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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I've been digging through the big Oscar categories for weeks, but it's now time to start looking into the tech and craft categories. On December 9, the AMPAS named 15 films to the short list for Best Visual Effects. This list (which you can find below) is all-encompassing. No one should be too surprised by any exclusion (Immortals, maybe, is the biggest snub), but it's also pretty easy to look at this list and rule several titles out.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cowboys & Aliens

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Real Steel
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sucker Punch

X-Men: First Class

Later in the process, this list will be narrowed to seven titles. Here are the ones with the best chances:

1.) Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I said back in August that this film was a near lock to win. I've softened on that stance a little, but I still think it's golden to get nominated, as the work on the apes was mind-blowing.

2.) Hugo
The reason I'm not as high on "Apes" is this film. Hugo (which I just saw for a second time, and it holds up wonderfully) is a feast for the eyes in every way. It can only help that it's looking like a very viable Best Picture candidate.

3.) Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Say what you will about the film (I'll say it was a piece of shit), but the visuals were pretty unbelievable. Craft voters rarely worry about quality of film (see also: Norbit), so don't let that stop you from placing this great-looking stinker on your predictions list.

4.) The Tree of Life
This is the first, and I hope last, time that I ever compare Malick's film with Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, but the films do have one thing in common. Last year, Hereafter made the cut in this race based on one scene—the beautifully-made tsunami sequence. I fully expect Malick's film to do the same based on the Creation of Earth material, which is as visually impressive as anything I've seen in years.

5.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2
After those first four, things get trickier. It's more a process of elimination than outright predictions, really. Captain America: The First Avenger, Cowboys & Aliens, Real Steel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sucker Punch, and X-Men: First Class have very slim chances, I think. The final Harry Potter installment edges out the remaining films for a few reasons. One is that this is the last chance for the Academy to reward this monumentally popular and successful series. This also happens to be the most impressive installment, at least as far as visual effects goes. Deathly Hallows—Part 1 managed to get in last year, so I think it's fair to assume its sequel stands a good chance.

6.) Super 8
So many things wrong with this film, including the often superfluousness of the special effects, but damn if they weren't impressive. Still, were they as unique as those in other films on this list? Probably not. It's got a decent shot, I'd say, but probably looks better in the sound categories.

7.) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
I haven't seen this film, so I can't speak toward its quality or the quality of the visual effects, but it gets on the list of seven over films like Thor and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol because of its track record. Three previous "Pirates" films, three nominations in this category. That's tough record to ignore.


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