The annual Academy Awards are never without controversy. This year, the Oscars will be taking place on March 2nd, and will be hosted by Ellen Degeneres. In light of the recent 2014 Oscar nominations being released to the public, the wide debate over which films qualify for the “Best Animated Feature” category has been more heated than ever. The constant furthering of the visual possibilities through various forms of animation is making it more and more difficult to distinguish where the cinematographic work ends, and the visual effects begin. With films such as Gravity receiving nominations for its cinematography, despite being heavily animated, questions are raised once again about the limitations of these categories.
Gravity is a science-fiction/techno-thriller, and was one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2013. Largely backed to do well at the 86th Academy Awards, they picked up 10 nominations – including “Best Cinematography”. Director Alfonso Cuaron has stated estimation himself that roughly 80% of Gravity was hand animated through CG animation. Scenes in the film which take place in space only feature faces in terms of live action photography, the scenery, bodies, and even the shields in front of their faces are computer animated. Bill Kroyer, the director of digital arts at Chapman University, explained that “The action of Sandra [Bullock’s} body is key frame animation [meaning that it was animated by hand], that qualifies Gravity as an animated film”. So why did it not qualify for the animation category? In recent years, films such as Life of Pi and Avatar also sparked disagreement by receiving nominations and awards in categories not designed for animation films, despite each of these containing more than 75 minutes of animation throughout, the main original regulation for films to qualify for the Animation category. Nowadays, the distinction between animated films and cinematographic pictures is often how “realistic” the characters have been made, regardless of how imaginary the surrounding environment, or whether the characters are more “cartoonish”.
This blurring of lines seems to be prompting the idea of opening a new award category for “Visual Imaging” by the annual Visual Effects Society Summit which took place a few weeks back. This category would see feature films such as the aforementioned titles be commended for their animation in terms of realism. However this appears to still be early talk in terms of category becoming established, and if plans do go ahead, it is likely that this category may be regarded alongside the other non-celebrity driven awards with shortened acceptance speeches and time slots squeezed in between commercials.
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