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Aquaman may be the king of the seven seas and the box office at the moment, but one place where the DCEU film will not reign supreme is the upcoming 91st Academy Awards. Aquaman has been shut out, failing to make the shortlist for nominees even in the one category it would seem to have the best chance, Best Visual Effects. Director James Wan is not happy about this snub and made that quite clear in an exchange with Aquaman visual effects supervisor, Kevin McIlwain:
Kelvin, you and your department peers are the unsung heroes of this film. The fact that your VFX peers in the academy aren't recognizing or appreciating what we/you've all contributed to the film and cinema is a fucking disgrace.
Okay, 'not happy' might not be the right way to describe it; James Wan is pissed off. In the exchange on the Aquaman Facebook page, Kelvin McIlwain initially commented to James Wan about what an honor it was to be a part of the film and work with the director. James Wan clearly reciprocated this sentiment, praising the work of Kelvin McIlwain and the film's VFX team who brought the underwater world to life.
James Wan seems baffled and offended that the Academy's visual effects branch did not see fit to shortlist Aquaman. To him, the Academy's VFX members do not understand what was done with Aquaman, ignoring it or for some reason not recognizing its merit. To call it a "fucking disgrace" shows how passionate about the film James Wan is and how loyal and proud he is of the team that did a lot of heavy lifting to help make it.
In response to James Wan's statement, Kelvin McIlwain stated that it came as a shock that Aquaman was not shortlisted for Best Visual Effects. He also lamented what he sees as a faulty selection process that he said is "too open to influence."
If you've seen Aquaman, or just judging by the trailers, you can probably understand why James Wan and Kelvin McIlwain were so taken aback by the Oscar snub. Aquaman is a visual spectacle of the highest order and very much the kind of film that would not be possible without modern CGI. The VFX team had to create an entire underwater world, complete with fascinating creatures, lush environments and mesmerizing battles.
But its not just eye candy; the VFX team also had to take care of the small details like how the characters' hair moves underwater to truly immerse the audience in this film. Aquaman's visual effects aren't perfect and there are times when they falter, perhaps as a result of time/money constraints, but by and large they are what you would hope for, so you can see why James Wan is upset.
Of course, whenever you talk about a movie getting snubbed you have to look at the flip side of the coin and ask what you would have it replace. There are 10 films on the visual effects shortlist for the upcoming Academy Awards: First Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Christopher Robin, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Welcome to Marwen.
Those are some strong contenders. Personally I could have seen Aquaman replacing Solo, Welcome to Marwen, Fallen Kingdom and perhaps controversially, Black Panther. Christopher Robin stays though because the subtlety of the Hundred Acre Wood's CGI residents was incredible.
See who winds up winning the Oscar for Best Visual Effects when the 91st Academy Awards airs on February 24. For all of the biggest films to look forward to in the new year, check out our 2019 release schedule.