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:
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Iron Man
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
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?
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.
Of 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.