The 3rd Annual Cinefex Awards

by Graham Edwards

The 3rd Annual Cinefex Awards

Here at Cinefex, we spend our time researching and writing about films. We do it objectively, and without editorial comment. It’s what we’re known for, and we do it with pride. As Joe Friday might have said, “We just want the facts, ma’am.”

Once a year, however, we allow ourselves to look back on those films, and consider them not with our heads, but with our hearts. Casting our votes in a number of whimsically-chosen categories, we put the facts aside and offer up pure subjective opinion instead.

So, without further ado, here are the results of the 3rd Annual Cinefex Awards!


Cinefex Awards - "Jaw on the Floor"The “Jaw On The Floor” Award

Winner – THE REVENANT
For visual effects that left us totally amazed

Gregg Shay – “The grizzly bear attack in The Revenant literally had me on the edge of my seat for seven minutes. The seamless shot stitching, ILM’s digital grizzly, and Leo’s performance made this a shocking and unforgettable scene.”

Jody Duncan – “My jaw hit the floor when I saw the epic aerial shot of the massive whale attacking the whaling ship Essex in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea. Double Negative’s all-CG shot was a model of storytelling – this single view told me that this was a whale like no other, and that the crew of the Essex was doomed. Ship: this big. Whale: THIS big. Game over. Or, to paraphrase a quote from another adventure at sea: ‘They needed a bigger boat.’”

Joe Fordham – “Most often, when I get to see a movie I’m covering for Cinefex, I’m checking off the boxes to make sure the educated guesses in the story I’ve just written are as pictured on screen. The Walk made me forget my notebook, especially in a scene when high-wire walker Philippe Petite is up on his wire between the World Trade Center towers and the camera suddenly plummets past him to spectators on the street a quarter mile below – in IMAX 3D, I simultaneously gasped, got sweaty palms and a lump in my throat. Thank you, Bob Zemeckis.”

Graham Edwards – “The radioactive dust storm in Mad Max: Fury Road. Just when I thought I’d got a handle on the exquisitely choreographed mayhem that defines George Miller’s latest post-apocalyptic road trip, the camera pulled back to give me an achingly beautiful, impossibly epic, panoramic shot of the rogue Imperator Furiosa leading her pursuers into a roiling cloud bank. I could practically hear Mr. Miller chuckling in my ear: ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!’”


Cinefex Awards - "Hmm, That's New"The “Hmm, That’s New” Award

Winner – ANT-MAN
For innovation in visual effects

Joe Fordham – “I vote for the macro-photography in Ant-Man – a clever application of photographic optical techniques expertly applied to digital environments. For me, this was perhaps the first convincing cinematic view of an insect-sized world.”

Gregg Shay – “I thought that the journey though the microcosm in Ant-Man was one of the more interesting visual effects stories of the year. The use of highly detailed macro sets was very impressive. Considering the challenges, physics-wise, I thought Jake Morrison’s crew nailed it.”

Graham Edwards – “The Revenant could easily have scooped my nomination for invisible effects. Instead, I’m going to hold up the film’s extraordinary bear attack as an innovative example of visual effects, because it was like nothing I’d seen before. Filmed hand-held, in extreme closeup, with ultra-long takes, those harrowing few moments had me believing – though my intellect told me otherwise – that Leonardo DiCaprio really was get bitten, clawed, and generally hurled around by a gigantic grizzly. Extraordinary.”


Cinefex Awards - "What Did I Just See?"The “What Did I Just See?” Award

Winner – THE REVENANT
For invisible effects we didn’t even spot

Jody Duncan – “Can a grizzly bear fogging a camera lens with her hot breath qualify as ‘invisible?’ Not really, I suppose, but I give ILM’s bear in The Revenant the nod in this category because even though you couldn’t miss her, you definitely could miss the fact that she was a computer animated creature. Except for that whole tearing-Leonardo-DiCaprio-into-pieces thing, I believed that mauling – and so did others at the screening I attended. On the way out to my car, I heard people asking each other, ‘How did they do that?’ How, indeed.”

Gregg Shay – “The Revenant again. There were such a lot of effects in this show that I didn’t catch until I was going through images for our article layout.”

Graham Edwards – “Jurassic World – the scene with the velociraptors trapped in cages, straining against those Hannibal Lecter-style muzzles. They were so perfectly integrated into the live-action plates that I was convinced I was looking at full-on animatronic creatures, with maybe a few digital blinks and tics. Top marks to Image Engine, for fooling me into thinking those raptors really were there on the set.”

Joe Fordham – “BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a superb blend of puppetry and flawless digi-double work.”


Cinefex Awards - "Oldie But Goodie"The “Oldie But Goodie” Award

Winner – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
For the best use of old-school effects

Joe Fordham – “My winner is Mad Max: Fury Road – the Polecats, Immortan Joe’s desert pirates, balancing on swinging bendy poles 26 feet above the desert and leaping truck to truck at high speeds: all the more amazing that they captured them in-camera.”

Graham Edwards – “Mad Max: Fury Road. I felt every bump in the road, and tasted every mouthful of dirt.”

