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How ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Topped the VFX Oscar Competition

“Godzilla Minus One” collected the Oscar in visual effects on Sunday, following a remarkable awards season run.

The recipients included writer, director and VFX supervisor Takashi Yamazaki, who became the first helmer to receive a VFX trophy since Stanley Kubrick for 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Kiyoko Shibuya, VFX supervisor and producer, became only the third woman to win an Oscar in the category (previous recipients were Sara Bennett for 2014’s “Ex Machina” and Suzanne M. Benson for 1986’s “Aliens.).” Recipients included Masaki Takahashi, a veteran CG director; and Tatsuji Nojima, an effects artist and compositor who is just 25 years old.

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Read more: See all the 2024 Oscar winners here.

In late 2023, many still didn’t have the Kaiju movie, released by Japan’s Toho Studios, on their awards radar. But it was incredibly well received when it opened Dec. 1 in the United States, and in the weeks that followed, a VFX branch committee included the movie in the category shortlist.

Then came the Jan. 13 VFX category “bake off,” an event held at the Academy Museum during which the potential nominees representing the 10 shortlisted movies presented clips and spoke about their work before branch members entered their ballots for the final five. The “Godzilla Minus One” team made a charming  presentation, talking about their creative problem solving and challenges. The movie was made for under $15 million and the VFX were pulled off by a team of just 35 people.

The well-received presentation seemed to have secured the team a trip to the Dolby Theatre and when the nominations were officially announced on Jan. 23, a video of the thrilled team in Tokyo went viral. From there, they spoke at screenings and appeared at events including the nominees luncheon, building momentum along the way. In early February, as part of Variety’s Screening Series, the team also participated in a Q&A following a screening at Harmony Gold in Hollywood. The film played to a packed room, with guild members and Academy voters staying long after credits had rolled to meet the filmmakers.

Speaking to the press following the Oscar win, Yamazaki said, “I still can’t process what’s happening around this but I do believe that perhaps the success opened up a new opportunity for a lot of Japanese filmmakers. I think it’s important because as 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 bigger and hope for the industry as a whole.”

In winning the Oscar, “Godzilla Minus One” bested a field that included “The Creator,” which in recent weeks topped the Visual Effects Society Awards with five wins including outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Marvel Studios has not yet won the category though it has earned 14 noms since it was formed); “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1,” and “Napoleon.”

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