Could a bake-off snafu keep 'Harry Potter' from a visual effects nomination?

The strong contender hit a snag in last night's visual effects presentation

<p>A scene from&nbsp;&quot;Harry&nbsp;Potter and the&nbsp;Deathly&nbsp;Hallows:&nbsp;Part 2&quot;</p>

A scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

For a while now, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" has looked like a very solid bet for a Best Visual Effects nomination. Though the only nomination for the franchise in the field prior to last year's for part one of the finale came for 2004's "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the effects have steadily become more refined and the expansion to five nominees last year made the door a little wider.

But an unfortunate snafu at last night's visual effects bake-off -- a lengthy branch-specific event that features reel screenings of effects work on the seven visual effects finalists and presentations from the supervisors involved -- could keep the wizard and his denouement out of the equation.

If you don't follow Variety's David Cohen on Twitter, you should, because he's dug in when it comes to the world of visual effects and reports comprehensively from the bake-off every year. His coverage last night was fascinating to read for the various insights into the process of this and that effects job, but it became particularly interesting when the effects reel for "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" turned out to not be the effects reel at all: it was the makeup reel.

D'oh!

"Awful moment for Tim Burke and the 'Potter' team," Cohen Tweeted. "That's the equivalent of the Olympic sprinters who missed their heats."

Eventually the day was saved, the correct reel was located and screened and the presentation was complete. But the damage might have been done, as Cohen noted that the snafu "scrambled the presentation" and could ultimately hurt the film's chances.

Thinking about this just makes my stomach hurt. You put all that work into something exceptional and then a technical difficulty in presenting the work in a truncated fashion trips you up? I'd be nervous as hell about getting everything just right and that's just unfortunate, arbitrary pressure. I'm not criticizing the visual effects branch's process, because it's a sound one. But it feels like another hoop to jump through, one that's on fire if the correct reel doesn't show up.

I have to think that if it's the work and just the work, then something like this shouldn't matter all that much. And after all, the film led the field along with "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (of the live-action contenders) when the Visual Effects Society nominations were announced. So I won't go all crazy and nix it from my predictions, but if it doesn't show up Tuesday, we might look to this incident as partially to blame. And if so, as Cohen wrote last night, "Heads are going to roll somewhere."

For what it's worth, Cohen seems to think "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" are locks in the category, and he's expecting the final three nominees to be "Hugo," "The Tree of Life" and, in spite of the above, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." I personally think "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is something to watch for (as does Cohen), while "Real Steel" would be an intriguing left-field nominee, too.

My final predictions in the category, as well as all other categories, will hit Monday.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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Kristopher Tapley
Editor-at-Large
Kristopher Tapley has covered the film awards landscape for over a decade. He founded In Contention in 2005. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London and Variety. He begs you not to take any of this too seriously.
2013-2014 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2014