‘Pi,’ ‘Brave’ big winners at VES

HBO dominates the TV category

“Life of Pi,” “Brave” and “Game of Thrones” were big winners at the 11th annual Visual Effects Society Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night.

“Life of Pi” took four overall awards, including the VES’ equivalent of best picture, outstanding visual effects in an effects-driven motion picture. It’s “Storm of God” sequence took two awards, for simulation animation and compositing, while its CG tiger “Richard Parker” was named best animated character in a live-action feature.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” won for models in a feature film and created environment in a feature film.

Pixar’s “Brave” swept the animation categories, winning for animation in an animated feature; created environment in an animated feature; simulation animation in an animated feature; and animated character in an animated feature (for protag Merida).

“The Impossible” won for supporting vfx in a feature.

HBO and “Game of Thrones” dominated TV categories, taking four statuettes, including top honors for a broadcast program. Net’s “Boardwalk Empire” took supporting vfx in a broadcast program kudos.

VES executive director Eric Roth kicked off the night alluding to the recent struggles of Rhythm & Hues Studios, which created the vfx on “Life of Pi.” “I say to all of you out there: Is there maybe some way we can invent a new business model going forward?” he said.

Roth later added, “We have become the absolute center of the entertainment universe. That deserves to be celebrated.”

Harrison Ford stepped to the podium to present the org’s lifetime achievement award to Richard Edlund, whose long and varied career includes the original “Star Wars” (“a little low-budget movie,” Ford called it) and four more Ford starrers.

Edlund and Ford embraced onstage, and Edlund thanked him for becoming a star on “Star Wars.” Edlund recalled telling the f/x crew on that movie, “Remember these times, because these are the good old days.”

Vfx legend Dennis Muren presented the org’s Visionary Award to Ang Lee. Lee called Muren “the master” and thanked him for “teaching me so much.”

“I haven’t done so many visual effects,” said Lee. “It’s pure cinema we’re talking about.”

Lee joked that all the raging and smashing of “Hulk” was his own frustration, but “I eventually realized that visual effects is visual art.” He likes working with actors, too, he said, “but they also have opinions.”

Lee said the only problem with vfx is “they’re too expensive. We can’t do a lot of this art. The commercial pressures are too great.”

“Call of Duty: Black Ops II” took kudos for real-time visuals in a vidgame.