26 March 2024

Best Visual Effects Oscar 2024

Godzilla Minus One – the lizard of La-La Land 

Every year we’re expecting it, and every year precisely nobody accurately predicts it. We’re talking, of course, about that Academy Awards ‘moment’.  

A mesmerised public are thrown annual curve balls that range from unwise choices of outfit (a leopard print bikini, Ms Edy Williams?), to announcing the wrong winner (2017’s ultimate admin fail). 

But this year’s talking point is thankfully, for genuine film buffs, not the Daily Mail’s Sidebar Of Shame. So, without further delay, 2024’s big moment goes to the winner of the Best Visual Effects Oscar.  

It would be fair to say that most ordinary folks expected the might of Marvel to march up to the podium, but this year it was the turn of a genuine underdog – Godzilla Minus One. In fact, when Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima took to the stage of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre to collect their Oscar, they couldn’t have looked more surprised.  


Takashi Yamazaki – an Oscar-quality visionary 

And it doesn’t take a genius to understand why. With a budget of just $12 million, the Toho–produced monster movie had to make every VFX decision count. To give you a sense of quite how low-cost this Japanese epic was, consider the greenbacks stacked behind the other nominees – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 ($250 million), The Creator ($80 million), Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ($291 million) and Napoleon (around $150 million). 

“The moment we were nominated we felt like Rocky Balboa,” joked director Takashi Yamazaki, referring to Stallone’s back-street hero of the Rocky franchise. “[We were] welcomed into the ring as equals by our biggest rivals, which was already a miracle.” 

But not so much for those of us who’ve seen Yamazaki’s masterpiece. Because Godzilla Minus One has quite jaw-dropping visual effects, especially coming from a franchise that, outside of its rabid fanbase, was once regarded as a bit of a joke for its shonky VFX.  

But that all changed when Yamazaki got his hands on it. Wearing not just the director’s hat, but also taking on the role of visual effects supervisor, he used his vast VFX experience to launch Godzilla into the cinematic stratosphere.   

Reading hesitantly from a sheet of paper, Yamazaki gave us some valuable insight into his major influences. “My career began 40 years ago,” he said, “after the shock of seeing Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. To someone so far from Hollywood, even the possibility of standing on this stage seemed out of reach. But here we stand!” 


The rise of the lizard… 

The Godzilla series started in 1954 and has chalked up a whopping 38 films (33 Japanese movies produced and distributed by Toho, and five American features). For most of them, its titular monster was portrayed by an actor wearing a large rubber suit. It’s only relatively recently, certainly for the Toho films, that the scenes incorporated CGI, and in Godzilla Minus One’s case, entrusted the job of directing to one Japan’s leading visual effects wizards. 

That Godzilla Minus One could compete against the Hollywood big-timers is testament to the work put in by Yamazaki and his team. All 610 of the film’s visual effects shots were created over a period of eight months by a crew of 35 artists at Shirogumi‘s studio in Tokyo. Overseen by Yamazaki and his fellow visual effects supervisor Kiyoko Shibuya, the Los Angeles Times reported that between a quarter and a third of the film’s budget was spent on the visual effects. 

The short-listing of Godzilla Minus One for Best Visual Effects sparked the first nomination and win for a Japanese-language film in the category, and provided proof that a movie doesn’t necessarily need a Marvel Studios-level budget to wow cinemagoers.  

Asked backstage how this win could impact the Japanese film industry, Yamazaki replied, “It feels very surreal right now. I still can’t process what’s happening around us. But I do believe that perhaps the success of Godzilla Minus One will open up a new opportunity for a lot of Japanese filmmakers. I think it’s important because Japan is such a small country that we need international box office and revenue to be able to sustain the industry. So, this should be the start of something – something bigger, I hope, for the industry as a whole.” 


Are you ready to be part of something bigger, yourself? 

If you’ve got an inkling that you could snatch an Oscar from a ‘dead cert’ winner, then we want to talk to you! We regularly fill job vacancies for the best studios worldwide, who are looking for the next special effects genius on the block. So, push your mouse to one side, and dial our hotline now – the mustard FX team can be reached on 0117 929 6060. 

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