Ten films remain in the running for berths in Oscar’s visual effects category, and all but two of them are fodder for snarky infotainment graphics showcasing just how many top-grossing movies this year were either superhero epics or franchise entries or epic superhero franchise entries. Which probably ought to make this the most important category of the year for the demographic that evidently decides everything that gets green-lit. By that measure, don’t get your hopes up too high for either Hugo or The Tree of Life to make appearances here. The former’s swooping 3D tracking shots and Best Picture heat will probably allow it to squeeze in alongside Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s more broad-shouldered robo-jock jamming. (The downright photorealistic metal-head getting ready to rumble throughout Real Steel may end up lost in the shuffle—a classic middle child held up against Optimus Prime and that crying French boy’s tinker toy.)
But I’d already had little enough faith in The Tree of Life’s six spare shots of graceful Jurassic Sean Penn surrogates making the lineup even before the film’s (in retrospect predictably) piss-poor showing the last few weeks. Yes, there are also the shots of Earth’s creation to take into consideration, but the biggest hurdle for Malick’s answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey may be the demonstrable fact that this category favors movies with titles longer than your average James Joyce sentence.