Oscars: ‘Gravity’ Has Visual Effects Sewn Up, But What About The Other Tech Categories?

Oscars: 'Gravity' Has Visual Effects Sewn Up, But What About The Other Tech Categories?

Last week, the Academy announced the longlist for their visual effects awards, from which five nominees will be picked. The list is made up of “Elysium,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Oblivion,” “Pacific Rim,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Thor” The Dark World” and “World War Z.” Oh, and one more, which overshadows all of the others: “Gravity,” which bar some immense shock is certain to take the prize. It’s a solid front-runner in cinematography too bu does it have the rest of the technical awards—editing, sound design and sound mixing—sewn up in the same way?

Let’s look at Visual Effects first. Eyebrows were raised by some omissions from the longlist—while “47 Ronin,” “Rush,” “Oz The Great & Powerful” and “Ender’s Game” were among those left off, the real surprise was “Man Of Steel,” which many had figured as a potential nominee. For the answer to why the film was left off, you have to dig into the politics of the visual effects world: when Rhythm & Hues (last year’s winners for “Life Of Pi”) hit financial trouble Warner pulled the film from the company, arguably hastening their bankruptcy. As such, the film likely got some blowback from that, hence its absence.

So what else could join Alfonso Cuaron‘s film? Given that every Middle-Earth adventure to date has earned a nomination in the category, expect “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” to figure in. Similarly, both “Iron Man” films, and “The Avengers,” made the cut, so “Iron Man 3” is likely to take precedent over Marvel‘s other film, “Thor: The Dark World.” Beyond that, it’s harder to tell. You can probably rule out “The Lone Ranger,” a surprise nominee, and one with less CG work than the others, while the creatures of “World War Z” were criticized by some, so we think it won’t have a ton of support.

That leaves “Elysium,” “Oblivion,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Pacific Rim” fighting for the final two slots. The first “Star Trek” was a nominee, but this one doesn’t bring anything new to the table, beyond this year’s umpteenth thing-crashes-into-city shot, so it’s probably an outside bet at best. “Pacific Rim” wasn’t always entirely convincing but there was more character to the work than most of the films on this list, and the gorgeous coloring and design work should tick some nerd boxes and see the film become a nominee. It’ll be tight between “Elysium” and “Oblivion” for the final space, but our money’s on the latter, if only for the more rigorous and attention-grabbing look of Joseph Kosinski‘s film.

So what about editing? Some might assume, given the number of lengthy takes, that “Gravity” might have a tougher battle, but the precision work in the pacier sequences is impeccable. Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger are thus more or less locked for a nod, and probably front-runners for the win. It’s a tougher battle here, though. Paul Greengrass has fared well in the category before, with “United 93” a nominee, and “The Bourne Ultimatum” a winner. As such, Christopher Rouse‘s work for “Captain Phillips” will certainly figure in and could even be a dark horse to win Rouse another statue. Beyond that, the category’s harder to predict.

It’s always worth remembering that, famously, no film has won Best Picture without an editing nomination since “Ordinary People” in 1980 (and only nine films in total), and that’s likely to affect your predictions to some degree. The craft on “Rush” or on “Lone Survivor” is unquestionable, for instance (and it’s worth noting that “Black Hawk Down,” which has much in common with the latter, won the category a decade ago), but with neither film a serious Best Picture contender, it’s possible that they’ll be pushed out in favor of films with more support for the main prize.

Of those films, the sturdy work of Joe Walker on “12 Years A Slave” seems the safest, though that does depend on whether the film can keep up momentum after a few weeks in which it’s taken a hit. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” may yet prove too out-there for the Academy, but Thelma Schoonmaker‘s been nominated for every one of Scorsese’s films since the turn of millennium bar “Shutter Island,” and seems like a pretty good bet here. Beyond that, “American Hustle,” “Nebraska,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Saving Mr Banks” will all be battling for nomination—whichever ones miss out are likely to take a hit on their chances at the big prize. We’d probably give ‘Hustle’ the edge, with “Nebraska” not far behind, but it’s still possible that the editors will go with “Rush” or “Lone Survivor” ahead of them. Were we casting a ballot, we’d be favoring the immaculately-timed cutting of “Frances Ha” by Jennifer Lame ourselves, but she’s sadly unlikely to figure in.

Finally, and relatively briefly, the sound categories, which are usually a mix of blockbusters and Best Picture hopefuls. In case you’ve forgotten, Sound Editing is the actual design and creation of the soundscape, while Sound Mixing awards how well they’ve been put together in the final track. But still, there usually is a fair amount of overlap, though not In both cases, “Gravity” is again the front-runner, and rightly so, given the importance of sound to the final film.

In general, there’s a fair amount of overlap in the category, although they rarely match up exactly. Given the strength of the work there, expect “All Is Lost” to figure in both, and maybe even be a dark horse for the win, while “Captain Phillips” is sure to figure in both. “Lone Survivor” and “Rush” will both be serious contenders here, as well, with “Man Of Steel,” “Iron Man 3,” Star Trek Into Darkness,” “The Hobbit” and “Pacific Rim” very viable in Editing too. Meanwhile, musicals have a certain head start in Mixing, so look for a potential nomination for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” with any luck.

Full predictions in all categories on the next page, along with this week’s Best Picture Chart, taking the temperature of the race after the first run of precursors awards.

