February 18, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Visual Effects

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Visual Effects!

All Quiet on the Western Front

Not since (ironically) 1917 has a film immersed me to the extent that it is nigh-impossible to tell what is a visual effect and what isn’t. Sure, it may be obvious that a tank rolling over numerous people through the trenches (among other war atrocities) is CGI, but it’s so well-assimilated into the world that All Quiet creates that it’s easy to believe the verity of everything you’re seeing…as awful as it is.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar revolutionized digital filmmaking in 2009, and nothing less was expected from its blockbuster sequel. I wrote in my review that “it would be hearsay to claim that Avatar: The Way of Water is not incredibly beautiful to look at. Every frame is rendered meticulously, and because most of what we’re seeing on-screen is composed entirely of visual effects, it’s unequivocally awe-inspiring. I also had the opportunity to see it in 3D, a medium I’m not always the biggest fan of — in fact, I was worried about subjecting myself to it for the three and a half hours this movie runs — but it seemed effortless more than anything else, like the 3D is a natural part of the world that Cameron has created.”

Read my review of Avatar: The Way of Water here.

The Batman

The Batman is yet another example of some incredibly subtle visual effects work nominated this year, which is rare, especially considering that this is a superhero film. To be entirely honest, I could not tell you what in The Batman is a visual effect and what isn’t (aside from the scenes with Bruce and Selina atop the building — that sunset is perhaps the only thing in the film that doesn’t look incredibly real), but the fact that it’s nominated this year must mean that there are quite a bit of VFX shots.

Read my review of The Batman here.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Is it just me, or is the CG in Wakanda Forever not exactly incredible? I suppose it’s not exactly news that a Marvel film looks like visual vomit on screen, but that’s a union work issue more than anything else — Marvel’s mistreatment of their VFX artists is well-known at this point. Still, subpar Marvel CGI is downright remarkable when it comes to most films. I say this nomination is still very well-deserved.

Read my review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever here.

Top Gun: Maverick

Just like with All Quiet, it’s harder to tell in Top Gun: Maverick where exactly the visual effects come in, but it’s safe to say that not everything we see on-screen is entirely realistic…but you’d be mistaken for thinking so. Maverick massively improves upon its predecessor on a visual scale, fully utilizing 21st century technology to create magic on screen. I may not have been the biggest fan of the film itself, but the fact that it’s a visual spectacle is impossible to deny.

What Will Win: Avatar: The Way of Water
What Should Win: Avatar: The Way of Water
What Should Have Been Nominated: RRR, Nope, Everything Everywhere All At Once
My Unrealistic Dream Nominations: Prey, Three Thousand Years of Longing

1 comment:

  1. That's what should be valued in this category: effects that look unnoticeable to the audience on the big screen. When that is achieved, it means that the film's VFX team has done an exceptional job. That said, the award in this category should be won with poetic justice by the All Quiet team. Unfortunately AMPAS members often confuse BEST with MORE not only in this technical section, but in many categories.