Analyzing Star Trek’s Chances At Academy Awards – Time For Trek’s First Oscar?

This weekend is the Academy Awards, and JJ Abrams Star Trek movie is nominated in four categories. Although previous Trek films have received nominations, so far the franchise has yet to pick up a win. Star Trek has some tough competition going in, but if prognosticators are to be believed, this may be the year Trek picks up some gold.

Analyzing Star Trek’s chances for an Oscar

Looking back on the previous films in the Star Trek franchise, four Trek films picked up a total of ten Academy nominations, but no win (see previous article for chart). The 2009 Star Trek movie has been nominated in four categories: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Makeup. For the purposes of this article, lets take a look at each category

Visual Effects


  • Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Analysis: Avatar

There was a lot of competition this year to get onto this short list of three films, and so Star Trek and the VFX team at ILM has already made an accomplishment by being nominated (including beating out ILM’s other big summer movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). However, amongst the award-watchers (see chart at Awards Daily) there is universal agreement that James Cameron’s Avatar will take away this Oscar. With its game-changing performance capture technology and beautiful 3-D imagery, so far Avatar has picked up all the precursor awards for visual effects, including six awards from the Visual Effects Society. If there were to be a spoiler in this category, it would probably be District 9, with the low-budget film winning points for doing so much with so little. UPDATE: The VFXRant Blog (from an ILM artist who worked on Trek) has an interesting quantitative analysis of predicting the FX Oscar, which happens to come to the same conclusion as everyone else: Avatar.


  • Star Trek nominee Roger Guyett also acted as 2nd unit director on the film
  • Avatar nominee Joe Letteri was the CG supervisor for star Trek VI

It looks like "Star Trek" doesn’t stand a chance against "Avatar" in the VFX category

Sound Editing


  • Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds” Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek” Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up” Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Analysis: Avatar

Sound editing  has been considered one of Star Trek’s strongest areas. Star Trek went into the MPSE guild awards tied with Avatar with three nominations, but in the end walked away empty handed. Avatar picked up two MPSE awards including the best overall sound editing and is considered the front-runner for the Oscar, but according to the AwardsDaily chart, there are still a number of prognosticators who think The Hurt Locker could take this one. So far none have predicted a Star Trek win.


  • Multiple Academy Award-winner Ben Burtt provided "Special Sound Effects and Montage" for Star Trek, but his work apparently wasn’t enough to qualify him for the nomination
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home lost the Sound Editing Oscar to Aliens in 1986
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, lost Sound Editing Oscar to Terminator 2 Judgment Day

"Avatar" also expected to win in sound editing

Sound Mixing


  • Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds” Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek” Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Analysis: The Hurt Locker

Sound Mixing is a similar story to Sound Editing. Once again it was a strength of Star Trek’s and it was nominated by the CAS guild. However in this case, it was The Hurt Locker that walked away with the guild award. Awards watchers are mixed on this one, but all are picking either Avatar or The Hurt Locker, with the edge going to The Hurt Locker


  • Andy Nelson is nominated for both Star Trek and Avatar
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home lost the Sound Mixing Oscar to Platoon in 1986
  • Transformers nominee Greg P. Russell worked on Star Trek VI as a sound re-recording mixer

"The Hurt Locker" leads predictions for sound mixing



  • Il Divo” Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria” Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Analysis: Star Trek

Makeup is another strong suit for Star Trek, and the fact that Avatar isn’t nominated is part of the reason. While James Cameron was breaking new ground in computer graphics to create the aliens for Avatar, JJ Abrams chose to go old-school, with almost all the aliens seen in the film using prosthetics. There isn’t any guild award to point to, so it is harder to analyze, but Star Trek is going up against two little known films here. The Young Victoria beat Star Trek for the makeup BAFTA, but that could have been due to the UK home field advantage. District 9 beat Trek the Critics Choice makeup award, but it isn’t even nominated for an Oscar. All but two of the media prognosticators are predicting a Star Trek win here. Awards Circuit says "Star Trek looks to be the winner", In Contention notes this should be "an easy get" for Star Trek, and even Roger Ebert (who didn’t give Star Trek a good review), predicts a win here for Trek.


