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Oscar Watch: Will Academy Voters Take Sci-Fi Seriously?

Oscar Watch: Will Academy Voters Take Sci-Fi Seriously?

Thompson on Hollywood

One of the big questions this Oscar season surrounds the chances of such sci-fi genre fare as Avatar, Star Trek and District 9 to land on Oscar’s best-picture Top Ten List. I dig into that question here and come up with some surprising answers.

The bottom line is, in order for these films to make it into major Oscar contention, they will have to be among the voters’ top choices. And in order for that to happen, they will need to be critically-hailed game-changers that move them out of mere genre status. If Avatar (which I will see Thursday night–here’s the Guardian’s early preview) becomes a game-changer like Star Wars, it will do fine. District 9 could use some help from critics’ groups. And Star Trek will probably have to settle for technical noms, with an outside shot at an adapted screenplay slot (a tough category).

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The Academy doesn’t just ignore sci-fi. They also don’t like other genres like comedy or horror either. Otherwise they would be considering “Drag Me to Hell” directed by a real pro, Sam Raimi, who basically blows all the other directors who are being mentioned “out of the water” when it comes to his skills and techniques. “Drag me to Hell” received excellent reviews and I think it has a higher metacritic rating than some of the movies being talked about as “best picture” possibilities. It also takes on the subject of the recession and the loss of a home due to bank foreclosure. Lorna Raver who plays the mad gypsy is a theater trained actor who puts in a performance worth of an Oscar. But it is a “horror” film… so it will be ignored.


“Star Trek” is one of the most enjoyable (and surprising) movies of its kind I’ve ever seen, but I doubt if it has a shot at the major categories. “Moon” would probably come closer to being to the Academy’s tastes, but it doesn’t seem to have much buzz.

With ten nominees, it will be interesting to see if there’s a significant-enough minority of Academy members who really enjoy popcorn movies.


The Star Trek screenplay was appalling. There is no way it would be nominated!!

Rob T.

Two other films–both with fairly serious Oscar buzz–that encroach on science-fictional territory are The Road (post-apocalyptic) and Up (those devices that enable dogs to talk). That critics forget such films qualify as “sci-fi” speaks volumes about the stereotypes the genre has to overcome.

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