For visual effects, the three nominees will be drawn from these seven choices: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Iron Man, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Notably absent, at least in my estimation, are Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Raiders and Temple of Doom both won this category), Cloverfield, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Because seriously: Australia?
Next Thursday, members of the Academy's visual effects branch will gather at L.A.'s Goldwyn Theater to watch 15-minute highlight reels from each of the films, then vote to select the three nominees. As Variety reports, this is already causing headaches because Journey requires 3D projection and The Dark Knight has IMAX scenes, and the theater isn't equipped for either. Maybe the filmmakers should have thought of that before they got all "innovative" and "different"!
(The reason they only show 15-minute highlights is that they can't expect every voter to have seen all seven contenders in their entirety, especially since the visual effects candidates are often really bad. Remember, it's because of this category that one must properly refer to Hollow Man as "the Oscar-nominated Hollow Man.") Meanwhile, the makeup branch of the Academy has shortlisted these seven films: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Reader, Synecdoche, New York, Tropic Thunder, and The Wrestler. As with the visual effects category, highlight reels will be shown to voters, who will then narrow it down to the three actual nominees.
By the way, for those hoping The Dark Knight will be nominated for as many Oscars as possible, history suggests a glimmer of hope: The second film in the last series, Batman Returns, was nominated in both of these categories. For those of us hoping Charlie Kaufman's brilliant Synecdoche gets some love, well, if the makeup category is all we get, I guess it's better than nothing.