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Seven pics make the cut in Oscar f/x nominee race

Next stage is 'bake-off' presentation for final spots

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From a mouse to a mummy, James Bond to Jim West, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday tapped the seven pics that will face off Feb. 9 in an annual bakeoff trying to land the three coveted best visual f/x Oscar nomination spots.

The selected films, lead f/x artists and lead f/x house involved for each include:

  • Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix” (John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Kim Libreri, Rodney Iwashina); Manex Visual Effects.

  • Universal’s “The Mummy” (John Berton, Daniel Jeannette and Ben Snow, Chris Corbould); Industrial Light & Magic.

  • Paramount’s “Sleepy Hollow” (Jim Mitchell, Joss Williams, Kevin Yagher); ILM.

  • 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” (Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires); ILM.

  • Columbia TriStar’s “Stuart Little” (John Dykstra, Henry Anderson, Jerome Chen and Eric Allard); Sony Pictures Imageworks.

  • Warner Bros.’ “Wild Wild West” (Eric Brevig) ILM.

  • MGM’s “The World Is Not Enough” (Alex Bicknell, Mara Bryan, Chris Corbould); Cinesite.

Kodak-owned Cinesite also worked on “West” and “Mummy” but did not serve as the lead house on the pics.

Next up, each f/x house will compile a 15-minute presentation reel of scenes pulled directly from the films they worked on and organize a presentation to be given at what the f/x industry affectionately calls a “bake-off.”

The 200 members of the visual f/x branch of the Academy will vote after presentations are made, basing decisions on technique, execution, creative use of existing technology, how pioneering the work was and whether it pushed the boundaries of visual f/x.

The final three nominees will be announced Feb. 15, with the rest of the Oscar nominations.

The seven nominations, selected by a 40-person subcommittee, are chosen to highlight outstanding f/x achievements for the year. Each pic chosen was very much deemed a major f/x-filled film and industryites agree that they represent the work released in 1999.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Tim Sarnoff, executive veep and general manager of Sony Pictures Imageworks. “Stuart’s standing tall today. It was a wonderful project for us and it’s great to get the recognition for it.”

“Matrix” is receiving kudos for its bullet-time visuals, “Mummy” for the completely-digital monster, “West,” mostly for the villain’s digital tarantula and “Little,” naturally, for the digitally animated mouse.

Of the choices, only “World Is Not Enough” is considered a surprise among industryites, although the pic did feature more digitally created visuals (including a digital Pierce Brosnan) than previous Bond outings.

Industrial Light & Magic nabbed the most kudos, having created the lead visuals for “Phantom Menace,” “West,” “Mummy” and “Sleepy Hollow.” San Francisco-based Manex, which created shots for “Matrix,” won the Oscar for best visual f/x for “What Dreams May Come” in 1998, besting Disney-owned DreamQuest Images, nominated for “Armageddon” and “Mighty Joe Young.”

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