The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects is given to the film that has the best visual effects. Best visual effects most often means the best special effects, and very often fantasy and science fiction films end up winning this category.
The nominees for the Academy Award in Best Visual Effects in 2013 are:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel's The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
According to the Academy Awards rules, this category should have five nominees, and no more than four people working on the film may be nominated.
I'll start by saying that Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman have almost no chance at winning this award. While Snow White and the Huntsman had good visual effects, there wasn't a huge acclaim for them. Prometheus fills in the niche of big blockbuster movie (like last year's Real Steel and Rise of the Planet of the Apes), but not much else to commend it for any sort of award.
Based on the history of previous winners in this category, Marvel's The Avengers has a slight chance of winning. Spider-Man 2 won the award in 2004, and other big adventure blockbusters such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and Avatar (2009) have gone away with this award as well. However, the occurence of really big blockbusters winning this award has been rarer in recent years.
One of the more recent trends in the Oscars is that one film ends up walking away with at least 3 technical Academy Awards. Since 2008, the movie that wins in this category has also been nominated for the bigger prizes (like Best Picture and Best Director), but does not win any of them. This trend includes films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Avatar (2009), Inception (2010), and Hugo (2011).
The real competition is between The Hobbit and Life Of Pi. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was only nominated for three technical awards (Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Makeup), but Life of Pi was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Therefore, my money is on Life of Pi. Also, the Hobbit is not really living up to the critical aclaim of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; that movie won this category and 10 others. That being said, it is probable that Life of Pi will probably not win any of the biggest prizes, sadly.
Stay tuned, tomorrow's blog will be on Best Film Editing.