There's a continuing debate about whether or not computer-animated films should be eligible for visual effects awards. But despite the fine line seen by some, others are quick to point out that many effects artists have the same function on Surf's Up as they do on Spider-Man. To them, it should come as quite a triumph that the Oscar shortlist for the visual effects category includes two animated films, Ratatouille and Beowulf. According to the Hollywood Reporter, they join 13 other effects-heavy movies, including definite front-runners Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Spider-Man 3. The trade points out, however, that this is not the first time animated films have joined the effects race. Back in 1994, The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of the three nominees (against Cliffhanger and obvious winner Jurassic Park).

The animated effect issue is different now, though, then it was 14 years ago. Animated films now have their own Oscar category, and it's fair to say that is the place to recognize Ratatouille and Beowulf (actually Beowulf shouldn't be recognized at all). Typically movies nominated in the visual effects category are popular blockbusters that wouldn't otherwise receive notice from the Academy. Until there's an Oscar for best sci-fi/fantasy or action movie, this is one of the best ways for a little movie like Transformers to be put in the spotlight. Sure, I'm being sarcastic, but nonetheless I like the category being the place for those movies actually seen by the majority of Oscar telecast viewers.

The 15 shortlisted movies were chosen out of 307 eligible and will next be pared down again to seven semi-finalists in early January. When the Academy Award nominations are announced on January 22, the visual effects branch voters will have narrowed it down to only three contenders. The present list consists of the following movies: Transformers; Ratatouille; Beowulf; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End; Spider-Man 3; The Bourne Ultimatum; Live Free or Die Hard; I Am Legend; Evan Almighty; The Golden Compass; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; National Treasure: Book of Secrets; Sunshine; 300; The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.