  • Star Trek nominee Barney Burman’s father and uncle both worked on past Star Trek films and TV shows
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, lost makeup Oscar to Terminator 2 Judgment Day
  • Star Trek First Contact lost makeup Oscar to The Nutty Professor
  • Veteran Star Trek visual effects artist Doug Drexler won a makeup Oscar for Dick Tracy in 1990

"Star Trek" a favorite to win in Makeup with "Young Victoria" giving some competition

Bottom Line: This could be the year!

Avatar and The Hurt Locker are likely going to dominate the Academy Awards this year, and will likely share in taking home three out of four of the categories that Star Trek is nominated in. However, neither are playing in the Makeup category and Star Trek is seen as the front-runner here, so this could be the one that breaks the 30-year trend and finally brings home an Oscar to the franchise.

And if you want to get a look at all the Star Trek and other nominees, check out the photos and video from the nominee luncheon at, including an interactive group photo.

The 2010 Oscar nominees

Trek Vets Giacchino and Stromberg likely win – probably not for Plummer

As there are at every Academy Awards, a number veterans of past Star Trek productions are up for awards. TrekMovie has been reporting all the awards (Grammy, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, etc) Star Trek composer Michael Giacchino has been winning for his Up Score. All but one of the journalists on the Awards Daily prediction chart think Giacchino will win, with only one guessing that fellow Trek vet James Horner will win for Avatar.

Star Trek VI actor Christopher Plummer (General Chang) has been nominated for as Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his work as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, which is his first Oscar nomination. Although the Academy often appears to award actors for their careers, it appears there is no stopping Christoph Waltz for his breakout performance in Inglourious Basterds. Waltz has won all the precursor awards, and all but one prognosticator is predicting his win.

Finally, Robert Stromberg, a matte artist on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Star Trek: First Contact, appears to be poised to take home an Oscar as one of the two Avatar production designers nominated for Art Direction.

Michael Giacchino looks like a winner for "Up" – Christopher Plummer a longshot for "The Last Station"

Watch the Oscars (and Chris Pine) this Sunday

Of course this is all guess work, we will have to wait for Sunday to find out. The 82nd annual Academy Awards airs live on ABC on Sunday March 7th at 8 pm (EST), 5 pm (PST). Star Trek’s new Captain Kirk Chris Pine will be one of the presenters

Programming Note: TrekMovie will have a pre-Oscar interview with Makeup nominee Barney Burman, look for that tomorrow


POLL: How many Oscars for Trek?
So what do you think? Another blow-out for Trek? Or do you agree with me that Trek is going to come away with one? Or are you feeling more daring and guessing it will get even more.


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First! Sorry…ain’t gonna happen. At least not in the visual effects category.

If it does, it will be the biggest travesty since ET won over Blade Runner in 1982.

I’ve never forgiven the Academy for that one.

Make-up is a perfectly good category in which to get an Oscar.

I would like to see the words, “The Oscar-Winning film, Star Trek…” used in a sentence in a short time hence.

Star Trek will never win an Oscar, no matter how good it is. I don’t know why the Oscars are such a big deal, anyway.

Avatar shouldn’t win in either sound mixing or editing. It was far better done in Star Trek, well thought out to modernize the 60’s sounds into a more futuristic feel. Avatar was not nearly so creative or well done in the sound category.
I would agree that Avatar should win in the special effects department, but I still catch myself salivating over Star Trek’s opening battle more so than anything in Avatar…
And makeup should be a shoo-in.

I read the article…LOL!!! But I do like being FIRST — since I never have been before…LOL!!! So, NYAH NYAH!!

I hope Star Trek wins in something. I don’t really care what, aha. Any win is a good win!.. Unless it’s the Razzies. But even that’s publicity, at least.. Not that Trek would ever get one. xP

Loved Avatar, but I’d love even more for Star Trek to get somethin’. Let’s go Star Trek, let’s go!

