The 26th of February is a date that film fans have already marked out on their calendars.

As the date approaches, the expectations and eagerness are building to a crescendo because this is of course the date on which the most prestigious awards ceremony in the film world, the 89th annual Academy Awards, are going to be held. At Toolbox Studio, a creative setup that delivers delightful visual solutions (VFX, Animation, Commericals, Corporate Films and Motion Graphics) for film, TV and digital platforms, we too have been closely following the race for the much vaunted Best Achievement in Visual Effects for Oscars 2017.

There have been some amazing motion pictures in the running from the initial list of twenty, a list which has now dwindled down to the top five. Picked by the Academy’s board of governors whose VFX division comprises of Craig Barron whose efforts in VFX for 2009’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won him the big prize apart from being attached to a whole host of other big name projects that has won him nominations and awards galore.

He is joined by John Knoll who won the Oscar for Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and has been associated with massive projects like Star Wars, Harry Potter and Avatar among countless others in the past. The triumvirate is completed by Bill Taylor who has worked on xXx, Bruce Almighty and 2 Fast 2 Furious to name a few. This celebrated trio have picked through all the many fantastic films that made it to the big screen last year.

So without further ado, let us take a deep dive into their shortlisted final five:

1. Deepwater Horizon

This film is a dramatic reinterpretation of the explosion of the offshore drilling rig by the same name which occurred in April 2010, the result of which was a massive oil spill and the damage of countless animals and sea life. Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton represent the film’s VFX team. Here is a video interview of the latter, with Dalton going through the VFX challenges and accomplishments in the movie. A movie grounded in real life and depicting what was an actual event, realism was an important aspect of the VFX, something that the team have accomplished to great aplomb and widespread recognition.

2. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is a superhero movie from Marvel spun around neurosurgeon-turned-sorcerer Stephen Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The film’s representatives for the VFX gong are Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould. Here is a great insight into what the films stellar star cast though of the visual effects the team created for it. Doctor Strange is of course based on a comic book, and as such is set in a world where magic, mystique and wonder are all commonplace. The film visual effects have earned rave reviews for managing to capture all of that into what is a project with some amazing aesthetics and fantastic effects.

3. The Jungle Book

Disney’s Jungle Book is a live action film based on the popular cartoon of the same name, and of course, Rudyard Kipling’s absolutely classic piece of literature. A tale spun around young ‘man cub’ Mowgli living in the forest with a score of wild animals and villainous tiger Shere Khan chasing him, the movie is a triumph in visual artistry. The team responsible for this is Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon. Here is a short interview with Director Jon Favreau as he talks about the making of the film and its unique approach.   

4. Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is created by Laika Entertainment and Focus, and is a film that stands out in this list for many reason. First, because it is the only completely animated film to be nominated in the VFX category, and the first one to achieve this in over twenty years. It also stands out because it combines both visual storytelling tools – stop motion and computer animation which combine to create a riveting film. Director and Laika CEO Travis Knight spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the nomination, saying, “It’s shocking, not because I don’t think it’s deserving, but because it required the visual effects branch to look at what we do in a different way. Really, the whole thing is a visual effect. If you go back to the dawn of cinema, stop motion was one of the first visual effects.” Here’s a full length behind the scenes interview with Knight about the making of the movie.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Part of George Lucas’ epic Star Wars universe, and now under the might of the Disney banner, Rogue One definitely has the chops to be a big winner at the Oscars, particularly in the VFX arena. The sci-fi flick set in a galaxy far, far, away is absolutely astounding and even pulled off the amazing feat of resurrecting legendary actor Peter Cushing and his character Grand Moff Tarkin through digital effects despite his passing in 1994. John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould worked on this film. Here is an interview with the film’s Creature Effects supervisor Neal Scanlan on the making of Rogue One.

What a phenomenal mix of visually captivating movies, and we can’t wait for when the final result of the Oscar is announced. Whoever bags the big prize will definitely be worthy, because all these films are a master class in VFX.

Who do you think will come out of the ceremony holding that fabled statue? Let us know in the comments below.

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