The Oscar race for Best Visual Effects is underway. Ten films have made the cut with the Academy's Visual Effects Branch Executive Committee. Now, all visual effects branch members will have the opportunity to view 10-minute excerpts from these shortlisted works on Jan. 9 to determine the five films that make the Oscar ballot.
Two comic book crime fighters remain in the running this year. All of Robert Downey Jr.'s appearances as Iron Man -- "Iron Man" (2008), "Iron Man 2" (2010), and "The Avengers" (2012) -- have reaped Oscar bids and "Iron Man 3" could continue that streak. Fellow Avenger Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is featured in "Thor: The Dark World," which made the cut despite the Norse god's first starring vehicle failing to do so in 2011.
However, no comic book movie has won Best Visual Effects since "Spider-Man 2" in 2004. Indeed, it's the only such film to win this race competitively. "Superman" won a Special Achievement Award for its effects in 1978 but this year's reboot -- "Man of Steel" -- was snubbed.
Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is a good bet to make the final five. After all, each of the three "Lord of the Rings" films won this category, and the first part of his "Hobbit" trilogy, "An Unexpected Journey," was nominated last year.
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It's a fantasy to believe that Oscar voters love thes types of films. Over the past 85 years, only 33 movies with major fantasy themes have been nominated for Best Picture. And just one of these -- "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003) -- won the top prize.
However, some of the flicks have prevailed in other big categories. Acting Oscars went to players featured in "Miracle on 34th Street" (Edmund Gwenn), "Mary Poppins" (Julie Andrews), "Ghost" (Whoopi Goldberg), and "Black Swan" (Natalie Portman). "Midnight in Paris" (Woody Allen) took home screenplay honors. "Life of Pi" (Ang Lee) triumphed in directing. And many audio and visual trophies have been awarded over the years.
Take a tour through these 33 Best Picture nominees, starting with one of the most enduring classics of all time: "The Wizard of Oz" (1939).
Based on the children's book by L. Frank Baum, the film is about Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), who is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home. At the Oscars, it had six overall nominations and won for Original Score and Original Song ("Over the Rainbow"). It lost the Best Picture race to "Gone with the Wind."
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