Alright Anthony.

Put on the klingon outfit and set your distributors to kill ! Star Trek is gonna take an Oscar this time !

Star Trek’s competition is not as tough for make-up. They will probably take it !

I’m sick of reading all this news about Star Trek loosing to Avatar for awards. Avatar was an amazing movie with groundbreaking visual effects, but the story was very predictable – basically a more large scale epic version of Pocahontas. Star Trek kept us guessing on our toes as to what the plot was, and the fact that the story was told non-linearly helped make it less predictable. What’s more important – story or visual effects? Star Trek had the better story.

I’m not saying by any means that Star Trek was bad, it was a ton of fun… but it had a story? REALLY? Please explain to me what that movie was about without relying on characters to explain it. Avatar was about a solider turning against his own kind as he befriends a far less technological culture that embraces nature and spiritual faith. It’s just a classic story that’s been done dozens and dozens of times.

Now again I’m not saying Star Trek is worse then Avatar by any means… but Star Trek had a story? hehe

and by characters I mean the growth of say kirk or spock.. no specific characters. I should have been more clear on that.

It would be nice if Trek won and I loved the movie… but I recently watched Star Trek and then I watched Star Trek II the Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek VI the Undiscovered Country. Both of those films, if remade with the same script, but with better visuals and in 3D would win. They should have won when they came out, but the films weren’t targeted at a full audience like this one was.

Star Trek needs to win period. None of the other’s have stood the test of time.

I think the chances of Trek over taking Avatar for VFX might actually happen. Simple math: Star Trek is ILM and Avatar is Weta, I’m thinking since ILM is the American company it might stand a chance. Plus, I think giving Avatar for VFX would be like giving it to Up or another all CGI film.

I don’t care if Star Trek ever wins an Oscar. The Oscars don’t mean anything to me. Frankly, I don’t know why anyone cares.

My predictions for the Oscars are:

Visual Effects: Avatar, no question

Sound Editing: Avatar

Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker

Make-up: The Young Victoria

While the article says “Star Trek” is a shoo-in for the Best Make-Up Oscar, I simply have to disagree. A lot of people feel “The Young Victoria” is deserving of an award. Some believe that it was snubbed in the Best Picture category and so it will be compensated.

I also suspect “Young Victoria” will take the make-up Oscar.

As well, since this is the first “Star Trek” in a new series of movies, the Academy may wait for the next film before handing out an award. I.e there is only one “The Young Victoria”, one “Il Divo”, but at least one more “Star Trek” to come.

If this had been any other year with no Avatar, perhaps JJ’s Star Trek would’ve gotten one of its nominated Oscars.

Of all the nominations that Trek motion pictures has received over the years, I think The Motion Picture deserved to win for Goldsmith’s memorable score and for visual effects. No other Trek film, other then the last one, has ever been nominated for best vfx, but given the amount of work gone into the movie, it deserves that as well.

I agree. Make-up is definitely Star Trek’s best shot at winning an Oscar.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Oscars but I continue to have a bad feeling that the awards aren’t going to go the way I want them to.

#9 “Avatar” deserves all the awards it can get. Well, except for Best Picture. “Star Trek” was better. So was “District 9”, “The Hurt Locker”, and “Up”. I haven’t seen the others though. And I really liked “Avatar”. I just felt the story was somewhat weak and dragged on a bit in the middle.
I think “The Hurt Locker” should win Best Picture. Or even “Up”. Yes, while there is a Best Animation Award, I think “Up” deserves the Best Picture nomination.

#9: there is no such word as ‘loosing.’

just being picky…

try losing instead


I also hope no one accuses the Academy of “snubbing” if “Star Trek” comes away open-handed. Sure, most critics seem to think “Star Trek” will win Best Make-Up, but these same critics predicted “The Dark Knight” would get Best Picture and Best Director nominations, but look at what happened. Now that is what I call a “snub”. I still can’t get over that one.

According to the official Oscar iPhone app, Star Trek is leading with 67% in the Make-Up category.

