Can ‘Real Steel’ land an Oscar knockout?

The Hugh Jackman vehicle “Real Steel” was the weekend’s biggest moneymaker raking in $27.3 million. While the reviews were decidedly mixed, several critics cited the film’s effects as its strength. As Peter Travers of Rolling Stone noted, “Sugar Ray Leonard helped with the motion-capture, and it shows. Good stuff.” Indeed, this sci-fi flick about robot boxers could well contend at this year’s Oscars as one of the five nominees for Best Visual Effects.


Traditionally, many of the nominees in this category are summer blockbusters. Last year’s champion “Inception” was a July release. Rival nominees “Alice in Wonderland” and “Iron Man 2” were in theaters even earlier than that. But later releases can also net nominations, as proven by the other films that filled out last year’s slate — “Hereafter” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.”

This year already has seen a slew of potential contenders. Box office hits “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides,” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” could easily take four of the five slots. The more modest successes “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Super 8” as well as arthouse favorite “The Tree of Life” are also strong contenders.

However, the robots in “Real Steel” could help the film win over the Visual Effects branch. Automatons featured heavily in several previous nominees from the last decade: “Transformers” (2007), “War of the Worlds” (2005), “I, Robot” (2004), “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (2002), and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001).

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“Real Steel” helmer Shawn Levy also directed “Night at the Museum” which made the Visual Effects shortlist in 2006. That film failed to make the final cut when there were only three nominees as the Academy opted for “Poseidon,” “Superman Returns,” and eventual winner “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” However, last year, the category expanded to five nominees. 

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