Last year's winner for Best Visual Effects was Martin Scorsese's adventure film "Hugo."
The category typically honors other such big-budget, CGI-heavy extravaganzas. Other recent winners include the fantasy films "King Kong," "The Golden Compass," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," and sci-fi films "The Matrix" and "Spider-Man 2."
Effects-driven films also nominated for Best Picture tend to have an advantage. The last four winners in a row have been Best Picture nominees ("Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Avatar," "Inception," and "Hugo").
Four winners in a row from 2000 to 2003 were also Best Picture nominees: "Gladiator" and all three "Lord of the Rings" films.
Among this year's contenders is Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Other fantasy films in the running are Life of Pi" and "Snow White and the Huntsman."
And two sci-fi films are in contention: "The Avengers" and "Prometheus."