Oscar’s visual effects list set

'Evan,' 'Transformers' make final cut

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ visual effects branch genuflected to “Evan Almighty” but swatted “Spider-Man 3” as it announced the seven semifinalists for the vfx Oscar.

The seven films that will compete in the effects “bakeoff” are “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Evan Almighty,” “The Golden Compass,” “I Am Legend,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “300” and “Transformers.”

U entries “Evan Almighty” and “Bourne Ultimatum” were darkhorses in the field, especially the former, which received little campaign support from U or its lead vfx houses, Rhythm & Hues and Industrial Light & Magic.

“I’m surprised we made it,” said Bill George, ILM visual effects supervisor on “Evan Almighty.” “We’re the red-headed stepchild of the film industry.”

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Both ILM and R&H fared well on the bakeoff list. ILM was the lead on “Transformers” and a key contributor to “Pirates,” while R&H did the animal work on New Line’s “The Golden Compass.”

Conspicuous by its absence was Sony’s “Spider-Man 3.” The second installment in the Spidey franchise won the vfx Oscar two years ago, and the third film’s “birth of the Sandman” sequence is one of the year’s most buzzed-about effects sequences. The studio’s other contender, “The Water Horse,” with creature work from Weta Digital, also fell short.

On the other hand, the studio’s vfx house, Sony Pictures Imageworks, drew some consolation when “I Am Legend” made the list. Pic is one of two Warner releases to make the cut; the other was “300.”

Its inclusion reflects the continuing blurring of Academy categories — in this case, production design and visual effects — as digital filmmaking techniques become more ubiquitous.

Warner’s “Harry Potter” franchise, a perennial bridesmaid in the category, did not make the shortlist this year.

Two animated films, “Beowulf” and “Ratatouille,” made the longlist of contenders, marking the first time toons received consideration for the vfx Oscar, but neither made the cut.

The bakeoff will be held Jan. 16 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.