Here is the official breakdown as of 9:36 p.m. (PST) tonight:

Il Divo: 6%
Star Trek: 67%
The Young Victoria: 27%

Please remember that the poll is not scientific. It is the tabulation of predictions by users of the app.

I agree with your analysis, Tony. I’ve made the same predictions, based on similar analyses.

Chances of ‘Star Trek’ winning Best Visual Effects: 0%
The visual effects Oscar was ‘Avatar”s before the nominations were even announced.

Chances of ‘Star Trek’ winning Best Sound Editing: 5%
As you pointed out, ‘Avatar’ picked up the top MPSE honors, making it the likely Oscar winner. ‘Hurt Locker’ could also take it, but there’s very, very little chance that any of the other nominees can win.

Chances of ‘Star Trek’ winning Best Sound (Mixing): 10%
This one seems to belong to ‘Hurt Locker,’ though ‘Avatar’ also has a very good chance of taking it. ‘Star Trek’ has a slightly better chance of taking this award than Sound Editing, but both awards are so far out of reach that I just don’t see it happening.

Chances of ‘Star Trek’ winning Best Makeup: 60%
‘Star Trek’ is the odds-on favorite to win this one. When it comes between period make-up and the more elaborate fantasy make-up, the latter typically wins. That said, ‘Young Victoria’ *did* win the BAFTA for Makeup & Hair, and the Oscars *usually* follow suit with their own makeup category. Plus, one of the nominees for ‘Young Victoria’ is a previous Oscar winner (for ‘Elizabeth’). So, even though ‘Trek’ has a higher likelihood of winning, we should not discount ‘Victoria’ too quickly. It could very well end up taking the gold, leaving ‘Trek’ without a single award.

#13: Um. All of these movies are less than a year old. Star Trek included. None of them have even _taken_ the test of time, much less withstood it.

#1: Interesting. Most SF/Fantasy fans do seem to have at least one Academy Awards upset they’ll never let go. For me, I parted company with taking the Oscars seriously after the Fisher King failed to get a directorial nod (it got others, to be sure, but still). :)

I’m still one of those dastards who thinks Annie Hall deserved every single Oscar, though. [waits for the peltings of tomatoes thrown by the Force]

You’re right, John Ross.

I’ve never forgiven the Academy for snubbing ‘Transformers 2’ and a true classic ‘Battlefield Earth.’


If anything I think it’ll be in best makeup. Forget effects because, to be honest, they weren’t that impressive, not compared to what’s out there and comparing this movie’s budget to Nemesis and how far apart they were made, well once again wasn’t that impressed. The makeup was a solid job, though, I’ll give it that. I still think it deserved a best picture nomination, I’d say it was about equal as films to go District 9 and looking at a movie like Up In The Air, well yeah, should have gotten that nomination. I’ve read a lot of articles online that reflect that to, tons out there think it should have gotten the nomination over District 9.

#27: From what I’ve heard, those two films are comparably great :)

Lesser films that Star Trek were nominated for best picture this year.

Ever since back in 1998 Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan, I’ve given up on the Oscars.

#31 I can’t get over that one either. But awards are subjective. “Saving Private Ryan” is considered a classic while “Shakespeare In Love” has been forgotten for the most part.

It’s time for Star Trek to get an Oscar. I don’t care even if they only get one, as long as Star Trek gets one.

Has anyone else noticed how Star Trek has lost (and will lose) all its Sound Editing nominations to a James Cameron film?
Odd eh?

•Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home lost the Sound Editing Oscar to Aliens in 1986
•Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, lost Sound Editing Oscar to Terminator 2 Judgment Day
•Star Trek lost the Sound Editing Oscar to Avatar in 2010

I’ve watched Shakespeare in Love more times since its release than the lesser SPR. Almost everyone who likes Shakespeare liked that movie. The Academy is full of intelligent people, thus an artsy film won out over a clichéd film.

– “Star Trek” a favorite to win in Makeup with “Young Victoria” giving some competition.

