Best Visual Effects Oscar watch: Which dark horse contender could beat ‘The Jungle Book’?

The current frontrunner to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, “The Jungle Book,” picked up six nominations with the Visual Effects Society (VES) this week, solidifying its place atop our predictions in the category with current 21/10 odds. But after last year when “Ex Machina” surprised the Oscar field with an upset win over presumed frontrunner “Mad Max: Fury Road,” would we smart to keep our eyes on a different contender? Below, see our analysis of the other nine shortlisted finalists including their current odds at an Oscar nomination.

UPDATED: Oscar predictions by experts in all 24 categories

Arrival” – 7/1 odds
Since the academy expanded the Best Picture field to up to 10 nominees seven years ago the Visual Effects branch has only not nominated a Best Picture nominee once (in 2014 when “Interstellar” won). Of the 10 shortlisted films left only “Arrival” is expected to be a Best Picture contender so it’s likely that the VFX branch recognizes it, too. In six of the last seven years when a Best Picture nominee was a VFX contender, five times did a BP nominee win. While BAFTA did nominate the film for its own visual effects award, the VES guild surprisingly did not find room for it in any of its eight live-action categories.

The BFG” – 100/1 odds
Steven Spielberg’s fantasy pic has mostly failed to make its mark on awards season so far having failed to reap bids with both BAFTA and the VES despite the pedigree of Spielberg and recent Oscar champ Mark Rylance.

Captain America: Civil War” – 50/1 odds
Though it has an inconsistent track record with the branch, Marvel’s last “Captain America” entry “The Winter Soldier” managed a nomination in 2014 so the blockbuster “Civil War” shouldn’t be easily dismissed as a possibility. That being said, the VES decided to throw most of their weight behind the other Marvel film “Doctor Strange” and gave no bids to “Civil War.”

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Deepwater Horizon” – 100/1 odds
Unlike the academy, the VES divides the field between effects-driven films and films with “supporting” visual effects. This year the only film in the VES supporting category that is on the academy’s shortlist is “Deepwater Horizon.” Recent Oscar nominees to come from the supporting group are “The Revenant,” “The Lone Ranger” and “Hugo.”

“Doctor Strange” – 4/1 odds
In terms of competition for “The Jungle Book,” “Doctor Strange” is near the top of the list given its nominations with BAFTA and matching “Jungle” at VES with six nominations of its own. As mentioned before, “Strange” seems to be the Marvel film of choice in this year’s field so a nomination is a safe bet, but the studio has yet to pull out a win.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” – 8/1 odds
Only three of eight Harry Potter films were nominated by the VFX branch, but all five of its misses occurred in years where the group only nominated three films (now they nominate a solid five). “Fantastic Beasts” has shown strength so far this season, managing nominations with BAFTA and VES as well as kudos in many other below the line fields.

See experts’ racetrack odds on all 24 Oscar categories

Kubo and the Two Strings” – 100/1 odds
While “Kubo” will probably take a back seat to “Zootopia” in the Animated Feature race, its surprise shortlisting with the VFX branch gives Laika hope for its first Oscar. The film earned six nominations with the VES, tying it with “The Jungle Book” and “Doctor Strange,” and as the leader among animated titles. The last time a stop-motion film was nominated by the VFX branch was 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Passengers” – 100/1 odds
The VES sent a mighty blow to “Passengers” when it failed to nominate it in any of its categories, a sign that perhaps the film’s poor reviews are sinking its chances at an Oscar nomination — the film currently has scores of 40 on Metacritic and 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. The last film to rank so low and still be nominated was “The Lone Ranger” in 2013, but even then did it manage nominations (and even a win) with the VES.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – 4/1 odds
Following its BAFTA nomination, “Rogue One” continued to build momentum in the Oscar race with a leading seven nominations with the VES. Its most immediate predecessor within the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” was nominated in the category last year so there is definite love within the branch for the series.

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

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