The Lamb Devours the Oscars 2021 – Best Visual Effects

by Rob · April 12, 2021 · Uncategorized · No Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Jeanette Ward of The Mundane Adventures Of A Fangirl is here to look at the nominees for Best Visual Effects.

Thanks Jeanette!

LAMBs Devour the Oscars 2021: Visual Effects:

The Academy Award for Visual Effects (VFX) is awarded to the movie and crew the Academy feels have done the best job that year of creating environments and creatures through computer animation (visual effects) and practical effects like puppets and sculptures (special effects).  I enjoy this category because it honors one of the unsung jobs on a film that can have incredible impact on the overall finished product.  These are the folks working behind the scenes to make sure the final movie feels seamless. This year, there are five nominees.  

Love and Monsters (Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt, Brian Cox)

This is the simple story of a young man in a post-apocalyptic world making his way from one compound to another to join his high school girlfriend through fields of monsters. The impressive effects in this movie include creating an apocalypse, world-building, a robot, and lots of monsters.   

In a movie with ‘monsters’ in the title, of course the monsters have to be impressive.  The movie feels inspired by classic Harryhausen effects with giant bugs and creepy crawlers.  The combination of computer and practical effects make the finished product visually stunning.  Currently, you can rent Love and Monsters on Amazon Prime for $4.99.

The Midnight Sky (Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon, David Watkins)

The Midnight Sky is another post-apocalyptic movie that follows Augustine, a scientist, as he tries to stop a group of astronauts from returning to earth.  Augustine is dying of terminal cancer and he sets out to reach a weather station to communicate with the crew of the Aether to warn them that Earth is not habitable.

The effects here are used to create the landscape of a new world that the Aether discovers, the look and feel of the Aether as it travels through space, and various space-travel and decimated earth radioactive-ice storm scenes.  The team created computer facial replacements for scenes of astronauts in space.  Industrial Light & Magic helped by using a smaller version of the “Volume” used for The Mandalorian for Clooney’s Artic observatory and ice storms. You can currently stream The Midnight Sky on Netflix.

Mulan (Sean Fade, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury, Steven Ingram)

Disney was nominated in this category for the Lion King remake last year and this year the Mulan live-action version got a nomination.  The team at Weta Digital helped to create the Imperial City based on actual historical maps and architecture.  Filling in crowd scenes with computer generated people helped add scale to the feature.  

The movie looks amazing, the battle sequences are astounding and the city expansive.  Finding a smooth way to integrate computer enhancements into battle sequences without them looking cartoony is tricky.  Digital extras are one of the best advancements of CGI technology and can really provide scope without hiring hundreds of extras. Weta refined their digital extras for this movie, creating more realistic looking crowds. You can stream Mulan on Disney+.

The One and Only Ivan (Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones, Santiago Colomo Martinez)

The One and Only Ivan brings to life a popular children’s book. It tells the story of a silverback gorilla in captivity who promises to do what he can to help free a baby elephant. Each of the animals in the movie is created with computer effects. Ivan is done through performance capture.  

Photorealistic animals are always impressive, and difficult. They need to look realistic but still be able to convey emotion so that the audience connects with them. The crew from MPC Film was able to create a digital gorilla that can still give an emotional performance to bring the audience with him on his quest for freedom.  You can stream this movie on Disney+.

Tenet (Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher)

Tenet tells the story of a ‘protagonist’ as he joins a group of international agents who are working to stop an impending global war by inverting time.  Yes, inverting time – not time traveling, as they explain in the movie. But that’s about all the explanation you get. You really do have to turn off your brain and just enjoy the crazy effects.

Director Christopher Nolan used few computer effects, instead shooting most of the effects in reverse and combining the forward and backward action together to create the dizzying action sequences. While the story may be confusing, the fights are fantastic, and the movie almost requires multiple viewings to truly appreciate the high level of artistic crazy at work. The team at DNEG had to invent some new techniques to pull of the execution of the inverted sequences. Also, incredible stunt work across the board. You can currently rent Tenet on Amazon Prime for $5.99.

Who Should Win:

Admittedly, I have not seen many of the nominees this year. This is strange as typically this is the category that features movies I have seen willingly, but last year was strange all around. I did manage to see Tenet in the theater and the effects are fantastic – mainly because the majority are practical and layered together beautifully and the stunt work is absolutely incredible. That is the movie that gets my vote.  JDW balancing that espresso cup with one hand is not an effect, he managed that skill on his own.

Who Will Win:

There does not seem to be a front runner this year and the internet seems to think that The Midnight Sky and Tenet are neck and neck.  The Academy does tend to favor the effects that are the least showy – those that recreate historical locations and events rather than creating new and fantastical situations. None of the movies this year are historical dramas, but Mulan is the closest in that area. But even with the historical touches,  I do not think that will win, I think that Tenet will pull it out this year.