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‘Tree of Life’ makes Academy’s VFX list

'Green Lantern' missing from 15-picture lineup

The Academy’s visual effects branch has narrowed the list of contenders to 15 films, and their decision has at least one surprise.

Terrence Malick’s arthouse release “The Tree of Life” is still in the running, but Warner’s Martin Campbell-helmed summer tentpole “Green Lantern” is out of contention.

“The Tree of Life” has a few meticulously rendered scenes of ancient life, including dinosaurs, and the branch has expressed hope that expansion of the vfx bakeoff to 10 pics would make room for more pics with “supporting effects.”

The 15 pics still in the running are: “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2,” “Hugo,” “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Real Steel,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” “Sucker Punch,” “Super 8,” “Thor,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “The Tree of Life” and “X-Men: First Class.”

The list is determined by the executive committee of the Acad’s vfx branch. Committee members must see all listed pics before they meet again to narrow the field to 10 for the visual effects bakeoff.

Paramount dominated with seven of the 15, Warner has three, Fox has three (including Searchlight’s “Tree of Life”) and Disney has two. Excellence in visual effects correlates strongly with big theatrical grosses, so Par’s strength in the category is a sign of the studio’s big year. The absence of U and Sony from the competish is a poor indicator for both.

Among vfx studios, Industrial Light & Magic led on five contenders. Numerous companies worked on two or more contenders, including Weta, Digital Domain, Prime Focus, Technicolor’s Moving Picture Co and London shops Framestore, Double Negative and Cinesite.

Selection shows the Acad branch warming to vfx pics that are highly art-directed, such as “Hugo,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Thor” and “X-Men.”

The final 10 titles that will compete in the bakeoff will be announced Jan 4. The bakeoff is set for Jan. 19 in the Goldwyn Theater at the Acad’s BevHills HQ. Acad vfx branch members in attendance will vote that night to choose the five vfx Oscar nominees. Noms for the 84th Academy Awards will be unveiled on Jan. 24.

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