A little over a month before the nominees are released, the Academy teases us with the contenders for the Best Visual Effects. What exactly gets a film nominated for Best Visual Effects? Wikipedia supplies the answer:

According to the official Academy Award rules, the criteria are:
(a) consideration of the contribution the visual effects make to the overall production and
(b) the artistry, skill and fidelity with which the visual illusions are achieved.

Apparently, this list of fifteen films will be narrowed down to seven that will be up for final consideration for the nomination. In the end, five films will be nominated with one obviously taking home the gold. Here is the list of the contenders:

  1. “Alice in Wonderland”
  2. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
  3. “Clash of the Titans”
  4. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”
  5. “Hereafter”
  6. “Inception”
  7. “Iron Man 2”
  8. “The Last Airbender”
  9. “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”
  10. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”
  11. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
  12. “Shutter Island”
  13. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
  14. “Tron: Legacy”
  15. “Unstoppable”

Looking through this list, I have already seen two-thirds of them, which is a nice indicator (although I will review them if and when they are actually nominated in my 32 day Oscar Challenge). If I were to guess, here are the seven I would narrow them down to, even though I have not seen a few of them yet:

  1. “Alice in Wonderland”
  2. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”
  3. “Inception”
  4. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
  5. “Shutter Island”
  6. “Tron: Legacy”
  7. “Unstoppable”

Some of these may be wishful thinking (mainly “Shutter Island” & “Scott Pilgrim”), but I feel like they have enough going for them to handle themselves in a nomination. So how can I justify my picks?

1) “Alice in Wonderland”

“Alice” is full of visual effects. Every landscape in “Alice” is effected digitally and brilliantly. Most of the characters in the film are computer generated which helps keep the original story intact while keeping the film live action for the most part. The only thing going against “Alice” is the fact that it is up against another Disney film in “Tron: Legacy” and I feel the Academy will most likely allot one Disney slot and “Tron” will be the favorite in all regards.

2) “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”

With “the Half Blood Prince” being nominated for Best Cinematography last year, I thought that nomination belonged more in the Visual Effects area. It was between “Harry Potter” and “Chronicles of Narnia” for this position, and not having seen “Narnia”, from what I have heard, it does not live up to its predecessors and “Harry Potter” has proved its worth. “Harry” will definitely make the final cut.

3) Inception

A front runner for all areas nominated, “Inception” appears to be the “Avatar” of the 2010 season (except I actually adore “Inception” rather than despise it like I did with “Avatar”). “Inception” takes Visual Effects to a level rarely used and for that originality, it has a huge chance of taking home the gold.

4) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

This pick is a guilty pleasure, although it is definitely a powerhouse as far as visual effects go. The integration between real to life storytelling and visuals are absolutely amazing. The fight sequences alone are unlike any of the films up for contention. If “Scott Pilgrim” even gets nominated at the big show, you will hear a girlish scream of joy coming from my general direction.

5) Shutter Island

As with my sentiments toward Scott Pilgrim, just to see this even up for contention makes me smile. “Shutter Island” is the dark horse of the Oscars, because it has been out for so long and most viewers have probably forgotten about it. The visuals of “Shutter Island” are amazing, from the opening sequence to its cliffhanging ending. Again, just to see this nominated will give me glee.

6) Tron: Legacy

Only having seen the trailer for “Tron: Legacy”, I can already tell this will rival “Inception” for the win in this category. “Tron” could easily become the mammoth or powerhouse to steal the show, much like “Avatar” was the odds-on favorite to win last year.  It is, however, the effects that should supplement the film as a whole and not vice versa, and “Tron” gives me the strong feeling the latter will prevail. Unnecessary effects do not win any points in this category and just because this film will be a glorified video game, this will not give it anymore of an edge, hopefully.

7) Unstoppable

Credit has to be given to Tony Scott and “Unstoppable”. Most would not immediately assume this but the film is based around visual effects. A speeding train is not a normal visual event and Tony Scott being able to portray this effectively must be commended. Trains crash, trains smash, and with the raw nature of this film compared to the computer heavy list of other films (minus “Shutter Island” for the most part) I like thinking “Unstoppable” could be a contender because Scott does have such a unique visual atmosphere.

With my list of seven, the ones that got eliminated were mainly because their visual effect are nothing special. I lumped a large portion of the films together because they could technically be the same film in regards to their visual effects portrayal. “Clash of the Titans”, “Prince of Persia-Sands of Time”, “Percy Jackson”, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, and “Last Airbender” all rely on the same sort of effects of either magic or mythical creatures, or a mixture of both in most cases. “Iron Man 2” was a strong possibility just because it does have some strong visual effects, but I still do not see it nominated on the big night just for being a comic film. “Hereafter” is a wild card because I have not seen it yet, but from what I hear, Clint Eastwood’s visual effects do not warrant a nomination.

So there is my narrowing down of the fifteen contenders for Best Visual Effects. Having not seen “Harry Potter” or “Tron: Legacy”, once I view the two of them, I will be able to narrow these down to the final five. If you would like to add your predictions or make changes to my list, please feel free to post them below.

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