The Academy Award Nominees for 2014 have finally been announced, and I've got something of a history of never agreeing with their decisions. It always seems that the movie that gets picked is the one movie I never got around to seeing either because of disinterest, not really feeling like I want to watch that kind of movie at the time of its release, or due to poor advertising offering the wrong impression (seriously, look at any poster for The Help and tell me they don't make it look like a cheesy romantic comedy instead of a period drama about racism). So far that has happened with The Hurt Locker, The King's Speech, Argo, and 12 Years a Slave.
Usually I'm forced to watch them at a later time for no other reason than because I want to see what all the fuss is about. Some of them, like The Hurt Locker turned out to be pretty good, while others such as The Artist were just okay. In any case, the movies I usually feel should win (at least at the time) often don't. I can't be the only one that wanted Hailee Steinfeld to win for True Grit (though she should have been nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role). Twelve Years a Slave was a well-done movie but Gravity was more deserving of that Best Picture Award.
That brings me to a depressing topic. I've discussed this before, last year, around Oscar Season, and I feel it is worth revisiting. That topic is the Academy's relationship to the science fiction genre. Putting it quite blutly, they seem to have some kind of deeply rooted prejudice against anything that can be considered "science fiction" in the slightest sense. They dismiss it as something that only encompasses 1950's b-movies and pulp magazines (never mind that some of the most beloved science fiction writers, such as H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, wrote for such mediums).
Then you get into this bizarre and absurd phenomenon known as the sci-fi ghetto where a "proper" author writes science fiction or a critic sees a science fiction movie they actually like but refuse to admit it. Instead they try to come up with some bizarre rationalization about how it isn't science fiction in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary. The Time Traveler's Wife, for example, is a movie in which the science fiction aspect was so obvious it was even included in the title, and yet the director still maintained that it was not science fiction. It's a bit like me saying that I don't like musicals but Singin' in the Rain isn't a musical so it's okay for me to like it.
My unborn fetus can pop out of my womb and travel through time! How is this not science fiction?
Naturally, this pointless snobbery carries on into the Oscars. Very few science fiction movies have been nominated for anything higher than perhaps a Best Visual Effects award, and even fewer have actually won. Gravity was a far more impressive technological achievement than Twelve Years A Slave, and it seemed like a partial victory when it did manage to win Best Director. Still, consider the multitude of other films that got missed because of this pointless hatred. Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest cinematic minds of all time received a grand total of one Oscar in his entire career: Best Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
While it cannot be denied that the effects of 2001 were incredible and deserving of this recognition, the movie should have cleared out the Oscars like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. 2001: A Space Odyssey was not even nominated for Best Picture, and it lost the only other prestigious award it was nominated for, Best Director, to Oliver. The greatest cinematic achievement of its day, and by extension one of the finest of all time, was not even nominated for Best Picture. Now, you might be wondering how this relates to the new line-up.
2014 was a great year for movies, that much is true. The Academy has also released its official list, which for some reason includes a Best Picture nominee in American Sniper, a film that as of this writing, has not yet been released. They got a few really good ones like Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel, along with others I have not seen and thus am in no position to comment on. There was one film, however, that seemed to go completely unnoticed by the Academy, one that I would argue was one of the year's best. Apparently is has been ignored for no other reason than because it is a science fiction movie. I am of course talking about Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.
When I went through the list of nominees I could not help but think "you have got to be kidding me". One of the best films of the year on every level, and it gets nominated for five Oscars, all among the "lower" ranks. This was a movie that should be nominated for Best Picture. In fact, it should be the one winning best picture, but the Academy would never allow that, would they? They would sooner decide to retroactively give the Best Picture award to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie than permit a science fiction film the dignity of being recognized by them. Seriously, what is their problem with science fiction films?
Speaking of Interstellar, how has Jessica Chastain not won an Oscar yet? She should have been nominated for her performance in Interstellar, but she was also nominated for her brilliant performances in Zero Dark Thirty and The Help, both of which deserved she deserved to win. She is an actress who was practically born to play strong female leads, the kind of person we need more of in the modern film industry. If there is any recent actress who is overdue for an Oscar, it is her. Of course, now that she's been in a science fiction film the Academy will probably never want to take her seriously again. Oh, the horror!
So those are my thoughts on some of the choices made for the Academy Awards this year. Now that my top pick has failed to get the recognition it deserves, I'll have to find something else. Seriously, what is their problem with science fiction? Why do these people see it as something to look down on and just shove on the shelf next to fantasy (usually ignoring the very clear and mutually exclusive defining features of both genres). I have no way of predicting who is going to win, but based on experience whatever film I actually feel deserves that Best Picture Oscar is going to be the one that doesn't get it.
What are your thoughts on the 2015 nominees? Is there something you feel should have been nominated, or that you would like to see win Best Picture. Let me know in the comments what you think.