Now that we’re just one week away from the Academy Award nominee announcements, some categories are becoming narrowed down in a more literal sense. Best Makeup and Visual Effects have a “Bake-Off,” where only a few eligible contenders are squeezed into a small group until being squeezed further into the final set of nominees. It’s one of those arbitrarily weird competition rules that strikes me as unnecessary and even a little douchey, especially in Visual Effects, since inspired and creative minimal uses of special effects are grouped in with films that are crammed with varying qualities of CGI and are almost always the ones that suffer (see: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for last year’s ceremony). “Hey guys, good job making the finali-oops, you didn’t get nominated LOL!” Luckily, Makeup’s Bake-Off had many sighing a breath of relief with their choices, or, more perhaps more accurately, omissions…

• Albert Nobbs
• Anonymous
• The Artist
• Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
• Hugo
• The Iron Lady

That’s right, the almost-cartoonishly bad old age makeup for Eastwood’s failed Oscar bid did not make the cut. Despite not passionately hating J. Edgar as much as apparently everyone else short of John Foote, I must concur with Michael Cusumano on its prosthetics: “Now I know what Leo’s character in Titanic looked like a week after the ship sank.” Looking at what did make it, it looks like the most likely contenders at this point are The Artist (Best Picture frontrunner, showcases gorgeous stars), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (blockbuster, elaborate prosthetics and hairstyling) and The Iron Lady (biopic “transformation!”). But then again, this category always contains at least one surprise up its sleeve every year, so Anonymous or Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life could easily sneak in.
Visual Effects is narrowed down to ten:

• Captain America: The First Avenger
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
• Hugo
• Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
• Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
• Real Steel
• Rise of the Planet of the Apes
• Transformers: Dark of the Moon
• The Tree of Life
• X-Men: First Class

*Sigh*…As you can see, quality does not necessarily correlate with the impressiveness of a film’s CGI. This Thursday, members will be thankfully spared from the likes of the worst of the bunch by viewing ten-minute excerpts of each finalist before voting for the nominees. Based on that, at least the beautiful visuals of The Tree of Life will make it as I can only assume that its bake-off excerpt will be the revelatory Creation of the Universe sequence. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’s hard drive-breaking effects should ease their way in, as should Harry Potter and the Gorgeous Magic Barrier. The front-runner, however, has got to be Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Weta Digital’s mo-cap apes coupled with Andy Serkis’ lauded performance have vaulted this surprising box office hit into front-runner status.

Which of these “bake-off” contenders are you rooting for? Which excerpts of the visual effects contenders would you show off? Let me know in the comments!