I’m sorry, but if you’re going to do a side-by-side comparison showing the beautiful Emily Blunt next to something that looks like its made of fecal matter, I’m going to pass this one to Young Victoria.

Also, they didn’t even put their makeup to good use. More than half of the stuff they worked on and created ended up being cut from the movie. That’s not putting professional makeup artists to good use.

And the Gorn…… that was bad….

Star Trek has been overlooked for so long.

And if better Trek movies were overlooked then I don’t feel it will change this time.

I’m expected Trek to win for Best Makeup, the category is a real mish-mosh this year consisting of Il Divo, Young Victoria and Star Trek, but you never know, they may give Victoria the makeup award to go with the costume design award.

#37 – There were better Star Trek movies?

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter to me if one movie wins an Oscar over another. It would be nice to increase the publics awareness and maybe “legitimize” the franchise to non science fiction fans. That might
help keep Star Trek going.

Why do you think Avatar is like Pochantas anyway I hope Trek does get some awards if it doesn’t then it will always be a winner to me in my opinion

Too bad there is not an award for the use of lens flares…

Kidding! I just couldn’t resist!!!

Most people use the Pocahontas comparison – i.e. “alien” invader falls in love with mysterious native princess, learns of their spiritual connection with the land. a battle caused by greed ensues, and the invaders are sent packing in the end. It’s also got a good chunk of Ferngully, the Last Rainforest thrown in there, where a human working for a logging company is transformed into a fairy by a beautiful forest fairy princess. He learns of their spiritual connection to the land, etc. etc. The also all live in a big tree. Only Avatar doesn’t have the awesome Tim Curry singing numbers as an evil spirit of spoilage and pollution.

I doubt Trek will bring one home, even though it deserves some. Frankly, and I know a lot of people are going to want to string me up for this, I thought Star Trek’s visuals far more appealing compared to Avatar. Before you grab your ropes, let me explain. Avatar was almost pure CGI work. Impressive CGI work, but CGI nonetheless. Given the abundance of green screen work in Hollywood these days, I was surprised to see just how many physical, and in the case of the spacejump “trick”, effects were used instead of just saying, “Okay, send it to ILM.” Yes, the space scenes were all CGI and the like, but on set they worked physically as much as possible. And to me, that makes it more impressive.

Also, not surprised Transformers2 missed the nomination for visual effects, they didn’t do anything new with their effects.

@1: Glad I wasn’t the only one who’s jaw dropped to the floor on that one! Lost all faith in the academy over that!

#11 – I’m sick of people spelling “loosing” for “losing”!

Anyway, AVATAR is considered a game-changer as far as VFX goes. TREK had the unfortunate luck of being released the same year. It probably would have won any other year, especially after last year’s crop of “meh”.

ILM will have mixed feelings if they lose to AVATAR since they have several shots and sequences in the film, as well as helping James Cameron do the 3D R&D and testing.


I haven’t watched Shakespeare in Love since it won over Saving Private Ryan.Still bitter I guess.

Watched Saving Private Ryan several times though.

Not a single line of dialogue from Shakespeare in Love has remained in my memory.

But “Earn this…” from Saving Private Ryan?

That will be with me until the day that I die.

Honestly, I find District 9 to be more deserving for effects than Avatar or Trek.

Trek had solid effects, but they were rarely something you’d remember.

Avatar cost FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. Avatar is impressive, but it does not look like a $400,000,000 film. Considering District 9 was in the $30 million budget area, the effects for that film were mind blowingly awesome, far more original and seamlessly integrated with live action. For the ingenuity involved alone, i’d say D9 deserves the effects Oscar.

#47 – The VFX of D9 were impressive, but not innovative.

The majority of AVATAR’s budget went to R&D. Much of what was done hadn’t been done before.

#47: I agree. Dollar for dollar and frame for frame, no movie impressed me more on the SFX front in 2009 than District 9. The effects always served the story and were amazingly seamless given the relatively tiny budget.

#48: Innovation is just one factor among many, though.