Oscars 2012 Predictions: Best Visual Effects

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' seems to be the front-runner thanks to its stunning CG and motion-captured primates.

Were this a sane world where Oscar voters paid the smallest shred of attention to populist popcorn flicks that happen to be — in addition to mega-bucks-grossing juggernauts — freaking great movies, then the Best Picture nominees might look a little more like the Best Visual Effects ones (and less like this year’s top-prize picks currently going unwatched in theaters across the country).

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ isn’t just the biggest movie of 2011 ($1.3 billion in box-office receipts) but the finest installment of that venerable franchise. [movie id="455152"]“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”[/movie] is, in a word, so totally amazingly oh-my-lord awesome. Is that more than one word? Too bad, because “Apes” looked great, spun a heartbreaking character tale in the middle of a sci-fi thriller, and gave Andy Serkis, as the motion-captured central simian, the opportunity for one of the most affecting performances of the year. “Hugo” was pretty great too — and at least Martin Scorsese’s film, alone among the Visual Effects nominees, also nabbed a Best Picture nod. And while we won’t go so far as to say “Real Steel” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” are excellent films, they’re both certainly fun (something we can’t say about Best Picture honoree “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”).

The Visual Effects category, then, represents a sort of guide to some of the year’s great geeky movies. Here are our predictions for this category in 2012:

Who Will Win: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the visual-effects whizzes at Weta Digital (the folks behind “Avatar”) have this category wrapped up. Their motion-captured apes were not only leaps and bounds more compelling than the mask-wearing creatures in past “Ape” films, but they were the year’s most stunning CG creations. Weta was so successful at grafting an ape’s body and facial features onto Serkis’ figure that you simply forgot you were watching a human actor. In any other year, “Hugo” would be well positioned to take this category. And the hour-long battle sequence at the end of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” was a staggering achievement. But this is no ordinary year. “Apes” for the win.

Who Should Win: Yeah, “Apes” for the win. It’s all too seldom the case that the most deserving nominee actually wins a category. Not so at this year’s ceremony. Our only beef is that in addition to topping this category, Serkis didn’t get any love in the best supporting actor category. There remains a reluctance on the part of awards-season insiders to honor an actor if his performance comes wrapped in pixels. One day, no doubt, that will change. And when that happens, perhaps we’ll all look back at Serkis’ turn as rebel leader Caesar and agree it was one of the best of 2011.

Leave your predictions for Best Visual Effects in the comments section.

The MTV Movies team has the 2012 Oscars covered! Stick with us for everything you need to know leading up to the awards show, and on Sunday, February 26, tune into MTV.com at 5:30 p.m. ET for our three-hour red-carpet live stream and updates on the night’s big winners.