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Awards Coverage-VES

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All the leads about pirates’ booty, and plunder, and finding award treasure, and whatever other avast-ye-mateys! turns-of-phrase are out there, have already been written, so regarding the Visual Effects Society’s 6th annual VES Awards, let’s just say it was a good night to be a Northern Californian.Especially if you were one of VFX supervisor John Knoll’s Marin County-based ILM crew—or even Mr. Knoll himself—taking home more awards than Blackbeard had firecrackers in his whiskers, for the sophomore installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.Indeed, Pirates won in every category it was nominated in.And this on top of news that same day that the film had copped a BAFTA Film Award in London as well. But most of the ILM heavies were stateside; not only Knoll himself, character animator Hal Hickley, and many more, but also Mr. ILM, George Lucas, who was there to present the lifetime achievement award to Ur-era special effects wizard Dennis Muren, who of course goes all the way back to the first Star Wars, and even before. A brief clip was shown during the Muren retrospective, but mostly there were various iterations of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, a bit of Dragonslayer, and the myriad other films Muren is justifiably famous for. As for how he got into visual effects, his story provided a kind of grace note to the evening. He told of being a young boy spending summers in Yosemite. The rangers would run evening programs around the campfires, and one of these led up to a ranger proclaiming “Let the fire fall!” Then, another ranger, positioned high up in the crags, would drop a burning torch or branch into the firepit below, flaming tracers behind them in the summer dark. Simple, but effective stagecraft—Muren opined that it was doubtless “against regulations” by now—but it worked its enchantment.And thus the world of the Skywalker clan came a little bit more into being.But it also illustrated what motivated a lot of people in that room. Sure, for some, it’s a job. But for many, it’s a way of holding on to a kind of enchantment with the world; or imbuing a hard cold age with a little magic. Everyone in the room—the ballroom at LA’s Hollywood & Highland—was proficient with ones and zeros (with the possible exception of your humble correspondent), yet the gear, really, is just a means of resurrecting dreams or staving off nightmares.After that, Will Vinton, of stop-motion California Raisins fame, came on to present awards for best visual FX in a music video (Green Day & U2’s “The Saints are Coming”) and best animated character in a TV commercial (the Geico lizard), and made note of “needing” to be there when he heard Muren was to be honored.The NorCal theme continued when another of high-tech’s personalities, Steve Wozniak, took the stage. “Woz,” of course, co-invented the Apple computer and helped launch Silicon Valley—another tinkerer, like Lucas, without whom, most of the room might’ve been somewhere else that evening. He presented the statue for best VFX in a TV commercial, which went to Weta Workshop in New Zealand for work they’d done in a Travelers Insurance commercial.Other TV awards went to Battlestar Galactica for the Broadcast Series VFX honor, and the Stephen King-y Nightmares and Dreamscapes in the miniseries category.And then the TV motif was continued when Hiro—which is to say, actor Masi Oka, who plays the almost-titular character on Heroes—came out to present the final two awards of the evening: Flags of Our Fathers copped the gold for best FX in a motion picture, and the last two bits of bullion, as previously noted, went to Dead Man’s Chest.Mr. Knoll will be back next year, among the nominees, of course, for the concluding chapter to the Jack Sparrow saga (he’s already alluded to an unprecedented amount of “water wrangling” for that one), but he’ll be up against even stiffer competition by then, what with Spiderman 3, another Harry Potter, Transformers, and The Golden Compass—all among this year’s FX-drenched offerings.Whether it will be equally good to hail from San Francisco Giants territory then, only time will tell. Still, don’t throw away your crusty sourdough and glass of Sonoma red just yet.The winners:Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – John Knoll, Jill Brooks, Hal Hickel, Charlie GibsonOutstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture: Flags of Our Fathers – Michael Owens, Matthew Butler, Bryan Grill, Julian LeviOutstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special: Nightmares and Dreamscapes “Battlegound” – Eric Grenaudier, Sam Nicholson, Mark Spatny, Adalberto LopezOutstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series: Battlestar Galactica “Episode 303b, Exodus” – Gary Hutzel, Michael Gibson, Alec McClymont, Brenda CampbellOutstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program: ER “Scoop and Run” – Sam Nicholson, Scott Ramsey, Adam Ealovega, Anthony OcampoOutstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial: Travelers “Snowball” – Dan Lemmon, Eileen Moran, R. Christopher White, Paul StoryOutstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video: U2 and Green Day “The Saints are Coming” – Matt Winkel, Mark Glaser, Wayne England, Graham FyffeBest Single Visual Effect of the Year: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – John Knoll, Ned Gorman, Jakub Pistecky, Tom FejesOutstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game: Fight Night Round 3 for PS3 – Christopher Sjoholm, Kat Kelly Hayduk, Rob Hilson, Celia JepsonOutstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project: Roving Mars – Alan Markowitz, Dan Maas, Jeremy Nicolaides, Johnathan BantaOutstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest “Davy Jones” – Steve Walton, Jung-Seung Hong, Marc Chu, James TooleyOutstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture: Cars “Mater” – Larry The Cable Guy, Mike Krummhoefener, Tom Sanocki, Nancy KatoOutstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video: Geico “Chat” – David Hulin, Seth Gollub, Andy Walker, Jenny BichselOutstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Chris Stoski, Susumu Yukuhiro, Jack Mongovan, Greg SalterOutstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video: Elisabeth “Episode 1” – Dave Bowman, Jimmy Kiddell, Russell Horth, Gurel MehmetOutstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Bruce Holcomb, Ron Woodall, Charlie Bailey, Carl MillerOutstanding Models and Miniatures in a Broadcast Program: Battlestar Galactica “Season 2, Episode 218, Resurrection Ship, Part 2” – Steve Graves, Jose Perez, Mark Shimer, Chris ZaparaOutstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Eddie Pasquarello, Francois Lambert, Jeff Sutherland, Tory MercerOutstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video: Travelers “Snowball” – Laure Lacroix, Lyse Beck, Steve McGillen, Matt HollandOutstanding Special Effects in a Motion Picture: Casino Royale – Chris Corbould, Peter Notley, Ian Lowe, Roy QuinnVenue: New digs!—the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & HighlandParking: I found a spot on one of the few unrestricted blocks nearby. Greenies:
It’s only a few steps from the Metro railBar: Someone snuck an extra drink ticket into our press packet—thanks!Quality of Drinks: The well drinks were pretty good; of course your humble correspondent cuts to the chase and drinks shots of bourbon at these things, but it’s a good way to judgeQuality of Wine: Fair; they might want to bring more Northern Californians in next year for a consult on “bigger reds.”Food: Upper-end banquet chow; beef was the default, but we asked for a fish or veggie alternative, and had some elegant ravioli within minutesAttire: Black tieShow Length: About right; in fact, most of the clips were so cool, they ended too soonHost: Rotating; Eric Roth and Jeff Okun, who kicked the evening off, are becoming very slick award-show speakersSwag: The DVDs were skimpier this year—which is really nothing more than a stomach-wrenching Hollywood whine; however, of the two I got, one was for one of my favorites of the year, V for Vendetta; and then, ILM provided everyone with a pair of cocktail glassesHigh Point: While I won’t claim any particular epiphanies, the whole evening was funLow Point: Trying to find a direct route from the shopping plaza below to the ballroom aboveBest Quote of the Night: John Landis on pre-’75 B-movies, noting the stories were good, but the “monsters” looked crappy (well, except for Harryhausen one assumes); post-’75, the monsters started to look great, “but the movies were shit”

Written by Mark London Williams

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