The Oscar Project
Today is my first look at individual categories and which films and creators are nominated in each category as we lead up to the 95th Academy Awards on March 12th. This category is filled with films that are either sequels, reboots, or flat out remakes of previous films.
All Quiet on the Western Front
I just finished watching this film on Netflix last night and boy was that a tough one to watch. The film felt like a blending of 1917 (which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects three years ago) and Saving Private Ryan (which did was not even nominated). The opening battle, though much shorter than the storming of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan was just as brutal visually and the connection to 1917 goes without saying as they cover the same conflict (WWI) though from different sides. The biggest argument in favor of this film winning the award this year would be that I rarely thought to myself “that’s a great effect” while I watched. The visual effects are embedded in the action and everything looks real, from the soldiers being shot, to the explosions that deliver realistically devastating effects to everything around them. All four names called out for their work on this film (Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank, and Kamil Jafar) are first time nominees in this category and in my quick review of previous winners in this category, I could not find any that were also nominated in the Best International Feature/Best Foreign Language Film.
Avatar: The Way of Water
How could this film NOT be nominated for Best Visual Effects? Unfortunately, it is the only film in this category that I haven’t seen yet (to be rectified soon) but from everything I’ve heard, the visuals in the film are what make it worth seeing and everyone I’ve spoken to about it recommends seeing it on the biggest screen and in 3D if possible. Looking back in time, the original Avatar film won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects at the 82nd Academy Awards, but was only competing against two other films in the category at the time (District 9 and the J. J. Abrams Star Trek reboot). It has been widely publicized that the development of new visual effects methods to shoot performance capture in underwater environments was a contributing factor to the film to be delayed as long as it was. That can’t go unnoticed in selecting the winner in this category, giving the film a very strong chance to take home the Oscar yet again. To top it off, two of the individuals called out for the nomination this year (Joe Letteri and Richard Baneham) were also part of the team that won for Avatar. Letteri has also taken home statuettes for King Kong, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King along with six additional nominations.
This is only the second Batman film to be officially nominated in the Best Visual Effects category, going all the way back to the original Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman in 1989. Batman Returns was a nominee in 1992, losing out to Death Becomes Her, and multiple Batman films have been shortlisted including Batman Forever in 1995, Batman & Robin in 1997, and Batman Begins in 2005. All four of the individuals named for this film, Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands, and Dominic Tuohy, have been nominated for Oscars in this category in the past with wins for Lemmon (for The Jungle Book in 2017) and Tuohy (for 1917 in 2019). Unfortunately for this group, their history doesn’t bode well for taking home the trophy this year, especially with other strong contenders.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The first Black Panther film was not nominated for Best Visual Effects, though it was shortlisted prior to the final five nominees. You would also think that Marvel films would have taken home this category several times, given the sheer number of films in that series over the last two decades, but the only Marvel film to win in this category to date is Spider-Man 2 way back in 2004. Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White, and Dan Sudick are the names on the nomination for this film with Hammack receiving one previous nomination (for Deepwater Horizon) and White receiving two prior nominations (Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Sudick’s name has been attached to 12 previous nominations, mostly for Marvel films like all three Iron Man films, Marvel’s The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and he was a double nominee last year for the Ryan Reynolds film Free Guy and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Top Gun: Maverick
The final film in this category is one that might spoil the party for Avatar: The Way of Water. Looking back through the history of the category, the original Top Gun was neither nominated nor shortlisted. The film was generally recognized for sound production (more about that tomorrow) and for the music across many award circuits including at the 59th Academy Awards. Out of the four names attached to this nomination, Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson, and Scott R. Fisher, only Fisher has been nominated previously. He also brings two wins to the table for work on two Christopher Nolan films, Tenet in 2020 and Interstellar in 2014. The reason this film has a chance to upset at the Oscars this year is that it was also innovating how to shoot in a very unforgiving environment, flying in fighter jets. The short video below goes into some of the new technology that was used for this film and it’s truly amazing to think of what they were able to accomplish practically in camera and then enhance with visual effects.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?