Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, Gemini Man, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and The Lion King are the nominees in the Visual Effects Society’s top category of outstanding visual effects in a photoreal feature.
When the nominees for the 18th annual VES Awards were announced on Tuesday, 1917 and The Irishman were nominated in the category for supporting VFX, alongside Ford v Ferrari, Joker and The Aeronauts.
Alita and Lion King earned a total of five nominations apiece, the most for a photoreal feature (meaning movies that are not nominated in the animated feature categories). Both of these films are also shortlisted for the Oscar in VFX.
Other VFX Oscar shortlisted films include Rise of Skywalker, which earned four VES nominations; Endgame, which earned three; Gemini Man and The Irishman, which earned two apiece; and 1917, Captain Marvel and Terminator: Dark Fate, which earned one apiece. The tenth film shortlisted in the VFX category, Cats, wasn’t nominated though it wasn’t known at press time if it had been entered, as the VFX team was still finishing the film into late December.
In five of the last 10 years, the winner of the top category for outstanding VFX went on to win the Oscar in VFX. In 2011, the Oscar went to the winner of VES’ supporting VFX category (Hugo).
In a year that has seen plenty of attention on VFX topics including de-aging — such as Robert De Niro in The Irishman and Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel — as well as digital humans and virtual production, individual VES category nominations reflect how advancing techniques are evolving.
In the category for outstanding animated character in a photoreal feature, one CG human, the 23-year-old Will Smith in Gemini Man, was nominated. Smith’s “Junior” will face off in the category against Alita, the cyborg in Alita: Battle Angel, “Smart” Hulk, with his resemblance to actor Mark Ruffalo in Avengers: Endgame, and Scar in The Lion King.
Meanwhile some of the work is reflected in other categories including feature compositing, whose nominees include Alita, Endgame, Captain Marvel, Rise of Skywalker and The Irishman.
Another big VFX topic this year was virtual production—largely driven by the techniques used to make Jon Favreau’s photoreal CG retelling of The Lion King and Star Wars-inspired series The Mandalorian. In the VES category for virtual cinematography, both of these productions are nominated, with Alita and Toy Story 4 rounding out the list of contenders.
The Mandalorian and Game of Thrones lead the broadcast field with six nominations apiece. And Toy Story 4 earned five nominations, the most for an animated feature contender.
The VES Awards will be handed out Jan. 29 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The complete list of nominees follows.