The best visual effects award is a big technical award that includes some major past winners including Star Wars, Avatar, and Jurassic Park. So this winner has some big shoes to fill. Let’s look at the five nominees and their shot at taking home the gold.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

What’s going for it: The final Potter entry was not only the biggest money maker of the series (and the year) but was also the most critically acclaimed. It’s a rare global phenomenon that ended on a very high note. The entire Potter franchise has also been nominated a total of twelve times yet has never won. The Academy may want to play catch up and award the film with something since this will be the last time they can. That being said, it’s also the most effects heavy of the Potter films which definitely catches the eye of voters.

What’s against it: Even if it’s the all mighty Harry Potter this is the EIGHTH film in the franchise. Some voters may feel the effects have a “been there done that” sensation. We’ve already seen the wand fights, dragons, and explosions in the past, so it’s not really bringing anything new to the table.
 

Hugo

What’s going for it: It’s the only visual effects nominee to score a Best Picture nomination plus it’s the most nominated movie overall. Hugo is an obvious technical achievement and with the movie being listed in so many technical categories, the voters may just continue to check its name as they go down the list. Plus having Scorsese on your side doesn’t hurt either.What’s against it: Sure it’s a beautiful looking film but it’s more impressive for its sets and costumes rather than its visual effects. The Academy may see the effects as a compliment to the lavish designs rather than a groundbreaking technical achievement. The film is also the lowest grosser of the bunch and the Academy usually likes to throw a couple bones to those big blockbusters that don’t get into the major races.
 

Real Steel

What’s going for it: It’s got a huge movie star and past Oscar host (Hugh Jackman) plus it’s backed by two major companies: DreamWorks and Disney. It was a modest hit that worked for families- so it’s got a lot of appeal. One of the major characters, (the robot Atom) is a full visual effect in itself and is in a good chunk of the film. This rock-em-sock -em robots flick has lots of fights and explosions to generate some excitement.

What’s against it: Was anybody really talking about Real Steel this year? Sure it made a decent amount at the box office but it was nothing compared to other summer juggernauts and fellow visual effect nominees. Also, this is the only nomination for the flick which doesn’t bode well for it. Finally, it doesn’t help that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is nominated along side it. There may be only room for one fighting robot film and Real Steel doesn’t even scratch the surface of the more complicated designs and box office numbers as Transformers.
 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

What’s going for it: The movie was a surprise hit critically and financially. The film generated a lot of buzz for its envelope pushing motion capture performances. The film also has some pretty big names in the visual effects world attached: motion capture king Andy Serkis and Weta Digital (both involved with past winners King Kong, LOTR trilogy). The effects were so realistic and well done that there was some early buzz for Andy Serkis’ performance. The Academy voters have yet to recognize any motion capture performances but the technology sure has a good record for taking home the gold.

What’s against It: Like Real Steel, this is the film’s only nomination. It didn’t even get noticed for any sound awards, which usually goes hand in hand with visual effects. Perhaps the Academy is getting off the motion capture bandwagon this year. There may also be some (very) old school Oscar voters who will refuse to part with their classic Planet of the Apes monkey make-up.
 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

What’s going for it: The film was the biggest money maker of the three in the franchise and it sure had a lot of effects going on. This was a huge ‘blow it up’ action movie with plenty of fighting digital robots, exploding buildings, and in your face 3D effects. This film held back no punches when using effects. There were probably ten minutes total in a near three hour film where some effects wizardry was not used.

What’s against It: Just because you have the most special effects doesn’t mean it worked the best. The effects may be a little too in your face (literally), especially for older voters. This film was critically bashed and the Academy may not want to award a film that made so many ‘worst of’ lists. You would also think that having Michael Bay as your director would be a good thing for this category, but none of his films have ever taken home a visual effects Oscar. As mentioned before Real Steel and Transformers have similar CG creatures. While Transformers offers a glossier and bigger experience, both robot movies may cancel each other out.
 

Will Win: This is an odd year where there is not a clear front unner. Last year we all knew Inception would take it and the year before there was no contest when Avatar won. I’m going with Rise of the Planet of the Apes by a hair. Although it only has one nomination, the effects seemed the most effective and detailed compared to the other nominees.

Could Upset:  Don’t be surprised if Harry Potter or Hugo wins. Harry Potter has that achievement factor where Hugo has the best picture nomination behind it.
 

Road to the Oscars Series

January 27: Best Live Action Short – Kit Bowen

January 31: Best Animated Short – Savanna New

February 1: Best Documentary Short – Christa Youngpeter

February 2: Best Documentary – Dantzler Smith

February 3: Best Foreign Language Film – Steve Neumann

February 4: Best Visual Effects – Michael Benedict

February 5: Best Sound Editing – Michael Benedict

February 6: Best Sound Mixing – Joseph Doherty

February 7: Best Makeup – Katie Mae Peters

February 8: Best Costume Design – Jax Russo

February 9: Best Art Direction – Scott Youngbauer

February 10: Best Film Editing – Michael Benedict

February 11: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

February 12: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 14: Best Animated Feature Film – Steve Neumann

February 15: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Original Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 17: Best Supporting Actor – Joseph Doherty

February 18: Best Supporting Actress – Angela Stern

February 20: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 22: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 23: Best Picture – Kit Bowen