‘Avatar’ Visual Effects Oscar Winners Played Off In James Cameron-Free Speech; Jimmy Kimmel Jokes They Had Wanted To Announce Their After-Party At “CGI Fridays”

The team behind Avatar: The Way of Water‘s long-expected Oscar win for Visual Effects learned first-hand how committed Academy officials and show producers are to keeping things moving.

Richard Baneham, one of four winners along with Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett, took the trophy first and thanked director James Cameron, who was not in attendance. He also shouted out producer Jon Landau and a range of technical colleagues. Just as the Academy-allotted 45 second expired, music swelled abruptly and the camera panned away just as Saindon was heard saying, “We need to thank our families–“

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As applause died down, the camera found Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel, who appeared to be ready for the play-off. “It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I happen to know before he was cut off, the Avatar visual effects team asked me to announce that if anyone’s interested, the visual effects after-party is at CGI Fridays.”

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There may not have been a bigger lock heading into Oscar night than the Avatar sequel in visual effects, one of four categories in which it was nominated. Released 15 years after the original film, it cleared the previous outing’s extremely high bar. The immersive effects helped make the film a huge draw in Imax auditoriums. The large-format tech and exhibition company said last month that the film set a record as the biggest first-run release in Imax history, taking in $253 million. With $2.3 billion and still grossing, the film is the third-biggest global release of all time.

At the Visual Effects Society’s annual awards last month, the last major pre-Oscar bellwether for VFX contenders, The Way of Water swept the feature field with nine wins out of its record-setting 14 nominations. The first Avatar had 11 VES nominations.

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Cameron never lacked any confidence in his follow-up to the Oscar smashes of Avatar and Titanic. Last December, doing publicity for The Way of Water, he said the effects in Marvel movies cannot match his team’s handiwork. “When it comes to the kind of emotive facial stuff that we’re doing…I mean, Thanos? Come on. Give me a break,” Cameron said in an interview with Comicbook.com. “You saw this [new Avatar] movie. It’s not even close.”

Kimmel zinged the absent Cameron during his opening monologue. “Some cynics are saying Jim Cameron is not here tonight because he didn’t get a Best Director nomination,” he joked, “and while I find that very hard to believe about a man of such deep humility, he does have a point. I mean, how does the Academy not nominate the man who directed Avatar? What do they think he is, a woman?”

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