Oscars 2023: Cocaine Bear and Elizabeth Banks present Academy Award for visual effects

When Elizabeth Banks presented the Oscar for best visual effects at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday night, she shared the stage with one of Hollywood’s hottest characters.

Banks, who directed this year’s box office smash “Cocaine Bear,” announced the nominees alongside a co-presenter wearing a full bear costume. Banks’ new thriller, which has earned $65 million globally since it opened just weeks ago in theaters, is inspired by the true story of a 175-pound black bear in Georgia 40 years ago that ingested a massive dose of cocaine apparently dropped from a plane piloted by a convicted drug smuggler.

“I recently directed the film ‘Cocaine Bear,'” Banks said at the Oscars. “And without visual effects, this is what the bear would look like. It’s terrifying.”

Elizabeth Banks and Cocaine Bear at the 95th Annual Academy Awards
Elizabeth Banks and Cocaine Bear on stage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.

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“What’re you doing? Stop it,” Banks told the costumed bear. “Are you trying to score right now? You need to wait ’til the after party like everybody else.”

Banks went on to highlight the importance of visual effects in bringing stories to life onscreen.

“The coke is not real. It’s visual effects,” she said before segueing into a creative introduction for each of the year’s nominees in this category: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “The Batman,” and the eventual winner, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” 

“‘Avatar’ is visual effects. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’? That’s visual effects. It was a real war, but real visual effects. Batman flying around — that’s not real. Tom Cruise flying around is real, but also, visual effects,” she said of the “Maverick” actor famous for performing his own stunts. 

“Wakanda? Wakanda is totally real,” Banks continued, adding, “Visual effects can enhance any story and are an incredible tool for a filmmaker like me. Without visual effects, ‘Cocaine Bear’ would have been some actor in a bear suit … probably on cocaine.”

The award for best visual effects was the first win of the night for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which was nominated this year in four categories, including best picture.

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