Academy Announces Oscar Visual Effects Shortlist

Gravity Movie

'Lone Ranger' makes the cut; 'Man of Steel' doesn't

Updated 3:30 p.m. Variety has obtained the Academy’s short list for the visual effects Oscar. These 10 films will compete at the vfx “bakeoff” in January. In alphabetical order:

“Elysium,” “Gravity,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Oblivion,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Pacific Rim,” “World War Z”

The inclusion of Disney’s much-ballyhooed flop “The Lone Ranger” is a mild surprise, given how unpopular that picture was.  “World War Z,” by contrast, survived bad buzz and a troubled production to meet critical and box office success, and remains alive for the Oscar.

Notable vfx pics that didn’t make the cut include  “Man of Steel,” “Ender’s Game,” “Rush,” “47 Ronin” and “The Wolverine.”

Because visual-effects tentpoles usually dominate the top grossing pictures of the year, the visual- effects Oscar race is often an indicator of which studios are doing well at the box office and which are not. Though this year’s bakeoff list includes both hits and disappointments, it is still somewhat telling about the state of studio pictures.

Warner fared well in the Oscar race with “Gravity,” “Pacific Rim” (made with Legendary) and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” “Gravity” is a hit, “Pacific Rim” did solid if unspectacular business and a sequel is likely. “The Desolation of Smaug” is part of a trilogy and is a nearly sure bet to score close to a billion dollars in grosses.

Disney also has three releases in the race: “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World” along with “The Lone Ranger.” Two of the three are big hits. Paramount has two pics in the bakeoff: “Star Trek Into Darkness” along with “World War Z,” both big grossers.

Universal has only “Oblivion” in the race; its “Fast & Furious” franchise has never found love with the Academy’s vfx voters. Sony has only “Elysium” and Fox was shut out.

Though the days when a single company would create the visual effects for a tentpole are seemingly long gone, Weta Digital is the sole vfx studio on “The Hobbit.” Weta also has “Iron Man 3” in the race.

The bakeoff slots are still dominated by the top companies. Industrial Light & Magic showed its clout within the Acad’s vfx branch with slots for “Pacific Rim,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “The Lone Ranger.” Framestore has “Gravity” and “Thor: The Dark World” in the race. Double  Negative also worked on “Thor: The Dark World.” Digital Domain has “Iron Man 3” and “Oblivion.”

Image Engine and Method Studios of Vancouver, much smaller companies, worked on “Elysium.”

Also notably missing from a prominent place among this year’s remaining contenders: Rhythm & Hues Studios, which was the lead vfx studio on last year’s Oscar winner, “Life of Pi.” R&H has fallen on hard times since its bankruptcy.

Sony Pictures Imageworks has also had a quiet year, as it was working on “The Smurfs 2,” which didn’t make the bakeoff, and the next “Spider-Man” picture, due for release next year.

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  1. ed says:

    ScanlineVFX also had a large part in Iron Man 3. They did the entirety of the mansion attack sequence.

  2. DapperDan says:

    Where was Oz the Great and Powerful?

  3. No ender’s game? But lone ranger? are you kidding me?

  4. abhijeet says:

    i really can’t believe that list. why man of steel is not in this list?

  5. tingo says:

    That list aside from Gravity are below mediocre vfx. It’s an insult to lump Man of Steel in that group.

  6. Lulu Caraza says:

    Really? The Lone Ranger had better special effects that Man of Steel? that good joke. No doubt there are a media conspiracy against MOS. Congratulations to Gravity, deserves it!

  7. Carlos says:

    Pre-Congrats to Gravity. Everyone in the VFX biz knows they’ve got the statue this year. Well done, guys!

  8. C Smith says:

    Where is The Great Gatsby?

  9. MCS says:

    Pacific Rim!!! Yes!!! Congrats on the inclusion in the list to Mr. del Toro and the team at ILM! Love, love, LOVE that awesome piece of film work.

  10. Congratulations to all my colleagues who worked on each of the films!! Well done!!

  11. Honestly can’t believe that Man of Steel did not make the cut

  12. Shannon T says:

    Man of Steel???

  13. draconius says:

    Congrats to the team at Image Engine for the lead Visual effects on Elysium! Beautifully amazing work done.

  14. daland says:

    Congrats to Pixomondo for their work on both Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Oblivion!!

  15. Smaug says:

    A single company did do the work on The Hobbit. They also did a lot of work on Iron Man 3.

    • Gollum says:

      A single company worked on Gravity and also did work on Iron Man 3 and World War Z so your point is??

      • Gollum says:

        Sorry Smaug, my bad. Weta is awesome!! I’ll go back in my cave now.

      • Bilbo says:

        The article has been edited since I made my comment. It originally said: “Though the days when a single company would create the visual effects for a tentpole are long gone”. I was making the point that this is not the case. Framestore was mentioned for Gravity, whereas Weta wasn’t originally mentioned at all.

  16. cadavra says:

    THE LONE RANGER relied heavily on practical effects–real trains running on real tracks, real stunt riders on real horses, real extras running through real sets, and real locations, not greenscreens. Clearly the visual effects branch members were wise enough not swayed by ax-grinding critics and the hatred of viewers who never actually bothered to see this marvelous picture.

  17. MovieGeek says:

    “Elysium,”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Oblivion,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Pacific Rim,” “World War Z”… you may all have very good Special Effects, but I’m sorry, you’ve all lost already to “Gravity”.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      I have to agree with you. Its one thing that both critics and filmgoers talked about. Just about everyone I knew who saw it, raved about the visual effects.
      If it doesn’t win, it will bust just about everyone’s Oscar pools.

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