Ten Visual Effects Movies Made It to Oscar Shortlist, More Got Robbed

Ten Visual Effects Movies Made It to Oscar Shortlist, More Got Robbed
Ten Visual Effects Movies Made It Oscar Shortlist, More Got Robbed

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has shortlisted 10 movies for VFX Oscar consideration for the 86th Academy Awards, led by Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster “Gravity” and “The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in Peter Jackson’s popular “Hobbit” trilogy. 

Joining them are Guillermo del Toro’s robot mash-up, “Pacific Rim,” J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” sequel, “Into Darkness,” and three dystopian adventures: “Elysium,” “World War Z,” and “Oblivion.” There was also room for two Marvel superhero stalwarts: “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World.”

The biggest surprise inclusion? “The Lone Ranger” flop that nonetheless featured two spectacular train fights. But left out of the running were Ron Howard’s low-budget “Rush,” which seamlessly integrated archival footage with riveting new racing action (not enough CG?); the under-performing “Ender’s Game” (whose more conventional zero-gravity paled in comparison to “Gravity’s” innovative approach); Zack Snyder’s Supeman reboot, “Man of Steel” (whose powerful fights may have worn out their welcome); and Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” (a mixed bag of tricks?).

In terms of VFX studio tallies, Industrial Light & Magic scored three entries with “Pacific Rim,” “Into Darkness,” and “The Lone Ranger” (plus Scott Farrar was loaned out to fix “World War Z” in post); Framestore did both “Gravity” and “Iron Man 3” (along with conceptualizing “World War Z” and “Thor”); Weta Digital created “Smaug” and assisted on “Iron Man 3”; MPC and Cinesite were mainstays on “World War Z” (MPC also worked on “The Lone Ranger”); Image Engine handled most of “Elysium”; Digital Domain (which collaborated on “Iron Man 3”) shared “Oblivion” with Pixomondo; Double Negative was the lead on “Thor”; and Method Studios assisted on “Elysium, “Thor,” and “Iron Man 3.”

While “Gravity” is the obvious frontrunner for its game-changing tech and the advantage of being a Best Picture contender, “Smaug” has the menacing CG dragon in its favor (voiced by the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch). I would also bet on “Pacific Rim,” (which delivers the thrilling robot porn), “Elysium” (an exquisite balance between faux utopia and apocalyptic grunge), and “World War Z” (the zombie swarms are uniquely scary).

Then again, who knows? Maybe “Oblivion” sneaks in for its elegant CG.

The Visual Effects branch, meanwhile, will meet on Jan. 9 at the Academy to narrow the nominees to five for the annual “bakeoff.”

Here’s the complete list:



“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

“Iron Man 3”

“The Lone Ranger”


“Star Trek Into Darkness”

“Thor: The Dark World”

“Pacific Rim”

“World War Z”

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