For only the second time since it was introduced in 1971 the Best Visual Effects category has five nominees. The addition of two new nominees to the normal slate of three has not made things any more mysterious in this typically straight-forward category. Every year there are a certain number of blockbuster films that are obviously visual effects driven, and those films tend to dominate predictions in this category for the entire year.
From when I first announced my predictions for this category back in August through to the nominations last Tuesday, the same four films have remained on the list. The one surprise that was announced last week was Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, which took the spot of the CGI-filled TRON Legacy. The film made it in because of one impressive tsunami scene in the beginning of the film, but other than that it has very little of what is typically classified “visual effects.” With its surprise nomination and limited use of CGI, Hereafter is probably the least likely contender to win.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 received a nomination in this category, making it only the second film in the franchise to do so. The Harry Potter films are often singled out more for their Art Direction than for the Visual Effects, but that should not diminish the superb CGI work that is done to create the fantastic and imaginative settings and characters. They likely will not be able to compete for this Award.
The three films that seem to have a legitimate shot at winning are Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, and Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Recently the Visual Effects Society announced their annual winners and Inception lead the way with 4 awards including Best Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture (1). Since the VES started giving out their awards in 2002 there have been only two times when the winner of their Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture award did not go on to win the Academy Award (2). Inception has been leading the way most of the season and it is the only film nominated for Best Visual Effects that is also nominated for Best Picture. It seems fair to reason that it remains at the front of the pack.
A potential spoiler could be Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton’s film received mediocre reviews when it was initially released in the first half of the year, but it surprised last week with three technical nominations. It’s a potential frontrunner in the other two categories in which it is nominated and it very well could spoil here and pull off a technical sweep. It has some steep competition with the fantastic visuals of Inception, but if any film is to spoil this one has the best shot.
Predicted to Win: Inception
Potential Spoiler: Alice in Wonderland
Deserves to Win: Inception
Should Have Been Nominated: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World