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Avatar: The Way of Water — which this week crossed the $2 billion mark at the worldwide box office and is now the sixth highest-grossing movie in history — earned a best picture Oscar nomination this morning, as well as noms for its production design, sound and visual effects.
But James Cameron, who has now directed three of the six highest-grossing movies ever — his 2009 Avatar sits at the top of that chart — was passed over in the directing competition for his groundbreaking film for the 2023 Oscar nominations. (The movie also missed an editing nomination; Cameron edited the movie, along with Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, and the late David Brenner, who died in early 2022).
In this year’s best picture race, Cameron and producer Jon Landau (who together won best picture for Titanic, for which Cameron also claimed the directing trophy) are nominated alongside the producers of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness and Women Talking.
Cameron’s original 2009 Avatar earned nine Academy Award nominations and won three, for cinematography, art direction (now production design) and visual effects. It was also nominated for best picture, director, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and music (the late James Horner). Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker collected the top prizes for best picture and director that year.
It seems a foregone conclusion that The Way of Water will win the Oscar in VFX. The innovative work, which involved underwater performance capture among its advancements, was led by senior VFX supervisor Joe Letteri of lead VFX house Weta FX, a four-time Oscar winner in the category. A fifth VFX Academy Award would make him the second most winning VFX pro, a record that he would share with Ken Ralston and the late Gordon Jennings. Dennis Muren holds the record with eight category wins.
Also nominated for VFX are Richard Baneham, who also won an Academy Award in VFX for the original Avatar; Weta’s Eric Saindon (who has two prior noms) and Weta’s Daniel Barrett (who has three prior noms).
Among The Way of Water‘s sound nominees, supervising sound editor and rerecording mixer Christopher Boyes has already won four Oscars, including one for Titanic (he was additionally nominated for Avatar). Also nominated are four-time Oscar winning rerecording mixer Gary Summers (who was also nominated for Avatar), supervising sound editor Gwendolyn Yates Whittle (this is her third Academy Award nomination), two-time Oscar winning rerecording mixer Michael Hedges, and production sound mixer Julian Howarth.
This is the first Academy Award nom for the production design team of Dylan Cole, Ben Procter and Vanessa Cole.
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