The Academy has narrowed down eligible films for the Best Visual Effects Oscar, and 2017 is proving to be a formidable race. There aren’t really any noticeable snubs from the list of 20 films that have been selected to move forward to the next stage, which is a bakeoff in which the Academy’s VFX branch executive committee further whittles the list down to 10 films that advance to the nomination stage. Marvel’s three 2017 films—Guardians 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok—all made the cut as did Justice League and Wonder Woman as well as Fox’s Logan. Even Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been shortlisted even though no one’s seen it yet.
In terms of non-traditional nominees, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja, and even Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk—which made great use of practical effects—are on the list.
One could surmise that War for the Planet of the Apes is the frontrunner here given the tremendous effects work that brings its characters to life, but the previous two films in the franchise both lost out on the big prize. Indeed, Best Visual Effects is a tricky category, and when a Best Picture nominee is among the VFX nominees, it usually wins the prize (see: Hugo, Inception). But that’s not always the case, as 2015 gave us a delightful surprise in Ex Machina winning out over Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road.
If I had to pick a favorite to win right now it might be Blade Runner 2049, which could run away with quite a few below-the-line awards. It would certainly be deserved. And while the visuals in Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were stunning, Marvel Studios has yet to pull a win in this category and in some years is entirely shut out of the nominations circle.
Check out the full list of 20 shortlisted contenders and let us know your favorite in the comments below.
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Ghost in the Shell
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2