominees in this category, these guys might want to just settle in and get comfortable at the Dolby Theatre.

“The Lone Ranger” (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier)
As much of a train wreck (no pun intended) as “The Lone Ranger” was, it featured a level of craft in a number of departments that is worth championing. From exquisite production design to striking photography to, indeed, dazzling effects, it had a lot going for it. The effects in particular are a mix of practical and digital components, making for one of the more varied nominees in the category this year.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossman and Burt Dalton)
“Star Trek Into Darkness” was a bit of a surprise nominee in a field that was already pulling a few tricks given how the list of bake-off finalists shook out. It was a film that seemed to come and go over the summer, with some dismissing it as a trying retread of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (though critics certainly were in its corner). But it brought a world to life on screen with top-notch visual effects. You can’t really take that away from it, but I can’t help but feel like a number of other films this year were exciting in fresher ways.

Will win: “Gravity”
Could win: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Should win: “Gravity”
Should have been here: “Man of Steel”

It’s a shame the fantastic, world-building work done on Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot fell victim to politics in the ever-embattled visual effects industry this year, but perhaps it’s just as well, since it would have just been invited to a contest it would have lost. The smart money in this category is on “Gravity.”

What do you think deserves to win this race? Vote in our poll below.

What do you think should have been here instead? Have your say in the comments section below.

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