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An unruly 'Cocaine Bear' helped Elizabeth Banks present award for Best Visual Effects at Oscars 2023

If you give an American black bear some cocaine, it might just ask for an Oscar to go with it.

By Josh Weiss
(L-R) Elizabeth Banks and Cocaine Bear onstage at the Academy Awards

If you give an American black bear some cocaine, it might just follow you to the 95th Academy Awards. That's exactly what happened to Elizabeth Banks Sunday evening when the actor/filmmaker/producer arrived onstage to present the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. 

Since "Cokie," the drug-addled apex predator of Universal Pictures' Cocaine Bear (now playing in theaters) was an entirely CGI creation, the ceremony organizers had to go with the next best thing: a human performer in a bear costume. Banks enjoyed a scripted repartee with the phony animal, which was seriously jonesing for a bump of nose candy and needed to be schooled on what is and isn't fake in contemporary cinema. 

"Visual effects can enhance any story and are an incredible tool for filmmakers like me," Banks proclaimed before adding, "without visual effects, Cocaine Bear would've been some actor in a bear suit...probably on cocaine."

Watch Elizabeth Banks and her Cocaine Bear companion present at the Oscars:

RELATED: Cocaine…cat?! Big kitty survives wild drug chase with real-life shades of ‘Cocaine Bear’

Unsurprisingly, the Academy Award went to Avatar: The Way of Water, which is currently the third highest-grossing movie in history after its 2009 predecessor and Avengers: Endgame. Richard Baneham, one of the four recipients of the award, thanked director James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, and the massive team of visual effects artists during his acceptance speech.

Speaking to gathered members of the press right after, fellow team member Joe Letteri detailed the innovative technology that helped bring the long-awaited sequel to life.

"To try to get the characters right, to really capture what the actors were doing, we wrote neural networks," he said. "Because just doing it the old-fashioned way really wasn't enough. We're really lucky, we get to watch the actors and it's just like a small room. It's like a stage play, but then we want to make sure that what we're seeing goes out to everyone in the movie [theater]."

The Way of Water beat out All Quiet on the Western Front, The Batman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Top Gun: Maverick.

Cocaine Bear is now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to purchase tickets, and click here to read SYFY WIRE's interview with the film's VFX Supervisor Robin Hollander. For the complete list of this year's Oscar winners, click here.

Looking for more creature-based thrills? Jordan Peele's Nope is currently streaming on Peacock.