In a bit of an upset, "Ex Machina" topped favorite "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" for the visual effects Oscar. The low-key film's cinematic trickery was defined by one sustained effect: the robot character of Ava.
The win Sunday night might be due equally to the effects team that took the prize and to actress Alicia Vikander, who played Ava (and won an Oscar of her own for her work in "The Danish Girl"). The marriage of the winners' technical skill and Vikander's impeccable performance was apparently enough to overcome "Star Wars'" dominance at the Visual Effects Society awards, where "Ex Machina" had come away empty handed.
Winners Ardington, Bennett, Norris and Whitehurst were all first-time nominees.