Visual Effects

Bill Desowitz reports from the Academy’s Visual Effects bake-off.  He predicts the same films he thought would be nominated prior to the bake-off, “Life of PiThe Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyThe Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises … with PrometheusThe Amazing Spider-Man, or even Skyfall grabbing the final spot.”  He doesn’t mention Cloud Atlas, even though the reel they showed was among the most dazzling effects of the year.  These are all really strong contenders, however.  Desowitz reports:

The five-minute presentations were informative and often humorous while the 10-minute reels fairly effectively showed off the eye candy. The work was consistently good throughout, mixing old and new techniques in a naturalistic way. Everything was screened digitally except for The Dark Knight Rises (the lone film holdout) and there was also the first-time bakeoff demo of higher frame rate, which went smoothly.

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 10 films remain in the running in the Visual Effects category for the 85th Academy Awards®.

The films are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • “The Amazing Spider-Man”
  • “Cloud Atlas”
  • “The Dark Knight Rises”
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
  • “John Carter”
  • “Life of Pi”
  • “Marvel’s The Avengers”
  • “Prometheus”
  • “Skyfall”
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman”

All members of the Visual Effects Branch will be invited to view 10-minute excerpts from each of the 10 shortlisted films on Thursday, January 3. Following the screenings, the members will vote to nominate five films for final Oscar consideration.

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented on Sunday, February 24, 2013, at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

Mindblowing. The best special effects are those you’d never guess are effects.

  • “Captain America: The First Avenger”
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
  • “Hugo”
  • “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
  • “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”
  • “Real Steel”
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
  • “The Tree of Life”
  • “X-Men: First Class”

Hugo among them! Rise of the Planet of the Apes! Harry Potter! The Tree of Life!

Like countless other craftsmen in the film industry, Joe Letteri is far from a household name. Still, if you’ve appreciated the visual effects of the Lord of the Rings films, King Kong, Avatar, or this summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you’re familiar with Letteri’s work, and how he and the crew at Weta Digital have spent the past decade being great innovators in the world of visual effects, creating and redefining several times over the art of the motion capture performance. Letteri has already won four competitive Oscars and a technical achievement award, and is once again a frontrunner in this year’s race for his work on Apes. I recently sat down with Letteri, and he generously spent a half-an-hour taking me through the highlights of his career thus far, the new ground he and the Weta crew broke on Apes, and providing a glimpse into some future projects. Here are the highlights of our in-depth discussion:

Jackson Truax: Take us back to your early days working at Industrial Light and Magic. How did end up working there, and what did you gain from the experience?

Joe Letteri: I had been learning computer graphics on my own. I was really interested in doing organic effects, clouds and things like that… I got a job at ILM, and became interested in this whole side of “How do you make things look realistic?” The first [movie] I got to do anything on was…Star Trek VI… The opening shot…the planet explodes in this…big ring of fire. I got to use these ideas I was working with on natural looking clouds, and twist them around to make this natural-looking fire-ball explosion. That was my first shot in film… Continue reading…

“Captain America: The First Avenger”
“Cowboys & Aliens”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”
“Sucker Punch”
“Super 8”
“Thor”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“The Tree of Life”
“X-Men: First Class”

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is looking pretty damned good.

Inception tops the Visual Effects Society Awards with 4 wins. How to Train Your Dragon wins 3.  (Thanks to The Wrap for the list)

MOTION PICTURES

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual-Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture: “Inception”
Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Mike Chambers and Matthew Plummer
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture: “Hereafter”
Michael Owens, Joel Mendias, Bryan Grill and Danielle Plantec
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture: “How to Train Your Dragon”
Simon Otto, Craig Ring and Bonnie Arnold
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inception9

Full list at Variety:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual-Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture
Inception
Iron Man 2
TRON: Legacy
Alice In Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Green Zone
SALT
Hereafter
Black Swan
Robin Hood

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And they are:

“Alice in Wonderland”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
“Hereafter”
“Inception”
“Iron Man 2”
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World”
“Tron: Legacy”

Choose five. Go.

“Alice in Wonderland”
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
“Clash of the Titans”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
“Hereafter”
“Inception”
“Iron Man 2”
“The Last Airbender”
“Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”
“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World”
“Shutter Island”
“The Sorcerer‚Äôs Apprentice”
“Tron: Legacy”
“Unstoppable”

Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, due in theaters March 25th, 2011.

An action fantasy set in the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what’s real and what is imaginary. She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll (Emily Browning) has not lost her will to survive. Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls — the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the fiercely loyal Amber (Jamie Chung) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) — to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors, Blue (Oscar Isaac), Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and the High Roller (Jon Hamm). Led by Babydoll, the girls engage in fantastical warfare against everything from samurais to serpents, with a virtual arsenal at their disposal. Together, they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive. But with the help of a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), their unbelievable journey — if they succeed — will set them free

I don’t know why they have to call it The Nutcracker in 3D. Can’t it just be The Nutcracker? Anyway, kind of cute to see Elle Fanning in this and Somewhere else this year.

[UPDATE: Kristen Stewart on The Late Show with David Letterman, now attached on page 2.]

Last week’s EW cover declared Eclipse “The Best Twilight Movie So Far” without a single word inside to back up the claim. Today the trades weigh in with the same assessment and give us a few reasons to believe them.

