The Oscar race for Best Visual Effects currently seems to have more rounds of elimination than "American Idol": rarely has a nomination seemed more like the reward. Last month, a longlist of 15 titles was announced; today, that was cut down to 10, from which the eventual five nominees will be selected.

It's neat enough mathematically, I suppose, and seems less harsh than the previous bake-off system, which saw only seven films shortlisted, meaning a mere two got rather prominently ditched. At least this way, the losers have more company with which to commiserate.

Today's cull brings few surprises: all the long-predicted contenders are still in the running, from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" to "Hugo" to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" to "The Tree of Life" -- the latter still something of a lone arthouse wolf in a sea of multiplex fare.

The five titles that have been booted were never serious threats for a nomination: it's a goodbye-and-thanks-for-playing to "Cowboys and Aliens," "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," "Sucker Punch," "Super 8" and "Thor." Eight of the Top 10 titles listed in our Contenders section made the cut; frankly, the order below fifth place had been rather randomly assembled anyway.

This remains, to my eyes, a three-film race. Based on the work alone, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" would appear to have the edge in terms of wow factor, but we've seen time and again how Academy members can sometimes let their regard for the films themselves sway their vote -- on that basis, I would not be surprised to see "Hugo"'s probable Best Picture nomination carry it to a win. Meanwhile, if there's enough end-of-series affection for the "Harry Potter" franchise in the Academy, this would be an obvious place to reward it.

I'll update the Contenders page for the category in due course; my predicted five, however, remain unchanged. Here's the shortlist:

"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"  

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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