With 10 Oscar overall nominations, Sam Mendes’ World War I epic “1917” is tied with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Irishman” as the second-most nominated film at the 92nd Academy Awards (“Joker” leads with 11 bids). One of those bids is in Best Visual Effects for VFX supervisors Greg Butler, Guillaume Rocheran and Dominic Tuohy, where the movie competes alongside “Avengers: Endgame,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “The Irishman” and “The Lion King.” It currently tops the predictions in Gold Derby’s combined Oscar odds, and here are four reasons why it should be topping yours as well.
1. It’s a Best Picture nominee.
Since all branches of the academy vote for the winners in all categories at the Oscars, we typically see most races, above and below the line, go to Best Picture nominees, which would only favor “1917” and “The Irishman” in this year’s visual effects race. While this past decade has only seen four of its nine Best Visual Effects winners go to Best Picture contenders, those four years happened to be four of only five that even had Best Picture nominees in the running. In fact, those four winners – “Gravity” (2013), “Life of Pi” (2012), “Hugo” (2011) and “Inception” (2010) – were the sole Best Picture nominees contending for the win in their respective lineups; the fifth year saw “Ex Machina” (2015) pull off an upset over not one, but three Best Picture contenders (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian” and “The Revenant”).
In all other years, the winning films – “First Man” (2018), “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), “The Jungle Book” (2016) and “Interstellar” (2014) – were those which were probably the closest in their respective fields to breaking into the Best Picture race.
2. The nomination was the hurdle.
Although war movies tend to generally fare well with academy members, they have a difficult time getting recognized for their visual effects – most likely since those tend to be rather understated. The last war movie to even get nominated in Best Visual Effects was “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003), which makes “1917’s” inclusion 16 years later all the more important.
Not only is the movie peaking at the right moment – it didn’t expand wide until January 10 and has thus far accumulated a worldwide box office total of nearly $204 million – but after its Golden Globe Awards wins for Best Drama Picture and Best Director (for Mendes), as well as its Directors and Producers Guild Awards victories, it has now positioned itself as the projected Best Picture front-runner, which could directly bolster its chances in Best Visual Effects. Plus, the visual effects team has already landed bids at the BAFTA, Critics’ Choice (where it lost to “Avengers: Endgame”) and all-important Visual Effects Society Awards, which demonstrates steady support.
3. It has the fewest factors working against it.
Despite frequent citations for superhero and “Star Wars” movies, no superhero movie since “Spider-Man 2” (2004) and “Star Wars” movie since “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) has won the visual effects Oscar (“Return of the Jedi” received a Special Achievement Award in 1983). This places both “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” at a disadvantage, despite the fact that the former just bagged Critics’ Choice over “1917.” “The Lion King,” on the other hand, could suffer from voters having just recently rewarded three of its visual effects supervisors (Robert Legato, Adam Valdez and Andrew R. Jones) for similar work on “The Jungle Book,” plus from the fact that, although innovative, the photorealistic approach to the 1994 original has amassed some criticism for dulling the primal vividness. And finally, “The Irishman” has faced controversy for the de-aging of its three male leads (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), which may have proven to be a distraction from the movie for some voters.
Yes, “1917” would have to overcome the fact that no war movie has won Best Visual Effects since “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970), but as already mentioned, its inclusion in this race and position as the potential Best Picture winner might be its ticket to the win.
4. It’s the technical achievement of the year.
Put together to look like it was shot in one continuous take, “1917” was arguably one of the most daring and challenging technical feats of 2019. While a lot of its technical merit can be attributed to, among many others, director Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and editor Lee Smith, it’s the VFX team that made a lot of the movie’s scenery look realistic by shooting as much as possible with practical effects. When it comes to the Oscars, it’s often the flashiest showcases that win the below-the-line races, but Best Visual Effects has proven to be an exception to this rule with rather understated work, like in last year’s winner “First Man,” often triumphing over splashier work.
With our predictions forecasting wins for Deakins, Mendes and the movie’s sound editing and sound mixing teams (Smith was omitted in Best Editing), it’s possible that Butler, Rocheran (who is a previous visual effects winner for “Life of Pi”) and Tuohy go along for the ride if the movie does indeed steamroll in the technical-heavy categories.
Be sure to make your Oscar winner predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the ceremony on February 9. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.