Glitz and glamor galore. Amid the high fashion, the nervous smiles, the ode to James Bond, and more, were the newly crowned winners of the Academy Awards. But, there was controversy as well, particularly centering on visual effects—specifically the dire state of the industry, as pointed out and discussed backstage by Bill Westenhofer after the film “Life of Pi” won for best visual effects.
This year’s contenders in a number of categories were too close to call, but in the end, the political-drama “Argo” took the top prize for best picture, besting other political dramas, albeit from different eras—“Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty”—as well as the socially charged “Les Misérables” and “Django Unchained,” plus the French-language drama “Amour,” the fantasy-infused dramas “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Life of Pi,” and the romantic comedy-drama “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Producers Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck (director as well), and George Clooney accepted the award. “On behalf of George and myself, I want to thank you, Ben. You directed a hell of a film. Couldn’t be more proud of the film. Couldn’t be more proud of Ben,” said Heslov. In his ecstatic acceptance speech, Affleck noted, “I was here 15 years ago or something and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all and really just a kid. I went out and I never thought I would be back here. And I am.”
Another big category was for best visual effects, and that statue went to “Life of Pi” (Ang Lee, director; Bill Westenhofer, visual effects). Starring alongside the actor Pi was the realistic CG Bengal tiger Richard Parker, created at Rhythm & Hues, which has now filed for Chapter 11 protection after crafting so many years of movie magic. Westenhofer, VFX supervisor, mentioned the plight of the studio and its visual effects practitioners in his acceptance speech, which was cut off at the end when he exceeded his time limit.
Rhythm & Hues wins Best Visual Effects
“The irony is not lost on any of us up here that in a film whose central premise is to ask the audience what they believe is real or not real, most of what you see is, well, it’s fake. That’s the magic of visual effects. I want to thank Gil Netter and Elizabeth Gabler and all those at Fox and Fox 2000 for realizing that sometimes it takes a risk to make something special. And ‘Life of Pi’ was a risk worth taking,” said Westenhofer.
“Finally, I want to thank all the artists who worked on this film for over a year, including Rhythm & Hues. Sadly Rhythm & Hues is suffering severe financial difficulties right now. I urge you all to remember….”
Later, backstage, Westenhofer finished his thoughts on that subject, pointing out the irony that VFX films are dominating the box office while VFX producers are struggling. He warned that the business model needs to be fixed. “We aren’t technicians. Visual effects are not just a commodity being done by people pushing buttons. We are artists, and if we don’t find a way to fix the business model, we may start to lose some of the artistry. If anything that ‘Life of Pi’ shows is that we are artists and not just technicians,” he said. (For the video, go to http://ca.movies.yahoo.com/video/life-pi-best-visual-effects-065944445.html)
Director Ang Lee spoke briefly in support of Rhythm & Hues after accepting his prize for best director.
Meanwhile, hundreds of VFX artists protested just blocks from the Dolby Theater as the Red Carpet activities began, with the goal of shedding light on this dire situation of the VFX industry. This included an aerial banner supporting unionization of the VFX artists. Current and former studio employees organized the protest after hundreds of layoffs; meanwhile, others remain at the studio working on upcoming headline films.
For more about this issue, see the related story, “Q&A Backstage at the Oscars.”
Meanwhile, in a race for best animated feature that pitted the best of CGI against the best of stop motion infused with CGI, the all-computer-generated movie “Brave” (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman) ended up the winner. Getting into the spirit of the Scottish-themed medieval film was Andrews, who sported a kilt. “I just happened to be wearing the kilt; I didn’t plan any of this,” he said.
Disney-Pixar's Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
In the animated short film category, Disney came up a big winner with the endearing “Paperman,” a black-and-white film directed by John Kahrs. The love-story short combines traditional animation and CGI and was released in November 2012 with Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was also vying for best animated feature.
The following is a complete list of nominees and winners:
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln" - WINNER
Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
Denzel Washington in "Flight"
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in "Argo"
Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"- WINNER
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook" - WINNER
Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"
Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "The Master"
Sally Field in "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables" - WINNER
Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"
Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best animated feature film of the year
"Brave" Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman - WINNER
"Frankenweenie" Tim Burton
"ParaNorman" Sam Fell and Chris Butler
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" Peter Lord
"Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore
Achievement in cinematography
"Anna Karenina" Seamus McGarvey
"Django Unchained" Robert Richardson
"Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda - WINNER
"Lincoln" Janusz Kaminski
"Skyfall" Roger Deakins
Achievement in costume design
"Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran - WINNER
"Les Misérables" Paco Delgado
"Lincoln" Joanna Johnston
"Mirror Mirror" Eiko Ishioka
"Snow White and the Huntsman" Colleen Atwood
Achievement in directing
"Amour" Michael Haneke
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Benh Zeitlin
"Life of Pi" Ang Lee - WINNER
"Lincoln" Steven Spielberg
"Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell
Best documentary feature
"5 Broken Cameras"
"How to Survive a Plague"
"The Invisible War"
"Searching for Sugar Man" - WINNER
Best documentary short subject
"Inocente" Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine - WINNER
"Kings Point" Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
"Mondays at Racine" Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
"Open Heart" Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
"Redemption" Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
Achievement in film editing
"Argo" William Goldenberg - WINNER
"Life of Pi" Tim Squyres
"Lincoln" Michael Kahn
"Silver Linings Playbook" Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
"Zero Dark Thirty" Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Best foreign language film of the year
"Amour" Austria - WINNER
"A Royal Affair" Denmark
"War Witch" Canada
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
"Hitchcock" Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
"Les Misérables" Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell - WINNER
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Anna Karenina" Dario Marianelli
"Argo" Alexandre Desplat
"Life of Pi" Mychael Danna - WINNER
"Lincoln" John Williams
"Skyfall" Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted"
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
"Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
"Skyfall" from "Skyfall" - WINNER
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
"Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
Best motion picture of the year
"Argo" - WINNER - Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
"Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
"Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
"Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
"Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
"Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
"Zero Dark Thirty" Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Achievement in production design
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration:Katie Spencer
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
"Life of Pi"
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Lincoln" - WINNER
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
Best animated short film
"Adam and Dog" Minkyu Lee
"Fresh Guacamole" PES
"Head over Heels" Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
"Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" David Silverman
"Paperman" John Kahrs - WINNER
Best live action short film
"Asad" Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
"Buzkashi Boys" Sam French and Ariel Nasr
"Curfew" Shawn Christensen - WINNER
"Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)" Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
"Henry" Yan England
Achievement in sound editing
"Argo" Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
"Django Unchained" Wylie Stateman
"Life of Pi" Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
"Skyfall" Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers – WINNER - tie
"Zero Dark Thirty" Paul N.J. Ottosson – WINNER - tie
Achievement in sound mixing
"Argo" John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
"Les Misérables" Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes - WINNER
"Life of Pi" Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
"Lincoln" Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
"Skyfall" Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Achievement in visual effects
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
"Life of Pi" - WINNER
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
"Marvel's The Avengers"
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
"Snow White and the Huntsman"
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
"Argo" Screenplay by Chris Terrio - WINNER
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
"Life of Pi" Screenplay by David Magee
"Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner
"Silver Linings Playbook" Screenplay by David O. Russell
"Amour" Written by Michael Haneke
"Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino - WINNER
"Flight" Written by John Gatins
"Moonrise Kingdom" Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
"Zero Dark Thirty" Written by Mark Boal