This time the sci-fi genre had significant bones thrown at it last night by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. While Gravity, arguably the best picture released in 2013 didn’t win the coveted Best Picture Oscar, the same film did nab the Best Director prize for Alfonso Cuarón. Additionally, director Spike Jonez won the Best Original Screenplay for his sci-fi romance Her.
What was interesting about this Oscar awards ceremony was that Gravity was a serious contender for the Best Picture award. That is something that I never saw with these Oscars. I remember how openly derisive critics (and even some sci-fi fans) were to Avatar back in 2010 when it was up for Best Picture. Usually the Academy is very snobbish when it comes to recognizing the creative achievements of genre films, especially sci-fi stuff. There are many important and impactful sci-fi films that are never even nominated for Best Picture. Even Alfonso Cuarón’s last film, Children Of Men, probably the best sci-fi film of the last decade, didn’t get nominated for Best Picture.
Still, anyone who is disappointed should realize that there isn’t any way that Gravity would persevere against more “lofty” and “high-brow” productions like 12 Years A Slave. Not to take anything away from that film, but it’s clear to many genre fans the bias the Academy has against genre films, especially sci-fi movies. If 12 Years A Slave wasn’t nominated the Oscar might’ve gone to American Hustle or some other film that will be found in the $5 DVD bin at Walmart. That’s just the reality of the situation.
It’s great that Gravity won the most Oscars, even though most of them were for the usual technical categories. It deserved each award because it was genuinely groundbreaking. Furthermore, the stature and clout of Alfonso Cuarón has risen (as has that of Spike Jonez) and he must be placed in the same caliber of genre directors like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.
The other positive aspect from the 86th Academy Awards is that the sci-fi genre is undeniably getting closer to getting the creative recognition it deserves. So perhaps one day a sci-fi film will win the Best Picture Oscar.
Lewis T. Grove