Seven major titles set to compete

There were several surprises Friday as the Motion Picture Academy announced the seven films that will vie for nomination in the visual effects Oscar category.

MGM’s “Casino Royale”; Fox’s “Eragon,” “Night at the Museum” and “X-Men: The Last Stand”; Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”; and Warner Bros.’ “Poseidon” and “Superman Returns” were chosen; three of the seven will be nommed for the Academy Award.

Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic worked on three nominees as lead shop on “Pirates” and co-lead on “Poseidon” and “Eragon.” The Moving Picture Co. was lead on “X-Men,” co-lead on “Poseidon” and contributor to “Casino Royale.”

Shops with two films in the race include Weta Digital, co-lead on “Eragon” and “X-Men”; Rhythm & Hues, lead on “Night at the Museum” and contributor to “Superman Returns”; and Framestore CFC, with “Superman Returns” and “X-Men.”

Sony Pictures Imageworks was the lead shop on “Superman Returns.”

English f/x houses Double Negative and Cinesite London also contributed to “Casino Royale,” which aims to be the first Bond pic nommed for visual effects since “Moonraker” in 1980. “Thunderball” won what was then the special visual effects Oscar in 1965.

Two movies whose filmmakers and studios sported particularly high hopes for the competish were passed over: Paramount’s “Charlotte’s Web” and Warner Bros. and DreamWorks’ “Flags of Our Fathers.”

For each of the seven films on the short list, a 15-minute reel of visual effects highlights will be presented at Jan. 17’s vfx “bakeoff” followed by a short Q&A period for members of the Academy’s effects branch. No befores-and-afters may be shown, which can be a disadvantage for films that have a lot of “invisible” effects.

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