Academy narrows visual effects race to 15 films

Posted by · 5:17 pm · December 9th, 2011

Since I took over the Visual Effects category in our Contenders section, I’ve been maintaining that there isn’t much to say about that particular race until the Academy begins narrowing the field a little — and after the first cut today, leaving a longlist of 15 films, there’s still little to add to the conversation. All the nominees everyone has been predicting all along are present and correct: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Hugo,” “Harry Potter of the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and so on.

Of the Top 15 titles we had listed in the Contenders section, 12 made the cut: there was no love for the CGI period recreations of “Anonymous” or (and this was always a risky guess) the motion-capture acrobatics of “The Adventures of Tintin.” Most disappointing to me is that the breathtakingly stylized digital imagery of “Immortals” got no love — it struck me as more artistically ambitious FX work than, say, “Thor,” but I freely admit to being a luddite in these matters. Perhaps what it lacked was a colon on the title: six of the 15 films that did make the grade boast one.

“Thor,” incidentally, is one of three Marvel comic adaptations in the running, alongside “Captain America” and “X-Men: First Class”; DC’s “Green Lantern,” the effects work of which was roundly jeered by fans and critics alike, is absent. Fair, but ouch.

The three films scoring higher than our Contenders chart suggested they would are “Sucker Punch” and a pair of soon-to-be-released sequels, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” (I’ve just returned from seeing the latter, by the way, and am pleased to report that it mostly kicks ass. But more on that later.) None are unexpected inclusions, at least at the longlist stage. Meanwhile, even though I’ve had it predicted for a nod all along, I’m relieved to see the Douglas Trumbull-aided supporting effects of “The Tree of Life” weren’t overlooked. It could easily have happened.

My predicted nominees, then, remain unchanged: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Hugo,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “The Tree of Life,” with the added weight of major-category prestige making “Hugo” a formidable challenger to prohibitive frontrunner “Apes.” Unless Pottermania strikes — though perhaps it’s worth noting that the entire franchise has scored only two previous nominations in this category.

The longlist will be reduced to a bakeoff list of 10 contenders early next month, with the final five nominees revealed on January 24.

The full list: 

“Captain America: The First Avenger”

“Cowboys and Aliens”

“Harry Potter and the Death Hallows: Part 2”


“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

“Real Steel”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

“Sucker Punch”

“Super 8”


“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

“The Tree of Life”

“X-Men: First Class”

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