“Cats” was far from purr-fect, and so was the “Cats” joke at the Oscars. On Monday, the Visual Effects Society released a statement denouncing the presentation of the Best Visual Effects category at Sunday’s ceremony, which featured “Cats” stars James Corden and Rebel Wilson, decked out as their characters, mocking their musical flop.
“Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline, and suggested that bad VFX were to blame for the poor performance of the movie ‘Cats,'” the statement read. “The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly.”
In their banter, Corden and Wilson quipped that, as stars of “Cats,” “nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects.” The self-burn went over like gangbusters in the room, and everyone continued to laugh as Corden and Wilson pawed at the microphone before announcing “1917” as the winner.
One of the most anticipated films of 2019 (though not exactly for the “right” reasons), “Cats” became one of the biggest bombs in recent memory, opening to just $6.5 million in December. The Tom Hooper misfire currently stands at $27.2 million domestic, with an expected loss of at least $71 million on a nearly $100 million budget. The reviews were not much kinder, to say the least, as critics and fans alike were utterly perplexed and/or freaked out by the creepy uncanny valley-ness of the CGI.
To make matters worse, “Cats,” which is up for eight Razzies, made the Oscar shortlist for visual effects, but days later, the film hit theaters with unfinished CGI, among them Judi Dench‘s human hand, with her wedding ring on, instead of a cat paw. Universal then rushed an updated version of “Cats” with “some improved visual effects” to theaters in the middle of its opening weekend.
“On a night that is all about honoring the work of talented artists, it is immensely disappointing that the academy made visual effects the butt of a joke. It demeaned the global community of expert VFX practitioners doing outstanding, challenging and visually stunning work to achieve the filmmakers’ vision,” the statement continued. “Our artists, technicians and innovators deserve respect for their remarkable contributions to filmed entertainment, and should not be presented as the all-too-convenient scapegoat in service for a laugh.”
Visual effects was not the only below-the-line category that was the brunt of banter jokes, though none as savage as the one for “Cats.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell pretended to not know what a cinematographer does — “not only does a cinematographer prepare the meals for the crew and cast…” — and then feigned anger at editors for being cut out of “1917” and “Ford v Ferrari” before presenting film editing.
“Moving forward, we hope that the academy will properly honor the craft of visual effects – and all of the crafts, including cinematography and film editing – because we all deserve it,” the statement concluded.
The academy has not responded to the Visual Effects Society.