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‘Godzilla Minus One’ Director Could Land a Rare VFX Oscar Nomination

This weekend the visual effects branch presented its annual bakeoff, a pre-nomination-voting event featuring its category’s 10 shortlisted movies. Branch members got a look at an impressive and diverse range of work from big-budget tentpoles such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, to the $15 million Godzilla Minus One from Japan’s Toho, to a rare animated feature, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Speaking with the help of a translator, the Godzilla Minus One team of potential nominees offered a charming look at their work, which involved innovation—from character work to water—to complete the film’s 610 VFX shots with the constraints of a shoestring budget and just 35 artists. That unique situation also meant that Godzilla was one of several movies whose four potential nominees for creative contributions—in this case, including the film’s director Takashi Yamazaki and a compositor, Tatsuji Nojima—were not the more typical VFX supervisor and special effects supervisor roles often seen among this category’s nominees. In fact, Yamazaki could be the first director to be recognized in the category since Stanley Kubrick received an Oscar for the VFX in his landmark 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Prior to the bake-off, held Saturday at the Academy Museum and also live streamed, a VFX branch committee had already vetted all individuals for their creative contributors on the shortlisted films. Among them, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’s lineup whose four names included VFX producer Kathy Siegel, though producers also are typically not considered for this award.

A year ago, the VFX bakeoff prompted a larger conversation when it was revealed that one of the shortlisted movies, Top Gun: Maverick—whose PR narrative had at least initially centered on the actors’ training and live filming— actually involved 2,400 VFX shots including the creation of fully CG aircrafts.

It underscored what some VFX practitioners say is sometimes a practice—where studio marketing departments emphasize how productions do things for real but do not always paint a full picture where VFX is concerned. “It’s to the degree that this costs people nominations, and this costs people Academy Awards,” asserted a VFX branch member in a The Hollywood Reporter article on the subject published last year.

This year, there was nothing as overt as Maverick, but the topic remains on people’s minds.

For instance, last summer,  Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie appeared in a behind-the-scenes video about the film’s high-octane Rome-set car chase, saying, “Everything that we shot is completely practical,” (though McQuarrie had also spoken publicly about the film’s VFX.) At the bake-off, VFX supervisor Alex Wittke reported that the team aimed to do things for real where possible, though the movie also contained roughly 3,700 VFX shots. (For comparison, shortlisted Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 contained 3,066, according its VFX supervisor, Stephane Ceretti.)

The Mission Impossible bake-off reel included the aforementioned sequence in Rome—including a shot of a lone yellow Fiat on a Rome street before CG cars were added in postproduction to create the traffic. The Spanish Steps sequence, the team restated, was a set build, as they (obviously) could not damage the famous Italian landmark. The climactic train sequence was also featured. The team revealed it was created with substantial use of a gimbal. Some felt Cruise’s motorcycle stunt—arguably the most well-known shot in the movie—was noticeably absent from the reel.

VFX shortlisted movies also include Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which underscores the blurring of the lines between what is considered animation and what is viewed as VFX; The Creator; Poor Things; Rebel Moon; Society of the Snow and Napoleon.

The nominations for the 95th Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 23.

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