Wouldn't it be weird if Oscar had finalist rounds for all categories and not just a few of them? Can you imagine a runway elimination for Costume Design or a Supporting Actress pre-nom bake-off? But, bringing us back to reality, few categories do this. The effects branch does and after having a looksie at this year's showiest films, they've narrowed the Oscar posssibilities for "Best Achievement in Visual Effects" to 15. We're not sure why there are so many steps in the process but they'll narrow it down again in early January to 10 before 5 are named at the end of January on Oscar Nomination Morning (Or what Nathaniel calls Christmas Eve... Christmas being Oscar Night, his favorite holiday!)
The semi-finalist list bring us a few dinosaurs, a handful of mythical creatures, several aliens, a dozen colorful superheroes, a scary school (herd? pack? fleet?) of mermaids, and many robots from small to super sized.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cowboys & Aliens
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Tree of Life
X-Men: First Class
DINOSAURS! There's no award for Best Supporting Visual Effects but I always root for that film even though it's rarely nominated. I mean how are you going to ignore the visual effects of Eternal Sunshine back in its day. But they did. So this year's I'm really pulling for the audacious creation of the earth segment from The Tree of Life since we obviously can't have the destruction of the earth in Melancholia. Together they're a Double Scoop of Circle of Life Awesome.
OMISSIONS! Effects work that didn't make it to the finals include Tarsem's warring god boytoys in The Immortals, the elaborate visual wows of The Adventures of Tintin, the apocalyptic beauty of Melancholia's opening/closing segments, and the yellow clouds enlarged craniums alient whatnots and gooey green CGI messes of Green Lantern -- someone mop that up!
FOUR NOMINEES... BUT THEY ARE LEGION
On Oscar nomination morning five films will be left standing and four lucky craftsmen will reap the benefits for each film, their names to be determined by the producers. It's interesting to note how many people work on a movie's effects sequences versus how many are nominated for what the teams deliver unto us. Let's take Captain America for an example. The Special Effects department which does models, pyrotechnics, explosives, snow, molds and other sundries and whatnots numbers 40. The Visual Effects department, which does ... uh... everything else [marvel at my intricate knowledge of the process! *snort*] numbers nearly 800 (!!!). Generally speaking one assumes the producers merely pick department heads because most of the job descriptions of those nominated are simply "visual effects supervisor" though sometimes you'll get a "special effects supervisor" from the sister department. And occassionally something a lot more specific like last year's nomination for Michael Owens on Hereafter whose job title reads "designer: tsunami sequence, visual effects supervisor".
Beyond possibly previously Oscared Craig Barron (2 noms / 1 win) I'm not sure who would get Captain America's nomination (should it receive one) since there are several visual effects supervisors most of whom would be first time nominees. But I think the producers ought to think outside the box hyperbaric chamber and consider Simon Waterson, Chris Evans' trainer because this here was the movie's single greatest visual effect...
I rest my case.
If they need further convincing -- perhaps even towards an honorary Oscar -- please to note that Simon Waterson was also responsible for Daniel Craig's Casino Royale body. You owe Simon Waterson, moviegoer, even if you don't know it!
Which 33% of the semi-finalists do you think will call themselves Oscar Nominees come January's end?