Last night Evan and I went to the Oscars Visual Effects Bakeoff, an open-to-the-public screening of the 7 contenders for the 5 VFX Oscar nominations. The Academy theater was packed — we had to wait in a line that wrapped around the building into the alley, though thankfully it moved pretty quickly.
The films on the lineup: Hellboy II, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Australia.
It was fun to see Hellboy II again, projected on the Academy’s giant screen. Focusing on the visual effects made me appreciate some of them even more, especially all the detail on the giant green Elemental monster.
The Mummy had a really impressive fight scene between terracotta soldiers and skeleton soldiers. Journey to the Center of the Earth I found a bit gimmicky, with its 3-D effects, which I understand are very technical and hard to do, but felt like they made me focus on the 3-D aspect instead of what was really going on. It was also sort of funny to see two Brendan Fraser flicks back to back.
Benjamin Button was really impressive — I had no idea that Brad Pitt played the character from start to finish and has his aged or “youthened” (the VFX team said they called the process “youthening”) face put on various actors’ bodies.
The Dark Knight was great — and it was the third time I’d seen it — and I forgot how awesome Iron Man was. That suit, the robots, the flying and the fighting were all really cool. I especially enjoyed how the suit came together when the robots put it on Tony.
Australia was a bit more puzzling because the effects were much more discreet. The film has a really beautiful look, and apparently a lot of that was done with set extensions — the VFX crew said that only one scene in the film didn’t have effects shots. It was just tough to tell where the reality ended and the effects began, which I guess was the point. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to check out a before and after of the shots.
We don’t get to vote or anything, but it was neat to be at least privy to part of the process. There were also short introductions and Q and A sessions along with each reel.