THR’s Kirk Honeycutt praises the three leads and credits the director for tapping the right vein:

Since Rosenberg’s writing has never been the problem in the series, much of the credit for the success of “Eclipse” probably belongs to the series’ third director, David Slade (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night”). He quickly establishes a rapid yet unhurried pace, a willingness to let tongue perch in cheek and an unapologetic indulgence in this basic fantasy of every teenage girl — that two high school hunks are in love with her and willing to die for her, except, of course, that one is already undead.

The three leads shine under his direction. Stewart anchors everything with a finely tuned if not slightly underplayed performance that catches her character in moments of doubt about the course and the man she has chosen. Pattinson makes you forget the white makeup and weird eye contact lenses to concentrate on a person torn over his love for a woman and the sacrifice he knows she will have to make to stay with him.

But it’s Lautner who nearly steals the movie with his ripped muscle and steely acting. He definitely has the “it” factor Hollywood always looks for.

Variety’s Peter Debruge agrees that the series has finally established a steady cinematic pulse, and re-translates the material in the best tradition of pulp fiction renovations: ripping out the framework down to the studs (so to speak) and rebuilding the structure into something sturdier.

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Adapted from Nick McDonell’s novel and directed by Joel Schumacher, Twelve features Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Ellen Barkin, and Kiefer Sutherland.

The 2002 book was written when McDonell was only seventeen-year-old. The grim and gritty tale follows prep school dropout White Mike as he takes a year off to deal a new exotic drug to his privileged friends on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The kids would appear to have everything they could want but in reality they are left to their own devices by parents more interested in business trips and holidays. The teens indulge in sex and drugs, leading to all sorts of problems. (Monsters & Critics)

Roger Ebert saw Twelve at Sundance, and liked it:

Twelve is a “Less than Zero” for 2010, a savage portrait of a crowd of stupid rich kids on the Upper East Side, and how they spend their parents’ money to create perhaps irreversible damage to their lives. Holden Caulfield would have been thrown into catatonia after five minutes with them. Chace Crawford is very good as the alleged hero, White Mike, who doesn’t smoke or drink and dropped out of private school to devote himself full-time to marijuana sales. Emma Roberts plays Molly, an essentially nice girl he falls for, and Esti Ginzburg is the Popular Blonde who tells a younger kid (Rory Culkin) that if makes his parents’ apartment available for her birthday party, she’ll sleep with him.

The title comes from a trendy new drug White Mike doesn’t deal in, but he gets some from another dealer (50 Cent) to supply for party night. The film is very well acted, and dark, dark, dark. The director is Joel Schumacher, assured and fearless on a small budget and short shooting schedule which seems to add spontaneity.

Brought to you by Gaumont, Radar Pictures and Original Media, Twelve opens July 30. Poster and several official production stills after the cut.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe earned three Oscar nominations and won for Best Makeup. Some of the novelty had faded for the second Narnian adventure and the Academy overlooked Prince Caspian. If the trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Trader seems to have a cleaner more coherent visual scheme than the first two installments, maybe some credit goes to 2-time Oscar nominee Dante Spinotti. The Narnia films have shown an impeccable sense of craft, and I’m happy to sacrifice a little wow factor for tasteful restraint. Tilda Swinton’s return as the White Witch is all the wow I need.

Deadline reports that Robert Downey Jr plans to split his Sherlock Holmes 2 shooting schedule in two so he has time to squeeze time between sleuthing stints for Alfonso Cuar√≥n’s 3D space opera, Gravity. The Playlist finds tantalizing descriptions of the concept and design intentions from Oscar-winning effects specialists, Framestore:

Framestore is about to embark on one of its greatest challenges yet, Gravity is the next Avatar in terms of ambition. There are many innovative and visually stunning aims for this project.

The entire film will be made here at Framestore. In effect the film, as Avatar was, is 60% CG feature animation with the balance being hybrid CG and live action elements.

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EW points us to this Asylum piece that takes issue with some of the things that don’t make sense in Indy 4. For my money, the three waterfalls part was where I scratched my head, not just because they never could have survived the third one but because it lacked dramatic tension. They could have done more with it. What they lost with that, though, they made up for with the great red ant sequence, the best thing about the movie, imo.

Believable: Archaeologists Can Be Total Horndogs
Sure, as a professor, Indy wears a bowtie and acts mild-mannered, but if you’re looking for a lifetime of monogamy, don’t marry someone who spends months on end at remote sites with a gaggle of worshipful students. Marion shoulda known.

Unbelievable: Being Caught Without a Pencil
OK, the scene where Indy tore into a mummy with his bare hands raised an eyebrow, but I almost fell out of my seat when he turned to his sidekick Mutt and asked to borrow a knife. Not even completely incompetent archaeologists go anywhere without a multi-purpose knife and a pen and paper (and maybe even a measuring tape) to at least make a basic record of what they find. It got even worse in a later scene when the archaeologist had to borrow a freakin’ pencil. What’s Indy carrying in his shoulder bag — a change of undies and some trail mix?


The moviebloggers were atwitter today as the Jackie Chan/Jet Li action pic edged out Sarah Marshall, which many were predicting to triumph. Forbidden Kingdom, which got a rave by AO Scott, is much more audience-friendly than the Peter Pan rom/com. We’ll see if the exuberant kung-fu flick finishes at number one. I’m not seeing how any target demo kid passes up Jackie Chan.

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