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Star Wars, The Revenant and Game of Thrones Take Top Honors at the VES Awards

February 3, 2016 08:58 | By

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of running into the late Hunter S. Thompson in the press room of the Democratic convention. That particular year, the Republican incumbent was heavily favored to win re-election. So, I asked the good Doctor, why are you here?

“I’m here for the odds,” he said.

If you attended the 14th annual edition of the Visual Effects Society awards for the same reason, you might have left sensing the odds favored the latest Star Wars installment to walk away with visual effects honors at the Oscars at month’s end, because it was The Force Awakens, along with some Game of Thrones, a sociable orangutan, a virtual bear, a couple of animation upsets, and the mangling of Ridley Scott’s name, that dominated the evening.

Disney’s sequel to George Lucas’ cultural icon copped the evening’s main prize, winning outstanding visual effects in a photoreal feature, a rephrasing of VES’ former top category that attempts to keep up with Salman Rushdie’s observation from the early 2000s that essentially all films now – given the amount of rendering that goes on – are animated to one degree or another.

And therefore, all equally photoreal regardless of how much was actually photographed.

The Revenant

The Revenant

The top award would seem to give the Skywalker clan the leg up when Oscar announces its own VFX favorite. But the intriguing sub-plot to the Oscar noms – the fact that the photoreal bear in The Revenant was also given a nod – stayed alive at VES as well, winning a total of three awards (to Star Wars’ 4) including outstanding animated performance in a photoreal feature.

Is anything not photoreal anymore?

Well, perhaps films designed overtly as animation. In that regard, while the general favorite in Oscar’s own animation category, Inside Out, grabbed a best animated character award, Pixar found itself in the strange circumstance of being upset by… Pixar. That was for outstanding visual effects in an animated feature, where The Good Dinosaur – not even an Oscar nominee – managed to trump the highly regarded tale of a teenage girl’s psyche.

In non-feature film categories, there were a handful of awards for Game of Thrones, spread among different episodes, and accolades for the British energy company SSE, whose commercial, Pier, showed a rendered orangutan having a night adventure scored to a Nat King Cole tune.

Game of Thrones City of Volantis

Game of Thrones City of Volantis

Patton Oswalt once again hosted, becoming the VES analog to Johnny Carson, or perhaps Billy Crystal, in terms of familiarity, reliability and durability.

There was also hilarity. When Oswalt was mentioning the credits of designer Syd Mead, given a Visionary Award by VES for his work in films ranging from Blade Runner to Tron, Mission Impossible III, and more, he mentioned drinking in Bar Basque, the Mead-designed upscale watering hole in NY, but said it couldn’t really top the “Ray Harryhausen Road House in Texas,” where, after all, a Cyclops served you your drinks.

If you didn’t find that immediately funny, it may be that the VES Awards weren’t meant for you, to begin with.

They were meant, however, for Sir Ridley Scott. When his name was surprisingly mangled at evening’s outset, it became a running gag for Oswalt, talking about Ridley “Scoot,” among other variations.

Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott (Photo by Scott Council)

As for Sir “Scoot,” when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, he gave a long-yet-amiable overview of his work with visual effects, going back to Alien, and all the way through the currently nominated The Martian, reminding the audience that “mathematics and science are art too.”

They certainly were at the VES Awards, or as Mead put it, “the expertise in this room is the best in the world.”

That expertise may extend to cementing the odds for further FX awards later this month. Regardless, expect things to keep getting more and more photoreal, whether they are set in space, a lost American frontier or even in Ray Harryhausen’s road house, somewhere in Texas.

The winners of the 2016 VES Awards are:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Roger Guyett
Luke O’Byrne
Patrick Tubach
Paul Kavanagh
Chris Corbould

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

The Revenant
Rich McBride
Ivy Agregan
Jason Smith
Nicolas Chevallier
Cameron Waldbauer

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

The Good Dinosaur
Sanjay Bakshi
Denise Ream
Michael Venturini
Jon Reisch

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Game of Thrones, “The Dance of Dragons”
Joe Bauer
Steve Kullback
Eric Carney
Derek Spears
Stuart Brisdon

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Vikings, “To the Gates”
Dominic Remane
Bill Halliday
Paul Wishart
Ovidiu Cinazan
Paul Byrne

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project

The Order: 1886
Nathan Phail-Liff
Dana Jan
Anthony Vitale
Scot Andreason

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

SSE, “Pier”
Neil Davies
Tim Lyall
Hitesh Patel
Jorge Montiel

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Fast and Furious: Supercharged
Chris Shaw
Alysia Cotter
Ben White
Diego Guerrero

Outstanding Animated Performance in a Photoreal Feature

The Revenant, The Bear
Matt Shumway
Gaelle Morand
Karin Cooper
Leandro Estebecorena

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Animated Feature

Inside Out, Joy
Shawn Krause
Tanja Krampfert
Jacob Merrell
Alexis Angelidis

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

SSE, “Pier,” Orangutan
Jorge Montiel
Sauce Vilas
Philippe Moine
Sam Driscoll

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Falcon Chase/Graveyard
Yanick Dusseault
Mike Wood
Justin van der Lek
Quentin Marmier

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

The Good Dinosaur, The Farm
David Munier
Matthew Webb
Matt Kuruc
Tom Miller

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

Game of Thrones, City of Volantis
Dominic Piche
Christine Leclerc
Patrice Poissant
Thomas Montminy-Brodeur

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Falcon Chase/Graveyard
Paul Kavanagh
Colin Benoit
Susumu Yukuhiro
Greg Salter

Outstanding Models in a Photoreal or Animated Project

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BB-8
Joshua Lee
Matthew Denton
Landis Fields
Cyrus Jam

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

Mad Max: Fury Road, Toxic Storm
Dan Bethell
Clinton Downs
Chris Young

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

The Good Dinosaur
Stephen Marshall
Magnus Wrenninge
Michael Hall
Hemagiri Arumugam

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

Game of Thrones, “Hardhome”
David Ramos
Antonio Lado
Piotr Weiss
Félix Bergés

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature

The Revenant, Bear Attack
Donny Rausch
Alan Travis
Charles Lai
TC Harrison

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode

Game of Thrones, “Hardhome”
Eduardo Díaz
Guillermo Orbe
Oscar Perea
Inmaculada Nadela

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Commercial

SSE, “Pier”
Gary Driver
Greg Spencer
Grant Connor

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

Citipati
Andreas Feix
Francesco Faranna