Oscars: VFX Shortlist Reveals a Race Sans Marvel

THE MIDNIGHT SKY (2020) - Felicity Jones
NETFLIX

Felicity Jones as Sully in Netflix's 'The Midnight Sky.'

A range of titles from The Midnight Sky and Tenet to animated feature Soul and doc contender Welcome of Chechnya advanced in the visual effects Oscar race when the Motion Picture Academy announced its 10 shortlisted movies on Tuesday.

With the releases of Black Widow and Eternals moved to 2021 due to the pandemic, this will be the first year since 2009 that at least one Marvel movie didn't make the shortlist. Other tentpoles that might have been, at least, in the conversation, but were moved to 2021 include Bond film No Time To Die, Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi Dune, Top Gun sequel Maverick, prequel The King's Man and monster adventure Godzilla vs. Kong.

Today's shortlist includes Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Bloodshot, Love and Monsters, Mank, The Midnight Sky, Mulan, The One and Only Ivan, Soul, Tenet and Welcome to Chechnya.

Pixar's CG-animated Soul is a notable choice as it's infrequent for an animated feature to advance to the bakeoff. In fact, the only animated features to earn VFX Oscar nominations were Laika's 2016 hybrid stop-motion/CG animated Kubo and the Two Strings and 1993's stop-motion The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Even more unusual, for the first time the list includes a shortlisted doc--David France's Welcome to Chechnya, which used VFX to replace faces in order to protect the identity of speakers in the film about activists who at great risk confront anti-LGBTQ persecution in the Russian republic.

Contenders also includes work from some previous category winners and nominees as well as leading VFX houses. Among them, Netflix's George-Clooney-directed The Midnight Sky was led by VFX supervisors Matt Kasmir and Chris Lawrence and lead VFX house Framestore (Gravity); and Warner Bros.' Tenet, by VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson and Christopher Nolan's go-to VFX house DNEG (Inception).

Disney's Mulan was led by overall VFX supervisor Sean Faden, along with VFX supervisor Anders Langsland of lead VFX house Weta (The Lord of the Rings); and The One and Only Ivan, was created by VFX supervisor Nick Davis and lead VFX house MPC (which worked on last year's VFX Oscar winner, 1917).

More "invisible" — or what the Visual Effects Society calls "supporting" VFX in their awards categories — are evident in Netflix's period biopic Mank, which includes work from houses including Industrial Light & Magic.

Warners and DC Comics' Birds of Prey — featuring VFX from several studios including Weta and Method — made the cut, but their Wonder Woman 1984 did not. Bloodshot, the Vin Diesel starrer based on the Valiant Comics character with VFX from companies including Method, Imagine Engine and Rodeo FX, is represented on the shortlist.

Rounding out the list is Paramount's post-apocalyptic Love and Monsters, with work from companies including Technicolor-owned companies MPC and Mill Film.

These 10 films will participate in a virtual bake-off on March 6 before the VFX branch votes on which five films will earn Academy Award nominations.