While the media puppies were distracted by the Oscar chew-toy, the Visual Effects Society was handing out its 8th annual batch of awards. Soundly trounced by The Hurt Locker at the Academy, Avatar could take some comfort from its haul of six statuettes in the shape of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon. You can see a full list of winners here. The VES recognises films, TV shows, commercials and videogames that exhibit innovative or outstanding visual effects: these are effects completed in post-production as opposed to special effects, which is meant to refer to things done on the set, but which has become a catch-all for visual trickery of all sorts. As a result, almost every nominee (the stop-motion Coraline is the honourable exception) is featured for its digital effects. And what do you think was the single most impressive effect of the year? Was it the destruction of L.A. in 2012? The plane crash in Knowing? Nope, it was a shot of Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri drinking water from a leaf. A CG character dribbling CG liquid into her mouth. It’s less obviously spectacular than the fire and brimstone of its competitors, and techie insiders obviously recognised the complexity of modelling and compositing all of those separate elements, but it points to the micro-spectacular properties of digital effects. Aside from the capacity for large-scale destruction, they chase after the possibility of the sensuality of surfaces, skin and fluid, hoping for their successful integration, the thrill of their touch. This, depending on your view, is either a marvelous re-direction of the spectacular towards haptic, luxuriant pleasures, or a complete waste of time when there’s plenty of serviceable skin and water to be found in the real world at any time.