‘Godzilla Minus One’ Director Is 1st Filmmaker to Win Visual Effects Oscar Since Stanley Kubrick

The monster movie is also the first foreign language film, first Japanese production and first Godzilla film to win Best VFX

"Godzilla Minus One" (Credit: Emick Media)
"Godzilla Minus One" (Emick Media)

His name is Godzilla, hear him roar. The atomic-age monster franchise uncorked by Japan’s Toho Studios 70 years ago has notched several historic milestones with its underdog (or undercat) Oscar win for Best Visual Effects on Sunday.

“Godzilla Minus One” is the first foreign language film and first Japanese production to win this category and the first Godzilla movie to win any Oscar. And director Takashi Yamazaki, who was also VFX supervisor, is the first filmmaker to win for visual effects since Stanley Kubrick won his only Oscar for the effects in “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1969.

Yamazaki shared the award with his VFX collaborators Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima. Shibuya is just the third woman to ever win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and the first woman of color to do so.

“To have my name next to Stanley Kubrick, no matter how niche or specific the list is, it means so much,” Yamazaki told TheWrap in February. “I came into the film industry because of movies like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’ But I started on the visual effects side and transitioned into writing and directing. So if there is any category to be nominated in, this is the one it was meant to be. I’m very flattered and honored by it.”

Though the acclaimed “Godzilla Minus One” might have benefited from appearing in the only category without a Best Picture nominee, the film surely earned its statuette with a terrific Oscar story: a long-shot contender that impressed the voters with pure gumption and visual creativity.

The win is reminiscent of the victories of “Ex Machina” over “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2016 or “First Man” over “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ready Player One” in 2019. You wouldn’t know from its vast imagination, but “GMO” director Yamazaki headed up the comparatively small 35-artist team that rendered only about 600 VFX shots at the Tokyo-based effects house Shirogumi.

“You look at the other nominees and it’s like we’ve wandered into this festival of the gods,” Yamazaki said. “I’ve considered Industrial Light & Magic to be the highest standard of what VFX means – always on the cutting edge of technology and visual expression. And this year, there are four films that have some ILM involvement and then our film. It’s hard to process. We’re just humbled to join this exclusive club.”

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