Jody Duncan – “In the old days, if you wanted to hang your actor from a jet as it took off, you attached him to a set piece, hit him with Ritter fans, and projected utterly unconvincing rear-screen imagery behind him. Today, if you want to hang your actor from a jet as it takes off, you create a CG jet, a digital double, and CG aerial environments. The sequence in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation outdid both approaches, actually hanging Tom Cruise from a real jet as it took off. It was so bold and Old School that even the practitioners of the Old School wouldn’t have tried it!”

Gregg Shay – “For old-school treats, look no further than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All of the practical creatures and sets gave this film that familiar and gritty look that was missing with Episodes I-III.”


Cinefex Awards - "Eye Candy"The “Eye Candy” Award

Winner – THE MARTIAN
For visual effects that just looked gorgeous

Jody Duncan – “The stark beauty of MPC’s Red Planet environments in The Martian took my breath away. The yellow skies, the cratered desert landscapes, the swirling dust devils in the backgrounds all told their own story: Not Earth. Not hospitable. Not for us. And that made one’s heart beat all the faster for astronaut Mark Watney’s dilemma in being stranded there. Environment work doesn’t often get the ticker-tape-parade treatment, but this was a work of art.”

Graham Edwards – “My vote in this category goes to the achingly beautiful Marscapes of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, conjured by those clever fellows at MPC. During those long, lingering shots in which Mark Watney traverses the surface of the Red Planet, I truly felt that I’d been transported to another world.”

Gregg Shay – “Avengers: Age of Ultron. The entire movie looked gorgeous. When you bring so many superheroes and villains together, you’re sure to get a stunning result. The Hulk looked even better than he did in the first Avengers, and the Hulkbuster v Hulk scene was so much fun to watch.”

Joe Fordham – “You want eye candy? Watch the ‘Get Down Saturday Night’ dance sequence in Ex Machina – let’s boogie!”


Cinefex Awards - "Big Cheesy Grin"The “Big Cheesy Grin” Award

Winner – STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
For visual effects that made us feel like kids again

Gregg Shay – “What can I say? While I was watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I felt like a kid again. I was nine years old when the original Star Wars hit theaters. I fell in love with the story. This time around, I was able to sit down next to my seven year-old son and rediscover the magic.”

Graham Edwards – “As someone old enough to have stood in line outside the cinema when the original trilogy first came out, I’m pleased to nominate Star Wars: The Force Awakens for this award. The sequence that got me grinning was the one in which the Millennium Falcon speeds through a graveyard of derelict Star Destroyers. My only regret is that, for all its liberal doses of nostalgia, the film still didn’t give me anything that thrilled me as much the asteroid field chase from The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe I really am getting old.”

Joe Fordham – “The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She’s still got it where it counts.”

Jody Duncan – “My grin was all-cheese when I saw the petting zoo sequence in Jurassic World, in which kids ride a baby triceratops. I had seen concept art of Hammond’s granddaughter doing just that for a planned scene in the original Jurassic Park, and Stan Winston Studio had even built the baby triceratops before the sequence was cut. Kind of nice to see it finally come to fruition 22 years later! It made me feel like a 39-year-old again.”


Cinefex Awards - "The One That Got Away"The “One That Got Away” Award

Winner – EX MACHINA
For the best visual effects in a film Cinefex didn’t cover

Graham Edwards – “One of my favorite films of 2015 was Alex Garland’s stunning Ex Machina. Where does Alicia Vikander’s mesmerizing performance end, and where do Double Negative’s exquisitely executed robot effects begin? Who cares? When you’re this bewitched by the story, none of that matters. As for Cinefex not covering it, well, it’s not entirely true. We did run a Q&A with visual effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst on our blog – a story we’ve since republished in our magazine issue 145. But I think we all regret not giving this gem of a film the full Cinefex treatment. It deserved it.”

Gregg Shay – “Ex Machina – it’s a shame that film got away from us.”

Joe Fordham – “Shaun the Sheep – baa!”

Cinefex Awards - "Never Mind the Effects"The “Never Mind The Effects” Award


Winner – EX MACHINA
For our favorite movie of the year

Joe Fordham – “My vote for best film goes to Ex Machina. I was glad to see this smart and smartly made sci-fi film had legs.”

Jody Duncan – “The Revenant is, to me, the best film of the year. When judging films, I often ask myself: Will people still want to watch this 50 years from now? Will anyone care about the subject matter? Will it hold up? In the case of The Revenant, my answers are ‘yes,’ ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’ It is a classic story of survival, and a masterpiece of filmmaking. ”

Graham Edwards – “This is a no-brainer. Mad Max: Fury Road hit me right between the eyes with its rip-roaring energy, sumptuous visuals, creatively choreographed action, and unexpected jolts of genuine emotion. I’m still reeling.”


Those are OUR winners. So what are the visual effects that blew YOU away in 2015?

One thought on “The 3rd Annual Cinefex Awards

  1. The special effects feel good movie of the year for me was Star Wars The Force Awakens. The most overlooked special effects movie of the year was a tie between Ex_Machina and The Man From UNCLE. The best physical (rather than virtual) special effects movie of the year was Mad Max Fury Road. And overall my three favourite movies of the year were 1) Mad Max Fury Road, 2) Ex_Machina then 3) Star Wars The Force Awakens.

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