Well, you never know whatâ€™s going to connect with readers â€” and when Film & Video
innocently posted a press release
from the Visual Effects Society
naming the 50 â€œmost influentialâ€ visual-effects films in cinema history, we had no idea second-guessing those choices would become a popular pastime, at least for a day or so.
The dozens of comments underneath that story are interesting in part because some of them seem to throw an awfully wide net around the idea of a â€œvisual effect.â€ The Wild Bunch
may be very influential films, but theyâ€™re not often described inside the industry as â€œVFX films.â€ Then again, the exact nature of a â€œVisual Effects Filmâ€ as understood by the VES is a little unclear. As someone asks, if An American Werewolf in London
(#49) can make the list, then why exactly isnâ€™t John Carpenterâ€™s The Thing
One key to understanding what the VES is up to here is noting the word choice. â€œMost influentialâ€ does not mean “most creative,” â€œmost artistic,â€ or even that most unapologetically subjective of descriptors, â€œbest.â€ It means that these are the films, for better or for worse, that are believed by VFX professionals (or at least the VES membership) to have had the greatest impact on the work of other VFX professionals. Someone complained that 300
isnâ€™t on the list, and who knows â€” maybe the selection process was well underway before 300
was released? But you could also make the argument that, VFX-wise, 300
is sort of a cross between The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
(#33) and Sin City
(#43), and thus part of a feedback loop that’s already begun, rather than an instigator. Returning to the question of The Thing
, it may be simply that American Werewolf
ushered in a new sophistication in convincing gore
effects that resonated across the horror genre, while The Thing
took those effects to a nightmarish apex
that â€” partly because the film was savaged by critics and ignored by moviegoers when it was released in the summer of E.T. the Extraterrestrial
(#20) â€” didnâ€™t exert much influence on its own.
Not being a visual-effects artist â€” and not even being alive when pioneers like Willis Oâ€™Brien
(#7 and #46) and Eugen ShÃ¼fftan
(#12) were figuring this stuff out for the first time â€” I donâ€™t pretend to have a lot of insight into what makes one of these films more â€œinfluentialâ€ than another. But I do have some favorite VFX films (by my definition) that arenâ€™t on the list: Bride of Frankenstein
(1988), Dead Ringers
What about you?