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'Star Wars,' 'Mad Max,' 'The Martian' earn VFX shout-outs from academy

'Star Wars,' 'Mad Max,' 'The Martian' earn VFX shout-outs from academy
Adam Driver in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Apparently the visual effects are pretty good. (Lucasfilm)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has doubled the number of movies initially recognized for its visual effects Oscar, releasing a shortlist of 20 movies that will be considered for the nominations.

The movies, in alphabetical order:

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"Ant-Man"
"Avengers: Age of Ultron"
"Bridge of Spies"
"Chappie"


"Everest"
"Ex Machina"
"Furious 7"
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2"
"In the Heart of the Sea"
"Jupiter Ascending"
"Jurassic World"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"The Martian"
"Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation"
"The Revenant"
"Spectre"
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
"Terminator Genisys"
"Tomorrowland"
 "The Walk"

The academy's visual effects branch executive committee, which came up with this list, will next whittle the contenders down to 10, announcing the results later this month.

Skipping past that next shortlist, if I had to guess the five eventual VFX nominees today, I'd go with:

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

"The Martian"

"Jurassic World"

"The Walk"

But that leaves out the "Avengers" movie. And this branch loves Marvel. (It employs a lot of people annually.) And subtlety isn't always a virtue in this category. So I could see "Age of Ultron" making it in ahead of "The Walk," though that seems unthinkable given the amazing way Robert Zemeckis' team re-created Philippe Petit's high-wire act between the World Trade Center's towers.

Another strong (and deserving) possibility: "Furious 7," a movie that could not have been finished without WETA Digital essentially completing Paul Walker's performance, following the actor's death. Studios make their case for their movies with presentations to the VFX branch's executive committee and, we're told, "Furious 7's" was a jaw-dropper.

The 88th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Jan. 14 at 5:30 a.m. PST.

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