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Oscar Watch: Costumes, Cinematographers, Sound and Visual Effects Awards

Oscar Watch: Costumes, Cinematographers, Sound and Visual Effects Awards

After a final week of prize-giving, the season’s pre-Oscar awards rituals came to a close Sunday night. There’s nothing left but the big show itself March 7. Oscar ballots are due on March 2. Voters who did not mail them in Saturday can deliver them via overnight mail or directly to Price Waterhouse.

The American Society of Cinematographers took a surprise direction and voted for critics’ fave Christian Berger for his stunning black-and-white cinematography in The White Ribbon, which is up for the Oscar in that category (one of the few contested races this year) as well as best foreign film. A Prophet got a boost when it swept France’s Cesar awards, winning nine. The foreign nominees are voted on only by those who have seen all five films (the same is true for documentaries and shorts).

Thursday night, the Costume Designers Guild gave out its three top awards to Sandy Powell of The Young Victoria for period film (who also won the BAFTA) plus Crazy Heart for contemporary film and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus for fantasy film. Powell will likely win her third statuette on Oscar night (here’s her flip-cam interview).

The Cinema Audio Society delivered its outstanding achievement in sound mixing for motion pictures to The Hurt Locker Sunday night. The film’s producer-director Kathryn Bigelow was the subject of a 60 Minutes profile (on the jump). Many people have been saying that she’s going to win the best directing Oscar because she is a woman, including her ex-husband James Cameron. Well, it’s true. I’m beginning to wonder if The Hurt Locker could lose best picture (even though it’s been winning every prize in sight) because Bigelow has been anointed to be the first woman to win a best director Oscar. I believe that if Bigelow weren’t a factor, Cameron would win that prize. It’s possible that Avatar could win best picture instead.

As expected, on Sunday night at the Hyatt Regency Avatar won six out of eleven Visual Effects Society awards, including outstanding visual effects for a visual-effects-driven motion picture. VES also gave Cameron its life achievement award and Pixar’s Ed Catmull its Georges Milies pioneer award. After presenter Bill Paxton razzed Cameron– “You can’t help admiring Jim. If you don’t, you’re fired.”–Cameron thanked his visual effects “brotherhood of magicians and warlocks” and said, “What we’re doing is magic. Computers don’t make visual effects, people do.”

Joe Letteri of Weta Digital thanked Cameron for helping to get actors, artists, animators and filmmakers to work together, and hopes for more of this in the future. (Here’s Letteri’s flip cam interview). While the VFX fraternity champions this inevitable march to the future, the rest of the film business, from cinematographers to actors, often does not. Avatar‘s best picture Oscar fate rests on this ambivalence.

The room gave rousing standing Os to both Cameron and Catmull, who has been a crucial pioneer at Lucasfilm and Pixar, doing groundbreaking work on particle systems and Render Man, among many other things. “I didn’t feel like a pioneer,” Catmull said. “I was trying to solve problems with colleagues. It’s what we’re still doing.”

I had just come from seeing Avatar in IMAX 3-D (my last chance before Alice in Wonderland takes over the IMAX screens), so its many wonders were fresh in my mind as the movie dominated the VES event. Up also won three awards, including outstanding animation in an animated feature: one Pixar honoree said he was grateful that Avatar wasn’t nominated in his category. (The LAT has the full list of winners.)

The VES awards will air on Reelz March 5 and 6 at 10 pt and 7 pt.

Here’s Bigelow on 60 Minutes:

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