Have you looked at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Visual Effects? It’s freaking loaded, and I mean loaded. The five films up for the Oscar are Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, The Martian, Ex Machina, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You could narrow that list down to two and I still wouldn’t know how to decide.
That’s quite the conundrum if you plan on winning your Oscar pool this year (and I do!). So what are we to do with such an impressive list of choices? I believe there’s an old Russian proverb that says, “Those that do not learn from history are doomed to come in second in their pool on Oscar night. Again.” (Nailed it.) Fortunately for us, we now have just the cinematic crash course we need to see what the Academy finds so special every year.
This video comes from the folks at Burger Fiction, the same people that recently brought you every Best Picture winner. It’s a celebration of all the films that won for Best Visual Effects, starting with the first winner from the 1927/28 Academy Awards, Wings, all the way up to last year’s winner, Interstellar.
They’ve included a clip from each film that gives you some idea of why it was deemed worthy of recognition by the Academy, and while watching it a few things jumped out that might be very interesting for our prognosticating (or that I just found kind of cool and want to talk about).
–For decades it seems like the easiest way to win for Best Visual Effects was to make a movie about a) planes b) ships (on the water or below them) or c) outer space. These weren’t the only types of films to win, but they certainly seemed like the most prevalent. Make a space movie about aliens in planes fighting monsters in the sea and you might win two Oscars.
–I don’t have the time to write a thesis, but it feels like something changed when Superman won in 1978. Although, much to my surprise, superhero movies did not dominate the last fifteen years the way I would have guessed.
–The voters loved the original Star Wars trilogy (three wins), but not the prequels (zero wins). They were also big fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (clean sweep for three straight years), but not for The Hobbit. Interesting.
–Some movies have aged incredibly well, and some..well..not so much, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with time or technology. The original Jurassic Park (93 winner) still looks amazing, but 1994’s winner, Forrest Gump has looked dated for a decade already.
–Am I crazy, or is this list more memorable than the Best Picture winners? Sure, some of these movies are great looking and not all that good, but being bad hasn’t stopped some films from winning the big prize. This visual effects list is a testament to the power of the movie experience and all the great things that go with it. I will always remember seeing Independence Day in the theater for the first time, but I’ve already forgotten most of A Beautiful Mind (fortunately).
Alrighty, now that we are filled with a rudimentary nine-minute lesson, let’s make some predictions!
Based on past winners, I think we can eliminate The Revenant. It’s impressive, but not quite as showy as most winners. It’s brutal realism doesn’t seem to fit in with the historical record.
I also think Ex Machina is out. Robots are underrepresented, and I imagine too many voters will be uncomfortable with the kinds of feelings Ava brought out in them and okay yes I’m projecting but robots should not be that good-looking and I should stop talking now.
So that leaves us with three.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Pros: The franchise has three wins already, it’s got people flying planes, it’s got outer space, it also looked pretty awesome.
Cons: The last three Star Wars films lost, there might be a “been there/done that” mentality.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Pros: Unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, franchise has never won this award before.
Cons: Few winners look like Fury Road, cars don’t get love like ships, taking place on land seems to be a huge disadvantage.
Pros: Outer space, the last two winners have been big budget space movies (Gravity, Interstellar)
Cons: The last two winners have been big budget space movies resulting in a “been there/done that” mentality.
So after weighing all the options I predict that the Oscar will go to…
..Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
My heart says Mad Max: Fury Road should win, but that The Force Awakens will get extra points for reinvigorating an even more important franchise with a movie people liked (and more importantly didn’t hate), that also looked awesome, and made Hollywood all the money in the world. I just don’t think a straight outer space movie will win three years in a row either, so this really feels like a two-movie race.
The Force Awakens has everything a winner for Best Visual Effects needs, so please remember me when you win your Oscar pool by one category.
Okay, there is a lot to discuss here. So tell us whatever is on your mind after this look back at VFX winners. Who was the best winner ever? The worst? The biggest snub? Who do you think will win this year? Who should win? Get into our comments and let’s sort this out.
The Force Awakens Images: Lucasfilm
Interstellar Image: Legendary Pictures
The Abyss Image: 20th Century Fox