Remember Cats? It feels like a whole age has passed since Tom Hooper dropped his load on the floor and sent audiences into a feverish spiral of confusion and hilarity. The film is now an undeniable critical and financial flop, as well as an industry-wide joke. Now, as the initial embarrassment for everyone involved dissipates, we’re in the weak self-deprecation portion of the process.
James Corden and Rebel Wilson, two stars of the film, are now trying to pretend that they were totally in on the joke, you guys. They presented the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and did so in cat outfits that were somehow still as horrifying as the movie. At least Rebel didn’t rip off her skin in this one. The pair said that ‘nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects.’
The team from 1917 won that award and you can tell that they’re not exactly thrilled to be given the highest honor in their professional field by two people in feline drag who basically sh*t on their contemporaries.
Hollywood’s Visual Effects Society was also pissed off, and for good reason. In a scathing statement, they called out Corden and Wilson for their hackery:
‘Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for outstanding visual effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline, and suggested that bad VFX were to blame for the poor performance of the movie ‘Cats.’ The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly. The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognizing, advancing and honoring visual effects as an art form — and ensuring that the men and women working in VFX are properly valued.’
Here’s the thing: Cats was always going to be a train-wreck, regardless of its VFX, because Tom Hooper is a bad director who was working on bad source material that is inherently allergic to the process of cinematic adaptation. Hooper’s fascinating ineptitude is especially evident in how baffling his major decisions were. Think of how ridiculous it was to commit to everyone having fully human faces on weird hairy cat bodies, or the stupidity of committing to this style when your story is mostly dance-focused and therefore will require details like actors’ feet being CGI’d to look barefoot while en pointe. That doesn’t even get into the issue of the weird size scaling going on in EVERY scene of the film.
Bad VFX happens primarily for two reasons: Lack of money and lack of time. Cats had a reported budget of around $95 million, which is peanuts for a film with so much CGI, and Hooper smugly bragged that he was working on the effects right up to the day of the film’s premiere, as if crunch mode is something to celebrate rather than a sign of crushingly oppressive and unfair labor demands. The VFX community is notoriously underpaid, overworked, and currently struggling to stay afloat despite record-breaking grosses on mega-blockbusters. Studios pit VFX companies against one another, forcing them to underbid for crucial work and committing them to highly unrealistic work schedules.
Imagine you’re one of the people working on Cats. You’re probably doing 60 - 80 hours a week, and a lot of that overtime won’t be paid. You know this project sucks because the basic foundations of it are irredeemably awful, but you commit to it because you love your job and you’re good at it. You know that what the director wants is stupid but hey, he’s the guy in charge. You’re in the offices right up until the film premieres, not that you’ll ever get an invite to it. Then the reviews come out and everyone tears into your work, but it doesn’t matter because, due to financial losses caused by said underbidding and overwork, you’re out of work and the effects studio has shut down. What satisfaction, right?
One VFX artist who worked on Cats definitely had a few things to say about Corden and Wilson.
Hey guys I haven't watched all of the Oscars but I assume these two were really classy and thanked me for working 80 hour weeks right up until I was laid off and the studio closed, right? https://t.co/dolAwK2xbr— Yves McCrae (@YvesTM) February 11, 2020
I worked at MPC Vancouver when it closed in December. Here is a little article summarizing what went down.https://t.co/pSnSv67ayZ— Yves McCrae (@YvesTM) February 11, 2020
There are many reasons why Tom Hooper deserves a life sentence in directors’ jail, but this is a pretty big one.
Header Image Source: YouTube // ABC