PGCMAs: Best Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Editing (2015)

Posted: February 6, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

PGCMA 2015

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Age of Ultron: It’s a testament to how effects heavy modern blockbusters are that the VFX in Age of Ultron was almost an afterthought for viewers. This is a film full of robots, superheroes, flying, lasers, hover vehicles, and monsters, often on-screen at once. The sheer volume of effects is really impressive.

Ex Machina: Contrary to Avengers, this is a really small-scale film, but one equally dependent on effects. The most important character in Ex Machina is a robot who bears slightly human futures. It’s a character that requires both CGI and live actors and the filmmakers hit a great balance.

Mad Max: Fury Road: Special effects aren’t front and center in Fury Road. Rather, Miller uses CGI to enhance shots, and improve action and stunts. The fact that one isn’t consciously aware of CGI while their watching is a testament to how well-blended it all is.

The Revenant: On a technical level, The Revenant might have the most flawed visual effects, but also some of the most interesting and ambitious. CGI animals are not easy to pull off, but the filmmakers do an admirable job, particularly in the amazing bear attack sequence.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Star Wars has always been associated with special effects. The Force Awakens isn’t trying to break new ground so much as it is merging forms. CGI, models, matte paintings, animatronics; the film uses all sorts of tricks in order to accomplish its goals.

And the winner is…

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars poster

Unlike some years, where movies like Gravity stood out as the clear winner, I wasn’t really sure what to give this award to. None of the films really blew me away with their special effects, but all also executed on what they did do pretty well. Ultimately, I was impressed by Abrams’ ability to mix different types of techniques and that one the day for Star Wars.

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins, Sicario: If there’s one thing that’s been great about Denis Villenueve’s Hollywood work, it’s his collaborations with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Unlike the dark blue colours the pair emphasized in Prisoners, here the focus is on stark whites and yellows. Deakins also plays with night vision in a crucial scene and the film as a whole is visually gripping.

Janusz Kaminski, Bridge of Spies: Spielberg’s ability to create amazing shots is under-appreciated and his collaborations with Janusz Kaminski really emphasize that talent. The use of lighting in particular is great and the compositions are quite rich.

Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant: A lot has been said about how The Revenant was shot in all-natural light and the results are quite stunning. There is some beautiful imagery to be found in the film and Lubezki’s omniscient camera movements are haunting.

Marcell Rév, White God: There were more expensive films I could have nominated, but I really love the way Marcell Rév and director Kornél Mundruczó were able to create beautiful imagery just through seemingly simple uses of blocking, camera movement, and lighting.

John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road: The fact that Miller and John Seale are able to make so much insane action beats visually legible would alone warrant consideration, but what really works about the cinematography are the beautiful colours.

And the winner is…

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Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

the revenant

I was a little hesitant about awarding Lubezki is second PGCMA in a row, but god damn, this guy just keeps topping himself. His work on The Revenant is simply amazing and rivals his work on Malick’s visually extravagant The Tree of Life.

Best Editing

Elliot Graham, Steve Jobs: Though Danny Boyle largely downplays his kinetic tendencies for Steve Jobs, they do still come through in some inventive ways. A major argument between Jobs and John Sculley is also one of the most well-edited scenes of the year.

Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant: What impresses me the most about Stephen Mirrione’s work on The Revenant is his patience. This is a film which really takes its time and allows shots to linger, and that’s where a lot of the film’s power comes from.

Nathan Nugent, Room: Room needs to function both as a sort of thriller as well as a domestic drama. The fact that the film not only excels at both but also transitions from one to the other seamlessly says a lot about how successful Nathan Nugent was as an editor.

Pietro Scalia, The Martian: Pietro Scalia has been a frequent collaborator with Ridley Scott on movies like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and Prometheus. These movies all have serious tones and a sense of tension, things which are replicated in The Martian, but the film also handles comedy beats and its hopeful tone very well.

Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road: Action scenes live and die by their editing. It takes real skill to make wild and grand action into something coherent and Margaret Sixel really nails this. The film as a whole has an excellent pace, juggling the action scenes with quitter character moments really well.

And the winner is…

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Pietro Scalia, The Martian

the martian

At the end of the day, no film had to handle nearly as many disparate elements as The Martian. Not only does the film have to mediate between moments of tension and comedy, but the film also has to juggle over a dozen major characters while simultaneously maintaining the isolation experienced by Mark Watney. It’s a delicate balance, but Scalia really nails it.

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