‘Gravity,’ ‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Iron Man 3’ on Oscars shortlist for Best Visual Effects

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.

Even though this category used to belong to summer blockbusters, nine of the last 13 Visual Effects Oscars have gone to a Best Picture nominee, including the last five in a row: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Avatar,” “Inception,” “Hugo,” and “Life of Pi.”

That is great news for “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron‘s technologically audacious thriller about astronauts stranded in Earth’s orbit. It is the overwhelming frontrunner in this race

Among the other nine films still in contention are two surprises: critical and box office bomb “The Lone Ranger” and “World War Z,” which overcame bad buzz to do well worldwide. 

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. 

Battling robots have also done well in this category in recent years, with “Real Steel” and two “Transformers” films earning nominations, not to mention the previous “Iron Man” movies. This year, Guillermo Del Toro pits giant robots against sea monsters in “Pacific Rim.”

The other films in the bake-off are: “Elysium,” “Oblivion” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

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