With new rules this year permitting five nominations, the Academy VFX Branch executive committee has picked fifteen films to be checked out at the annual Visual Effects Bakeoff in early January. That's when the committee will narrow the list to ten, and then, five for nominations morning January 25.
Predictably, Marvel has three films on the list, below ("Captain America: The First Avenger," "Thor," and "X-Men: First Class"), while DreamWorks has two ("Cowboys & Aliens,""Real Steel"). DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg is also a producer on J.J. Abrams' "Super 8." His own film "War Horse" leaned heavily on practical effects, and Weta's performance capture film "The Adventures of Tintin" has been promoted as an animated film; neither made the VFX cut, although "Tintin" certainly should have.
While sometimes a strong visual effects movie will survive bad reviews, in a very competitive year, several badly received movies were left out of contention, including Relativity's "Immortals," Sony's "Anonymous" --which boasted superb period VFX that did not cry out for attention--and another glaring omission, Warner Bros./DC's "Green Lantern," while Zack Snyder's dazzling "Sucker Punch" survived the first cut. Old school VFX supervisor Douglas Trumbull ("2001: A Space Odyssey") is back in the game with Terrence Malick's critics' fave, "The Tree of Life."
The films are listed below in alphabetical order:
"Captain America: The First Avenger" (Marvel/Paramount) Marvel VFX supervisor: Christopher Townsend
"Cowboys & Aliens" (DreamWorks/Universal) ILM VFX supervisors: Roger Guyett and Eddie Pasquarello
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" (Warner Bros.) VFX supervisor: Tim Burke
"Hugo" (Paramount) VFX supervisor: Rob Legato
"Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol" (Paramount) Digital Domain VFX supervisor: Erik Nash
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (Disney) ILM VFX supervisor: Ben Snow
"Real Steel" (Dreamworks/Disney) Digital Domain VFX supervisor: Erik Nash
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox) Weta VFX supervisor: Joe Letteri
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (Warner Bros.) VFX supervisor: Chas Jarrett
"Sucker Punch" (Warner Bros.) VFX supervisor: John "DJ" Desjardin
"Super 8" (Paramount) ILM VFX supervisor: Dennis Muren
"Thor" (Marvel/Paramount) Marvel VFX supervisor: Wesley Sewell
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Paramount) ILM VFX supervisor: Scott Farrar
"The Tree of Life" (Fox Searchlight) VFX supervisor: Douglas Trumbull
"X-Men: First Class" (Marvel/Fox) VFX supervisor: John Dykstra