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VES Awards 2021: Netflix’s ‘The Midnight Sky’ and ‘Mank’ Take Top VFX Honors

Disney was the big winner overall, powered by "Soul's" five awards and “The Mandalorian's" three.

The Midnight Sky Netflix

“The Midnight Sky”


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George Clooney’s existential sci-fi drama, “The Midnight” Sky,” moved a step closer in the VFX Oscar race Tuesday, taking top honors at the 19th annual VES Awards. The Netflix film (with VFX by Framestore) also earned the model award for the Aether spacecraft. Strangely, though, the unforgettable Ballet of Blood scene, containing simulated zero-G and remarkable liquid simulation, wasn’t even nominated, yet this highlight could prove decisive if “The Midnight Sky” wins the Oscar.

But that’s a big if in this wide open race that also includes Christopher Nolan’s time-inverted “Tenet” (which is finally available on the Academy’s online voting portal) and dark horse “Love and Monsters,” with its terrific array of Ray Harryhausen-like creatures. In the last four years, the VES has only aligned with the Academy once (for “The Jungle Book”). Then again, the VES nod could be enough to put “The Midnight Sky” over the top in this unorthodox awards season.

Netflix also swept the supporting photoreal feature and episodic awards with “Mank,” David Fincher’s meticulous recreation of Hollywood’s Golden Age in black-and-white, and “The Crown” (“Gold Stick”), and racked up two additional wins with the “Project Power” superhero feature (for effects simulations and compositing).

However, Disney was the biggest studio winner, with Pixar’s Black-led, innovative “Soul” grabbing five awards (including the animated feature prize), and “The Mandalorian” garnering three  (including the top episodic award). Plus, “Mulan” won the photoreal environment award for Weta Digital’s Imperial City, and “The One and Only Ivan” earned the outstanding animated character prize for MPC Film’s titular gorilla.




Cate Blanchett presented the VES Lifetime Achievement Award to multiple Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson (“The Beatles: Get Back” documentary), founder of the powerhouse Weta Digital VFX studio in Wellington, New Zealand. Jackson was honored with a star-studded tribute from Andy Serkis, Naomi Watts, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, James Cameron, and Gollum, the gamechanging creature from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies (performance-captured by Serkis).

In addition, Sacha Baron Cohen presented the VES Award for Creative Excellence to three-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Rob Legato (“The Jungle Book, “Hugo,” “Titanic”) — a visionary in translating virtual production into a live-action methodology for Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and Jon Favreau.

Winners of the 19th Annual VES Awards are as follows:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
“The Midnight Sky”
Matt Kasmir
Greg Baxter
Chris Lawrence
Max Solomon
David Watkins

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Wei Zheng
Peter Mavromates
Simon Carr
James Pastorius

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature
Pete Docter
Dana Murray
Michael Fong
Bill Watral

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode
“The Mandalorian”; “The Marshal”
Joe Bauer
Abbigail Keller
Hal Hickel
Richard Bluff
Roy Cancino

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode
“The Crown”; “Gold Stick”
Ben Turner
Reece Ewing
Andrew Scrase
Jonathan Wood

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project
“Ghost of Tsushima”
Jason Connell
Matt Vainio
Jasmin Patry
Joanna Wang

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Walmart; “Famous Visitors”
Chris “Badger” Knight
Lori Talley
Yarin Manes
Matt Fuller

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
“The Bourne Stuntacular”
Salvador Zalvidea
Tracey Gibbons
George Allan
Matthías Bjarnason
Scott Smith

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature
“The One and Only Ivan”; Ivan
Valentina Rosselli
Thomas Huizer
Andrea De Martis
William Bell

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature
“Soul”; Terry
Jonathan Hoffman
Jonathan Page
Peter Tieryas
Ron Zorman

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project
“The Mandalorian”; “The Jedi”; The Child
John Rosengrant
Peter Clarke
Scott Patton
Hal Hickel

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial
Arm & Hammer; “Once Upon a Time”; Tuxedo Tom
Shiny Rajan
Silvia Bartoli
Matías Heker
Tiago Dias Mota

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature
“Mulan”: Imperial City
Jeremy Fort
Matt Fitzgerald
Ben Walker
Adrian Vercoe

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature
“Soul”; You Seminar
Hosuk Chang
Sungyeon Joh
Peter Roe
Frank Tai

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project
“The Mandalorian”; “The Believer”; Morak Jungle
Enrico Damm
Johanes Kurnia
Phi Tran
Tong Tran

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project
Matt Aspbury
Ian Megibben

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project
“The Midnight Sky”; Aether
Michael Balthazart
Jonathan Opgenhaffen
John-Peter Li
Simon Aluze

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature
“Project Power”
Yin Lai Jimmy Leung
Jonathan Edward Lyddon-Towl
Pierpaolo Navarini
Michelle Lee

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature
Alexis Angelidis
Keith Daniel Klohn
Aimei Kutt
Melissa Tseng

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project
“Lovecraft Country”; “Strange Case”; Chrysalis
Federica Foresti
Johan Gabrielsson
Hugo Medda
Andreas Krieg

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature
“Project Power”
Russell Horth
Matthew Patience
Julien Rousseau

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode
“Lovecraft Country”; “Strange Case”; Chrysalis
Viktor Andersson
Linus Lindblom
Mattias Sandelius
Crawford Reilly

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial
Burberry; “Festive”
Alex Lovejoy
Mithun Alex
David Filipe
Amresh Kumar

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project
“Fear the Walking Dead”; “Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg”
Frank Iudica
Scott Roark
Daniel J. Yates

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
Antoine Dupriez
Hugo Caby
Lucas Lermytte

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