Judging by the haughty press release sent out this afternoon from the Visual Effects Society (VES), someone seems pressed. Or perhaps they got their tail stepped on. Or maybe they didn’t get their back scratched. Whatever the case, the organization was not happy about the comedy bit presenters James Corden and Rebel Wilson performed while announcing the Visual Effects Academy Award at the 2020 Oscars.
In a statement, the VES remarked:
“The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognizing, advancing and honoring visual effects as an art form – and ensuring that the men and women working in VFX are properly valued.
Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline and suggested that bad VFX were to blame for the poor performance of the movie ‘Cats.’ The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly.
On a night that is all about honoring the work of talented artists, it is immensely disappointing that The Academy made visual effects the butt of a joke. It demeaned the global community of expert VFX practitioners doing outstanding, challenging and visually stunning work to achieve the filmmakers’ vision.
Our artists, technicians and innovators deserve respect for their remarkable contributions to filmed entertainment, and should not be presented as the all-too-convenient scapegoat in service for a laugh.
Moving forward, we hope that The Academy will properly honor the craft of visual effects – and all of the crafts, including cinematography and film editing – because we all deserve it.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. By coming out in “Cats” costumes Cordon and Wilson were trying to make a point that they were in on the joke about what a strange movie Tom Hooper’s musical adaptation had become. Oh, a movie they starred in and promoted, mind you. Furthermore, despite making the shortlist for the Visual Effects category, the work in “Cats” was routinely criticized on a number of levels from both critics and moviegoers alike. So much so that Hooper and Universal sent updated versions of the film to theater owners to try and fix some of those issues. The effects in some cases were so bizarre (see the dancing cockroaches with human heads) that Corden and Wilson joking about “understanding the importance of good visual effects” wasn’t exactly off base. In fact, weren’t they reiterating the power of awards-worthy visual effects work? Did we miss something here?
In any case, the team for “1917” took the Visual Effects Oscar after one of the more entertaining bits of the night because, well, Cordon and Wilson had a laugh at their own expense. Sure, they were being…catty, but did the fur really need to fly? Maybe the leadership at the Visual Effects Society just needed a cat nap.