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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