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Award Watch: Academy Trims Visual Effects List and Critics To Make Choices

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that seven films remain in the running in the visual effects category for the 81st Academy Awards.

The films are listed below in alphabetical order:

Heath Ledger The list will be narrowed to three for final Oscar consideration on January 15 by the members of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch who view 15-minute excerpts from each of the seven shortlisted films.

The Dark Knight, with the late Heath Ledger (left) as the no-jest Joker, and Iron Man, starring comeback commando Robert Downey Jr., were two comic book superhero summer blockbusters with razzle-dazzle special effects that should be odds-on favorites to grab nominations. But what about the third candidate?

Benjamin Button The digital wizardry of David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which Brad Pitt ages in reverse, is magical and deserves a nomination even if the actor doesn’t. The early scenes, showing Button as an old man with a youngster’s body, are among the film’s best. It’s when Button starts turning more into the matinee idol that Pitt is today that the film begins to drag.

But is there a chance Baz Luhrmann’s Australia might somehow slip in for its technical expertise? There aren’t as many gimmicks as the three favorites but the film is visually stunning (along with Nicole Kidman, below), and the panoramic shots of the countryside are just as breathtaking.

Nicole KidmanOf course, many of those don’t qualify as “visual effects,” but in several instances, it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s pure artistry. And the Academy will undoubtedly want to award this old-fashioned Gone With The Wind wannabe something since Australia's less-than-stellar reviews will likely prevent it from earning a nomination in any of the major categories.

While the World War II invasion by the Japanese is only a minor part of the film, the scenes are every bit as convincing as the ones in Pearl Harbor, which managed to earn a visual effects nomination in 2001.

Among the 15 finalists that failed to make the shortlist in this category were: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Cloverfield, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Hancock, The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Quantum of Solace and The Spiderwick Chronicles.

The nominations for this and other major categories will be announced January 22.

Feel free to vote for your favorite in the attached poll, and offer opinions in the space below.

Let the Awards Shows Begin

With the holiday season sadly behind us, it’s time to look forward to the awards season, which kicks into gear with the the 14th annual Critics Choice Awards, which will be shown on VH1 at 9 p.m. EST/PST on Thursday, January 8.

Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button lead the way with eight nominations, including best picture. The other best picture nominees are The Dark Knight, Doubt, and Slumdog Millionaire, all of which received six overall nominations.

Scheduled presenters include Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Forest Whitaker, along with some of Hollywood’s most underrated performers such as Kevin Bacon, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Brolin.

Writers Guild Nominations

The Writers Guild of America announced its nominations Wednesday and in the running for best adapted screenplay are The Dark Knight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire.

Joel and Ethan Coen, last year’s adapted screenplay winners for No Country for Old Men earned a nomination for best original screenplay for their spy comedy Burn After Reading.

Woody Allen, a four-time WGA winner, received his 19th overall nomination from the Guild for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, joining Milk, The Visitor, and the The Wrestler.

Award presentations will be made February 7 in New York and Los Angeles.

Feel free to vote for your favorite in the attached poll, and offer opinions in the space below.

poll by twiigs.com

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About Michael

  • Eric

    Benjamin Button alters the look of Brad Pitt on a 3-foot 70-year old man and pulls it off convincingly. They made it work, and as you watch it you aren’t looking at it as a special effect, but as part of the story.

    That’s my pick. An easy one no less.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/michael_bialas Michael

    Thanks for the comments, Eric. I would think Benjamin Button will be one of the three worthy movies when the nominations are announced January 22.

  • carmen

    I agree Australia had some great visual effects. I too liked the film. Benjamin Buttom follows close behind.

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