And the Oscar Goes to…Low-Tech Movies
CREDIT: The Weinstein Co.
Watching the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night (Feb. 26) you will notice a trend among the nominees and winners: the absence of tech. In a reversal of past years, the movie studios have largely turned away from the flashiness of special effects and technology-related topics.
Look at the list of nominees. For best picture, "The Artist"takes us back to the days of silent pictures. Dramas like "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Help," and "Midnight in Paris" put the story at the forefront.
Of the nominees only "Hugo" comes close by using sophisticated computer animation and 3D. But those are only tools to tell what is actually an old-fashioned story.
The Best Animated Feature Film category is tech-rich, but that's hardly surprising. And even here, two of the films — "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita" — rely on traditional animation techniques, albeit computer-assisted.
Otherwise, technology is minimal, except where it's inevitable. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is nominated for sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects. The visuals in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" are what really makes the movie compelling for many: It gets nominated in the special effects category.
Compare this with past years. Two movies stand out from 2011. "Inception," which took four Oscars including one for special effects, dealt with technology that allows people to enter the human mind through other’s dreams. "The Social Network" told the tale of possibly the biggest tech success story of recent times, Facebook. It won three Oscars.
2010's "Avatar" —winner of Oscars in art direction, cinematography, and special effects — was one of the highest grossing movies ever and was more notable for its computer-generated and 3D effects than for its plot and acting. And then there’s "Wall-E," whose endearing story of a love-struck robot netted it Best Animated Feature Film in 2009.
Why is this year different? Maybe moviegoers want better stories that don’t use computer effects as a gimmick to grab attention. It could also be the economy: Special effects are not cheap.
Regardless, it is pretty clear that the academy is in a low-tech mood this year. We'll have to see if this is a new trend in moviemaking, or just a one-year blip.