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Innovation Celebrated at the Academy’s 2017 Sci-Tech Awards

“You guys are all way cooler than Ryan Gosling,” host Leslie Mann told the attendees at the Academy’s 89th Scientific and Technical Awards Saturday night.

“Everybody in this room has already won,” added her cohost John Cho. “This isn’t like the ‘other’ Oscars. By the end of the night, 80% of that room is losers.”

“The Academy cares so much about you, you get your own private evening,” Cho joked to the Beverly Wilshire ballroom, which was full of engineers and scientists. “Where are the celebrities?” he asked rhetorically. “We didn’t invite them!”

By night’s end, 34 individuals and five companies received recognition at the Sci-Tech Awards. There were no unhappy losers, just many happy winners.

Technical Achievement Awards were given to achivements in many fields, from advancements in animated horse design (seen in such films as “The Lone Ranger” and “The Revenant”) to the invention of the Meander digital drawing system used by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Scientific and Engineering Awards were given to five companies whose digital cameras revolutionized filmmaking (including pioneers at ARRI and Sony); Weta’s FACETS motion capture technology that transformed actor Andy Serkis into unforgettable characters like Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” and Caesar from “Planet of the Apes”; and other innovators.

The wide range of the awards was also reflected in the backgrounds of the winners, who hailed from countries including Japan, Germany, New Zealand, and of course, the United States.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told Variety. “It really exemplifies the diversity of the motion picture global community.”

89th Academy Awards Scientific and Technical Awards
The proud winners of the 89th Academy Awards Scientific and Technical Awards (Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock).

The awards recognized years, sometimes even decades of work. Winners thanked their families, their spouses, and their children — some apologizing for all the overtime they put into their projects. Many also thanked their competitors for continually pushing them to further innovate. A handful were visibly excited to meet Cho, who plays Sulu in the reimagined “Star Trek” movies.

“I think that everybody in the room really appreciates what it has taken to get to this place,” Isaacs explained. “You see the depth of the intellect and the professionalism and the passion that everybody has in creating a motion picture.”

The Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievement are made by the Board of Governors upon the recommendation of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, who spend countless hours assessing the technologies.

Mann and Cho kept the mood light, at times poking fun at their lack of technical knowledge. “Now let’s get started with John and I explaining technical information we don’t understand to you, the few people in the world who don’t need it explained,” Mann joked, before emceeing the three-hour show.

The audience was charmed by their humor as they dined on a burrata and tomato starter, followed by a main course of filet mignon and Chilean sea bass (Cho joked the “other” Oscars don’t even get to eat).

Perhaps Isaacs summed it up best, saying “Simply put, the movies we love would not exist if not for your talent, your knowledge, and your creativity.”

“There’s a reason it’s called the Academy of Arts and Sciences,” she declared, emphasizing the last two words. The room erupted in applause.

See a complete list of winners here.

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