By now, everyone knows how the Academy Awards tend to ignore science fiction films, relegating them to the technical prizes, so I won't bore you with that diatribe today. By now, everyone also knows that James Cameron's massively successful Avatar managed to beat the odds and squeeze out a bunch of nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, flying in the face of this trend and promising new hope for the genre at awards season.
By now, everyone knows that Avatar got squashed at the Oscars by Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. Then again, so did everyone else. I was giving the superb Iraq War drama the edge to squeak out Best Picture and Director myself, but six wins is, by the definition I created for it in my head, a sweep.
However, this will be remembered as the year that science fiction made a big showing at the mother of all major media awards ceremonies. In addition to its many nominations, Avatar went home with Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction, the first an absolute no-brainer, the second a head-scratching affirmation that 3D motion capture is somehow equivalent to real camerawork and the third richly deserved, but the guy who pointed to James Cameron in the audience and said "This Oscar sees you" is never going to live that down. Ever.
We also can't forget that District 9 scored a couple of major nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Visual effects, but it got crushed beneath mighty boots of The Hurt Locker and Avatar. I think District 9 is a significantly better piece of science fiction than Avatar and while I would have liked to have seen it go home with a trophy or two, it can join the Cool Kid's Club of Great Movies That Didn't Win Any Oscars (it's a real club, I've seen it).
2009 was a tremendous years for science fiction in general and it's gratifying to see the Academy honor the best genre of them all (you know this to be true). However, science fiction also made a major showing at another ceremony: The Golden Raspberries.
Although I love the idea of an anti-Oscars, where the worst films of the year are put in the spotlight and laughed at and emotionally abused, I often rag on the Razzies (alliteration!) for picking on big budget busts (more alliteration!) rather than the true worst films of the year. This year, though, they got it right, giving Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Worst Film and Worst Screenplay. I hate to even call it science fiction, since it's really a toy movie with testicle jokes an average shot length of .02 seconds, but it falls cleanly into the Big Robots Hitting Each Other subgenre.
In an even more prestigious "honor," the sci-fi disaster to end all sci-fi disasters, Battlefield Earth, took home the special award for Worst Film of the Decade. Richly deserved. It's a movie so bad, I've seen it twice. The first time to see if it was as bad as everyone said it was and the second to prove to a group of friends that it really is that bad.
Although I'll bet dollars to space donuts that time will be kinder to Moon and District 9, it's great that quality science fiction finally got a critical and commercial pat on the head with Avatar. Who knows...maybe this will allow people to make smarter, more creative science fiction and we can avoid another Transformers.
Because the human race cannot afford another Transformers.
For a complete list of Oscar winners, click here.
For a complete list of Razzie "winners," click here.