The gathering of wizards in Beverly Hills...


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The visual effects branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its annual ‘Bakeoffs’ Thursday evening to choose the films that will be nominated for an Oscar at the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

A total of 281 films were eligible and narrowed down to a list of seven elite contenders that were the subject of presentations and a vote at the Thursday night ceremony. Three will move on after votes are tallied.


Hellboy II,’ ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ ‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,’ “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ ‘The Dark Knight,’ ‘Iron Man,’ and ‘Australia’ were the lucky films that stand a chance at receiving the golden statue on Feb. 22.

In some highly unscientific polling of the room, ‘Benjamin Button’ was the front runner with cutting-edge technology that allowed the realistic reverse-aging process of Brad Pitt’s character. His head was entirely CGI for the first half of the film which hasn’t been executed with such awe-inspiring deftness since Gollum in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.

The evening was kicked off with a reception at Kate Mantilini’s in Beverly Hills, an event in its eight year that is the effects-community equivalent of the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party.

Visual effects wizards from all over the world mingled with industry cohorts in a crowd that included Dennis Muren (‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Jurassic Park’), Kevin Mack (‘What Dreams May Come,’ ‘The Fifth Element’), Ken Ralston (‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘The Polar Express’), Jeffrey Kleiser (‘Tron,’ ‘X-Men’), Richard Edlund (‘Star Wars,’ ‘Alien 3’), Scott Stokdyk (‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Spider-Man 2’) and D.J. Des Jardin (‘The Matrix Revolutions,’ ‘Fantastic Four’). ‘Iron Man’ director Jon Favreau made an appearance in support of John Nelson and crew who were up for consideration. The results of last nights voting will be revealed along with the entire list of Oscar nominations on Jan. 22.

— Liesl Bradner


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CREDITS: ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’ courtesy of Universal; ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ courtesy of Paramount Pictures.