VES & the Oscars

Visual Effects Society 
(VES) and the Academy Award for Visual Effects

The VES awards will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2011.  

Here are some statistics comparing the VES and the Academy Award for Visual Effects winners.  The purpose of delving into history and numbers is to perhaps aid in the predicting of the Oscar winners:
The VES consists of over 2,000 members who are also visual effects practitioners.  They began awarding films in 2002.  The number of films they nominate each year vary, but in recent years they have nominated 5.
2002-2004       – 3 nominees
2005                – 4 nominees 
2006                – 3 nominees
2007-2009       – 5 nominees
The Academy has been awarding films for their special effects achievements since 1939.  The Academy nominates 3 films every year for the Visual Effects award.  However, for the 2010 year, they nominated 5.  

VES & Oscar: Comparable Stats

VES winners match Oscar winners 75% of the time:

The VES and the Oscar have matched 6 out of the 8 years that the VES has been in existence.  That is a 75% match rate for wins.  Not too bad, but not that great either.  Below is where VES and Oscar differ:

Year    VES                                                                 Oscar
2007    Transformers                                                    The Golden Compass              
2004    Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban                    Spider-Man 2

75% could be higher considering the low number of Special Effects films that are released each year, but then again only disagreeing on 2 out of 8 is pretty good.  When the VES award winner is announced, we will have an even better idea on who the Oscar will go to this year.

VES nominees match Oscar nominees 71% of the time:

When VES nominates 3 films, they match the Oscar nominees only 58% of the time.  We have to consider that Oscar nominated 5 films this year which has never happened.  When VES nominates 5 films, they match the Oscar nominees 89% of the time when Oscar nominates 3.  We should expect this rate to go down since Oscar nominated more.  

VES & Oscar: For Your Consideration

Below are the VES and Oscar nominees.  Tron Legacy and Hereafter are the only inconsistent films between the two.  Both films have the lowest box office.
Film                                                     Box Office                  Genre
Inception                                              $293M                         Sci-Fi Action
Iron Man 2                                           $312M                         Action Adventure
Tron: Legacy                                       $149M                        Sci-Fi Action
AliceIn Wonderland                             $334M                         Family Adventure
Harry Potter & the DH1                $288M                         Fantasy

Oscar Nominees                               Box Office                  Genre
Inception                                              $293M                         Sci-Fi Action
Iron Man 2                                           $312M                         Action Adventure
Hereafter                                             $31M                           Drama
AliceIn Wonderland                             $334M                         Family Adventure
Harry Potter & the DH1                $288M                         Fantasy

Negative Points: Hereafter & Tron Legacy due to inconsistent occurrence

Precursor Thoughts

Not every awards organization gives out an award for best special effects, but so far this awards season there have been four to do so.  The Las Vegas, Florida, St. Louis & Phoenix Film Critics organizations have all given Inception the award for Special Effects.  Not even Avatar had such a common consensus among the precursors.

 – Point:  Inception due to precursor dominance

Box Office Thoughts

Special Effects are expensive, therefore in most cases, these films tend to have a bigger box office than others.  This is not always the case, but on average the box office for Oscar Special Effects nominees are over $280M.

The Average VES Winner Box Office is $351M
The Average Oscar Winner Box Office is $335M

Highest Oscar Winner BO    –           Avatar ($750M)
Lowest Oscar Winner BO     –           The Golden Compass ($70M)

Box Office might not mean much when it comes to predicting the nominees, but if a film is in the Best Picture race and has a relatively low Box Office, like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127M), then it could still win both the VES and Oscar.  Oscar has gone even lower when it gave the award to The Golden Compass ($70). 

 – Point: Alice In Wonderland due to high box office
– Doc:  Hereafter due to low box office

Genre Thoughts

There is a consistency between the genres of VES and Oscar winners:
Top 5 VES Winner Genres
1) Fantasy
2) Period Adventure
3) Fantasy Drama
4) Sci Fi Action
5) Sci-Fi Adventure

Top 5 Oscar Winner Genres
1) Fantasy
2) Period Adventure
3) Action Adventure vc
4) Fantasy Drama
5) Sci-Fi Adventure

Fantasy is the obvious one that sticks out being #1 on both lists.  The only Fantasy film this year that is nominated for Oscar and VES is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Iron Man 2 is listed as Action Adventure, which is not unknown to Oscar.  Both Inception and Tron: Legacy are listed as Sci-Fi Action, which is higher on the VES list than the Oscar list.  In fact, Sci-Fi Action has never even been nominated for an Oscar, nor has it won for either an Oscar or VES.  I think that will change this year with Inception.

– Point:  Harry Potter: DH1 and Iron Man 2


  • Inception –   Oscar snubbed Inception for Best Director and Film Editing.  It has received nominations for Directors Guild, Writers Guild & Producers Guild.  It is also nominated for Best Picture. 
  • Iron Man 2 –  This was not very well reviewed.  It did very well at the box office but wasn’t one of those films you heard talk about very long afterwards.  The first Iron Man was nominated for both VES and Oscar.  It’s over saturated with special effects.  It is Action Adventure, which is popular among Oscar nominations.  It was released pretty early in the year. 
  • Hereafter – The Academy REALLY loves Clint Eastwood.  I saw all of the special effects from the film on the trailer.  This is a joke.  Low box office.  Mediocre reviews.  No chance.
  • AliceIn Wonderland– made the most money internationally in 2010.  It has Johnny Depp in it.  It is mostly special effects.  I didn’t think it was that bad of a film either.  It may not win because the voters could get confused thinking it’s an animated film.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1– the best film of the series.  It has the third highest box office of the nominees and was an international success.  It is a Fantasy, which is the absolute favorite of the Academy’s.  Next year will be Harry’s year.

Final Consensus
VES Winner                Inception
Oscar Winner             Inception

Since 2002, every Visual Effects Oscar winner also received a Best Sound Mixing Oscar nomination.   Inception is the only Visual Effect nominee with a Sound Mixing nomination. 

The last 9 times a Visual Effects nominee was also nominated for Best Picture, that film has won for Visual Effects every year!  


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