Best Visual Effects Predictions – Monday December 9th


“The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug”

“Iron Man 3”


“Pacific Rim”

Best Editing Predictions – Monday December 9th

Joe Walker – “12 Years A Slave”

Christopher Rouse – “Captain Phillips”

Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger – “Gravity”

Colby Parker Jr – “Lone Survivor”

Thelma Schoonmaker – “The Wolf Of Wall Street”

Best Sound Editing Predictions – Monday December 9th

“All Is Lost”

“Captain Phillips”


“Lone Survivor”


Best Sound Mixing Predictions – Monday December 9th

“All Is Lost”

“Captain Phillips”


“Inside Llewyn Davis”

“Lone Survivor”

Best Picture Chart – Monday December 9th

1. “Gravity” (2)
We weren’t sure if critics’ groups would go for Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster ($630 million and counting, for the record), but it shared the top prize from the LAFCA this weekend, showing the breadth of support for it. Expect other films to pick up more SAG and Golden Globes nominations (it only has two actors, and the Globes don’t have many tech categories), but that won’t stop its momentum. The biggest threat is the ‘amusement ride’ accusation, so Warners would do well to play up the film’s substance .

2. “American Hustle’ (5)
The strong showing, including Best Picture, from the NYFCC, was crucial for the film, giving it a big boost ahead of its opening this week. The victory underlined what we’d suspected, that the film’s a potential consensus choice — the right mix of entertaining and substance, without the shock value of “Wolf Of Wall Street” — that’s likely to have strong support from the actors branch, plus the desire to reward David O Russell after two near-misses. Expect a ton of Golden Globes nods this week.

3. “12 Years A Slave” (1)
It’s certainly a little surprising that Steve McQueen’s films missed out with the major critics’ awards this week (though it was victorious with some of the smaller organizations), and comparisons with “The Color Purple” (famously picking up multiple nominations, but not winning any) are starting to loom. That said, this shouldn’t be counted out at all: it’s still a remarkable piece of work, and the Academy could still go for the more significant choice, when all is said and done.

4. “Saving Mr Banks” (6)
Various prognosticators have been saying this week that studio and Academy sources have been predicting that this will end up walking away with the thing, which probably isn’t to be treated lightly. That said, it’s easy to condescend to the Academy, and it’s not as complete a crowd-pleaser as “The King’s Speech” (for example), the Disney-celebrates-itself aspect of the film could put some off, and perhaps most importantly, the box office in the UK, where it opened a week ago, has been disappointing. If this underperforms in the U.S. too, there’s no chance it wins Best Picture.

5. “Nebraska” (7)
Bruce Dern is increasingly starting to feel like a front-runner for Best Actor, and the film should do well across the board. Probably still too intimate to challenge for the win, and it’s unlikely to be a Globes favorite (not enough famous people in it), but the SAG are likely to make up for that.

6. “Her” (10)
Potentially the major surprise of the season. We’d assumed that the love for the film wouldn’t carry across from younger, hipper critics to older voters, but victories with the National Board of Review and the LAFCA suggest we underestimated the universal level of its appeal. The last time an NBR winner missed out on a Best Picture nomination was “Quills” in 2000, and with the LAFCA, it was “American Splendor” in 2003, so we should see Spike Jonze’s film pick up a Best Picture nod.

7. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” (3)
Not a major force with the critics’ groups so far, but it screened late enough that that’s not necessarily a major sign (it’ll do better with the Globes this week). But now it’s been more widely seen, there’s a suspicion that it’s going to be too edgy and button-pushing for the Academy. Scorsese has enough support that a nomination should be assured, but a win is less likely, despite some of the raves.

8. “Captain Phillips” (4)
Most have assumed this would be a nominee since it opened in October, but… what if it isn’t? We’ve been saying for a while that, though it’s well-liked, it’s more of a second or third favorite movie, and without the crucial first-choice votes, it could end up missing the cut. Still, not to be dismissed yet — let’s see how the Globes and Guilds take to it.

9. “Philomena” (8)
The Weinstein Company’s campaign has kicked into gear finally, and this does seem to be in the lead position for the moment, But if it misses a step at the Globes, expect them to switch streams. It’s incredibly well-liked among the Academy membership, but did Harvey misstep with his attack on Kyle Smith and his negative New York Post review?

10. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (13)
Having started to worry a little about the film’s chances, we’re feeling a little better about it after the wave of love that accompanied the film’s release this past weekend. But the film remains a prickly customer, and it could have used more of a boost from the critics’ groups this week. We’ll have our fingers crossed, but it’ll likely go down to the wire.

11. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (9)
It’s not often that we say this, but the Golden Globes, and the SAG ensemble prize will be sort of crucial here, giving the film precursor attention it’s unlikely to get elsewhere (even the National Board of Review ignored it). Other prognosticators have more faith in this than we do, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s unlikely to pick up many other nominations — Oprah Winfrey will figure in, and we’re predicting make-up too, but without many other hopefuls, it has more of an uphill battle.

12. “All Is Lost” (15)
We’d thought this was fading, but a fairly decent showing with last week’s awards, in particular Robert Redford’s Best Actor win in New York, gives it a boost. It’s liked and respected by most that see it: with any luck, that victory will give more voters the impetus to check out the screener, and it could tick upwards.

13. “Dallas Buyers Club” (14)
Jared Leto increasingly looks like a frontrunner in his category, which at least helps to keep it visible. In a less competitive year, this would have been popular enough to make it, but the acting prizes are likely its major hopes.

14. “Fruitvale Station” (-)
We’d mostly considered this out of the race, but it’s performed strongly with precursors, picking up various Best First Feature nominations. Could it be more of a force than we’ve been expecting? Our guess is it’ll still mostly be absent from the Oscars, but it’s worth keeping an eye on in the next month or so.

15. “August Osage County” (12)
A crucial week for the film. An SAG ensemble nomination and Golden Globe Best Comedy/Musical nod at least keep it in the conversation. If it’s absent from both, or maybe, either, you can virtually count it out.

Bubbling Under: “Blue Jasmine,” “The Book Thief,” “Lone Survivor,” “Rush”

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Though it's not going to happen, I would be thrilled if Upstream Color got an editing nomination.

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