Visual effects behind movies have never been better, and the fact that they just keep getting better every year makes the Oscars’ Best Visual Effects category one to watch each year. Sure, performances, direction, writing, and every other award are still amazing year after year, but VFX continue to evolve through technological advances, stretching imaginations in new directions.
This year’s nominees are no exception. We start the list with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the nomination of which we’ve already dived into. While the film used CGI to visualize certain characters and spaceships in flight, it used its share of practical effects, too. A common critique of the prequels is that too much effects were utilized over story, but The Force Awakens strove for a balance of the two, constructing an awe-inspiring world while still telling a rich, captivating story. I mean, this should be enough for a nomination alone.
Next up is Mad Max: Fury Road, which used CGI to enhance battle sequences that already contained many practical effects and impressive stunts. The desolate world created by George Miller escalated the movie-long car chase, and after a while it felt like we were right there too, witnessing a lovely day. Just watch the sandstorm scene and tell me it shouldn’t be nominated.
The Martian, Matt Damon’s annual I’m A Matt Damon, Get Me Out Of Here! film, used CGI on the Mars environment to make the foreign landscape look convincing. The red planet was essentially the co-lead behind Damon, so everything in that world had to be perfect. It’s worth taking a look at the breakdown of the complicated VFX work behind the movie.
The Revenant used prosthetics and makeup so we could see Leonardo DiCaprio get attacked (and very not raped) by the bear, which was rendered in beautiful CGI along with the bison later in the film. You could almost smell and feel everything that poor Hugh Glass went through, to the point of constantly asking yourself “How is he not dead yet?” It’s savagely raw made only more raw by the realistic effects throughout the film.
Finally, we have Ex Machina, the Twilight Zone-y journey into the cusp of the very dangerous technology that Stephen Hawking has been warning us about. The filmmakers used a mix of CGI and clever costuming to create Eva, the human robot. Plus, it gave us Oscar Isaac in the best dancing sequence of the year, which surprisingly didn’t take any VFX at all.
But which one will take home the Academy Award? We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out. All we can say is it’s a good time to love visual effects.