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Awards Season Kicks Off With No Clear Leader in the Pack


This year’s awards season kicked off with a healthy raft of contenders vying for attention, but no clear front runners expected to sweep up, making it difficult for pundits to read the tea leaves – unlike last year, where two odds-on favorites – Avatar and The Hurt Locker – overshadowed all others.

James Franco (127 Hour s) and Anne Hathaway (Alice in Wonderland) will serve as co-hosts of the 83rd Academy Awards telecast from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, Feb. 27 which will air live on the ABC Television Network. Nominations will be announced Jan. 25 at 5:30 a.m.

Steve Bass
Steve Bass

Steve Bass will serve as production designer for the event. This will be the first time the Emmy-winning production designer has worked on the Oscar telecast, but he is no stranger to large-scale live events, having worked on such galas as the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, and the Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Bass has won two Emmys, in 1997 as art director of the Centennial Olympic Games: Opening Ceremonies, and in 2005 for his production design work on The 47th Annual Grammy Awards. He has three additional Emmy nominations for the Grammys (in 2004, 2008 and 2009); his most recent nomination was this year for his work on the 63rd Annual Tony Awards.

Earlier this year the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced changes to some of the rules, in particular, relating to visual effects and animation. The Visual Effects category will now feature five nominees rather than three. In the Animated Feature Film category, the running time for a film to qualify as a feature was changed from 70 to 40 minutes. The previous 70-minute threshold for an animated feature had left a gap for films that ran between 40 and 70 minutes, effectively preventing them from being able to qualify as either “features” or “shorts.”

In addition, the governors were compelled to draw a line between what counts as “animation” and what counts as an “effect.” Under the new rules, to qualify as animation, characters’ performances and movement must be created using a frame-by-frame technique rather than motion capture.

The Animated Feature Film category will only have three nominees this year. The Academy recently released a list of 15 contenders in the category, but under the rules for this category, there have to be 16 or more animated contenders in order to nominate five films. In fact, since instituting the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2001, only twice has the Academy been able to come up with five nominees (2003 and 2010). The animated contenders include Alpha and Omega; Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore; Despicable Me; The Dreams of Jinsha; How to Train Your Dragon; Idiots and Angels; The Illusionist; Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole; Megamind; My Dog Tulip; Shrek Forever After; Summer Wars; Tangled; Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, and Toy Story 3.

This year’s Scientific and Technical Awards contenders are particularly heavy on effects and animation technologies. The awards will be presented at a formal dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Feb. 12. In these technical categories, the Academy awards plaques and certificates, as well as a medallion and an Oscar statuette. Unlike other Academy Awards, contenders for the Scientific and Technical Awards need not have been developed and introduced during the previous year. In fact, many of them took years to develop, and their full potential wasn’t realized until long after their introduction. The main requirement is that they must demonstrate “a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.”

At press time, there were 15 contenders in the technical categories, including several systems developed in-house at some of the industry’s top visual effects and animation studios. The companies vying for recognition in these categories include: Industrial Light & Magic, (OBQ/DOALL); Rhythm & Hues, (Queue); Digital Domain, (Race Render Queue System); PipelineFX, (Qube); Pixar Animation Studios, (Misterd); DreamWorks Animation, (RQS /Depgraph Render Management System); Sony Pictures Imageworks, (Cue3); Pixar Animation Studios, (Alfred – Job Queuing and Distributing Rendering System); Walt Disney Animation Studios, (XGen – Arbitrary Primitive Generator); Weta Digital, (Expression Analysis for Facial Motion Capture); PDI/DreamWorks Animation, (Efficient Global Illumination System for Computer Graphic Films); Rising Sun Research, (CineSync); Entertainment Technology, (Time code Slate ) ; NAC Company , (NAC Servo Winches), and Performance Picture Vehicles, (Cannon-Less Turnover System). The final list of winners in the Sci-Tech category is expected to be released in January.

As always, visit www.btlnews.com for awards season coverage, including contender profiles, category-by-category analysis and ongoing coverage of the major guild awards, (often a good bellwether for the Oscars).

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