Hollywood 2010 is a space odyssey
Slasher films, pot comedies, anything starring The Rock there are some movies that no one expects to win Academy Awards.
And traditionally, Oscar no fly list has included science fiction. Academy Award winning films are supposed to be serious, weighty, historical if your movie takes place in a galaxy far, far away, well, you can leave your tuxedo in the closet until it time to accept a somewhat less prestigious prize shaped like a rocket ship.
This year, however, is looking like a breakthrough pandora bracelet price year for sci fi, as the alien vehicles 9 and Trek have earned critical praise and accolades from the industry groups that tend to foreshadow Oscar nominations. Thanks to a convergence of factors, including the expansion of the best picture category from five movies to 10, the ascendance of the post Wars generation in Hollywood and the imposing box office success of James Cameron this Rodney Dangerfield of movie genres looks like it may finally win some respect come Oscar time.
academy has always thought of sci fi as a secondary type of exploitation film, says Roger Corman, pandora jewelry rings who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in November, in large part for his role in producing the low budget sci fi films that gave directors like Cameron their start. only beginning to realize that there is seriousness and depth within the genre. sci fi film has never won best picture, and to a certain generation of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members the genre is still the ignoble territory of the drive in, the rubber suit, the B actor. In 1968, influential film critic Pauline Kael called Stanley Kubrick A Space Odyssey monumentally unimaginative movie.... If big film directors are to get credit for doing badly what others have been doing brilliantly for years with no money, just because they put it on the big screen, then businessmen are greater than poets and theft is art. It seems many in the academy agreed with Kael dismissal of because Kubrick now iconic film earned only one Oscar, for its special effects, and was not nominated for best picture.
The academy primarily rewards sci fi in its technical categories, as it must, since so much of cinema innovation comes from artists depicting alien worlds and futuristic wars. But after years of largely ignoring the genre in its other categories, Hollywood was virtually forced to acknowledge sci fi in 1977. An undeniable cultural phenomenon, Wars was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture, but lost to the cerebral comedy Hall. At the 1982 Oscars, another sci fi gorilla, Steven Spielberg the Extra Terrestrial, lost to a three hour Richard Attenborough directed biopic of a beloved historical figure in other words, a made for Oscar film. In his acceptance speech, Attenborough demurred the honor, saying, was certain that not only would win, but that it should win. It was inventive, powerful [and] wonderful.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to sci fi acceptance at Oscar time has been actors. With actors accounting for the largest branch of the academy (1,300 out of the body 5,800 members), a genre that showcases ideas rather than performances is at a disadvantage. Only a handful of actors have ever been nominated for a sci fi performance Alec Guinnessfor playing the sage Obi Wan Kenobi in Wars, Sigourney Weaver for the role of intrepid space heroine Ellen Ripley in her last pairing with director Cameron before this season
you just shooting ray zappers and ducking at other people shooting at you, then you not going to get a nomination any more than the actors doing the same riddles jewelry thing in a western did, says academy Executive Director Bruce Davis.
Even films with sci fi premises, like Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with its erased memory story line (and for which Kate Winslet was nominated), are often categorized more simply as dramas. a cognitive bias against sci fi, Scalzi says. that, if it good, it can possibly be sci fi. New academy members in 2009 included young actors like Michael Cera, who wasn even born when hit theaters. For young Hollywood, sci fi has been big budget entertainment their whole lives. generations maintain their early interests and passions, Davis says. may think of Wars as an old classic. have been recent signs the academy is inching toward an embrace of sci fi. Tolkien Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King signaled a softening toward fantastical movies albeit ones with a literary pedigree. Last year, Warner Bros. mounted a best picture campaign for Christopher Nolan Dark Knight, a comic book movie that shares some of sci fi DNA. For the academy, which has been concerned in recent years with the shrinking audience for its award show telecast, having a box office hit like Knight in the mix was attractive.
But despite earning widespread critical praise and eight nominations in other categories, Nolan film couldn crack the top 5 for best picture. Knight omission prompted a hue and cry in some corners of Hollywood and helped motivate the academy expansion of the category last June. wanted to give certain kinds of films more of a chance, Davis says. just sci fi, but we would love it if we found room for an animated film or two or a documentary. may be just what the Oscars need. In Hollywood current, risk averse environment, it hard to imagine a studio green lighting a film as lavish and elaborate as With the Wind or the kind of grand, epic movies that have historically lent the ceremony glamour and mass appeal. Science fiction has become the last refuge of epic filmmaking and with its heroic, blue skinned characters, sprawling story set on the alien moon Pandora and extravagant, 3 D spectacle, is closer to Scarlett Tara or Ben Hur chariot race than any of its competition. Marine Corps newspaper has pointed out, stuffed with allegories about war, the environment and spirituality. For academy members who have long considered sci fi kids stuff, it hard to deny that Cameron film has given adults plenty to think about. And genuine pandora bracelet as it closes in on the box office record, and having taken best dramatic motion picture and best director at the Golden Globes this month, is emerging as a best picture front runner.
Neill Blomkamp 9 too is rich with political metaphor. A faux documentary about crustacean like aliens who make their home in a hostile South Africa, 9 earned a best picture nomination from the Producers Guild of America and screenplay nods from the Golden Globes and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. As a sleeper hit with a pointed message about xenophobia, 9 gives academy voters a chance to acknowledge the art and the business of moviemaking. There is, apparently, room this awards season for a popcorn film that simply does what it supposed to do entertain.
It safe to say that none of these directors set out to make Oscar bait movies or they surely would have chosen more earthly stories to tell. But if multiple sci fi films are nominated for best picture this year, or if one wins, it will be a landmark for the genre.
felt I was being accepted to a club I never thought would accept me, Corman says of receiving his Oscar last fall at age 83. just never thought it would happen. Not in this galaxy anyway.
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