As we have previously speculated on this site, picking up an Oscar for any of The Hobbit or Rings movies, especially in the acting categories, might prove difficult for a variety of reasons. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has at least been recognised in one category in advance of the full award ceremony, which takes place on February, 24th 2013.
The Academy hands out three levels of award, the Technical Achievement Award (a certificate), The Scientific and Engineering Award (a plaque), and The Award of Merit, (the Oscar). Unexpected Journey has received a plaque for Scientific and Engineering.
At the ceremony in Los Angeles, hosted by Star Trek co-stars Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, nine awards were handed out to 25 people. Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling were recognised for inventing a technique which has made huge advances in bringing to life computer-generated characters such as Gollum. Unlike the Awards of Merit, Technical plaques can be awarded for achievements built up over several years as innovators develop their techniques across several franchises.
Very much a back room area that sets the tone for much of our movie watching experience, technical achievement is not limited to screen effects in this category in which there have been many deserving winners, if not readily recalled in the public consciousness. For example, one device subject of an award invented by Richard Mall, known rather theatrically as the Matthews Max Menace Arm, is a portable device allowing studio lights to be positioned in difficult places, often where lighting cannot normally be used due to on-site restrictions or other difficult conditions.
I do not think anyone can doubt the technical achievements in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, especially in animating Gollum. You never know, this may augur well for the full ceremony where The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is up for three Academy Awards for best makeup and hairstyling, best visual effects and best production design.