Top 10 Oscar Nominated Genre Films

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For those who are still griping about the Oscars and what gets nominated for Best Picture just remember that the Academy often snubs genre films.

To date only eight science district 9fiction films received the Best Picture nominations. While fantasy films have received nominations since the 1930s, only one has actually received the Oscar for Best Picture. Everyone knows that was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which some feel was a consolation prize to Peter Jackson for the body of his work.

Many of the genre films that have been nominated are still considered groundbreaking classics, especially when compared to what the films that won. Here are the top sci-fi/fantasy films that have been nominated for Best Picture and lost.

clockwork 210. A Clockwork Orange: Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was a dark and disturbing look at violent youth in the near future. Even more disquieting were the rehabilitation methods to cure criminal behavior.

9. The Wizard of Oz: One of the earliest genre films to be nominated for Best Picture is an immortal classic to this day. The enduring legacy of this musical fantasy is due to its well realized characters and plotline.

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8. Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón’s tour de force sci-fi/space disaster film was a riveting and tense survival film featuring a terrific performance by Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut struggling to return to Earth.

7. It’s a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra’s immortal classic is the must-see film during Christmas and it’s no wonder. George Bailey is given a special look into how his world around him would’ve changed if he hadn’t existed. It’s still powerful to this day and a Christmas staple.

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6. Avatar: James Cameron’s sci-fi epic about disabled veteran who gets a new alien body on another world was a stunning visual experience. A meticulously created world and dazzling special effects buttressed the film’s story of a man finding a cause and a second lease on life.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Steven e,t,Spielberg’s most personal film about the bond between a young boy and a stranded alien is spiritually stirring. Sadly, by the time the awards were handed out it experienced a backlash and the supposedly more important movie Gandhi won instead.

4. District 9: This dark look at humanity’s racism extending to stranded aliens in South Africa gave audiences food for thought. It also did the impossible by turning ugly, insectoid alien creatures into sympathetic characters to root for when they faced off against human bigots.

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3. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The true fantasy element isn’t revealed until the end, but hints of the supernatural are peppered in this Steven Spielberg/George Lucas romp that is better remembered for being an ode to the old matinee serials and one of the best action films of all time.

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2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: This is considered the best of the Rings trilogy and it blew away many fans’ minds with its sweeping, majestic scenes and the complex realization of Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth. It was a truly epic fantasy come to life.

luke ben1. Star Wars: One of the greatest science fiction films of all time with its ambitious scope, philosophical undercurrent and beloved characters lost out to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Come on! How narrow minded are Academy members? Apparently as narrow as an exhaust port on the Death Star. This snubbing probably best encapsulates the inane voting done by Academy members throughout the history of the awards.

Academy members have to broaden pottersville_470their horizons and be willing to look past their prejudices. They keep awarding the prizes over and over again to forgettable pieces of drek like A Beautiful Mind and Shakespeare in Love, yet wonder why so many dislike their choices or why the ratings for the shows are going down.

This list left out other genre favorites like Jaws, Inception and Toy Story 3, but these are just my personal picks. If anyone wants to add their own picks, go ahead and comment below.

Lewis T. Grove

Sci-Fi Gets Some Oscar Love

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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.

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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.

oscar winIt’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

The Non-minees For Best Picture Oscar

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Traditionally, genre films have been snubbed by the Oscars, that is a given. But in recent years, such films have snuck into the list of nominees. A few years back Avatar, Inception, District 9  and the film versions of The Lord Of The Rings received Best Picture nominations. Most know that the fantasy epic The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King actually won for Best Picture in 2003.

While that is all well and good, there are numerous worthwhile sci-fi, fantasy, animated and horror films that were ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at least when it comes to the most valued prize, the Best Picture pick. The following are notable genre classics throughout the decades that should’ve at least received a nomination for Best Picture.

1930s-1940s: Frankenstein (1931) is still revered today as a genuine horror and sci-fi masterpiece with Boris kongKarloff’s iconic performance as the Creature. King Kong (1933) was a groundbreaking film that influenced many generations of filmmakers to this day with its unforgettable, dreamlike scenes that transported viewers into a lost world filled with a giant gorilla and dangerous dinosaurs.

Although Walt Disney received a special Oscar for Snow White And The Seven Dwarves (1937), the film failed to be nominated for Best Picture. What was nominated instead of the groundbreaking first full-length animated film? Such well-regarded classics like Test Pilot and Alexander’s Ragtime Band–note the sarcasm. Disney’s followup animated masterpieces Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942) were also ignored by the Academy when it came to announcing the Best Picture nominations.

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But the Academy wasn’t too dense, in this time period a few fantasy films received Best Picture nominations starting with Lost Horizon (1937), The Wizard Of Oz (1939) and It’s A Wonderful Life (1946).

1950s-1960s: Many nominated films in these two day earth stilldecades were either musicals or dramas. Unlike the previous decades there weren’t any genre films recognized with the exceptions of Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, Doctor Doolittle (both of which are really musicals) and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Horror and animated films were for the virtually absent among the list of Oscar nominees. Sci-fi films in this time period began to grow out their zero-budget, infantile trappings. There was an explosion of sci-fi films in the 1950s, many of them worthy of recognition by the Academy like The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), War Of The Worlds (1953), Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). But the Academy members failed to see the merit of these films, which are still fondly revered.

planet of apesKubrick’s next film after Dr. Strangelove is considered by most people as the greatest sci-fi film ever made. Yet 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was largely ignored by the Oscars. The other important sci-fi masterpiece that came out in the same year Planet Of The Apes was also snubbed by the Oscars except for a special makeup Oscar. By the way, does anyone know what won that year for Best Picture? Oliver! Another musical snoozefest and films that were nominated included Rachel, Rachel and The Lion In Winter. Are any of these films venerated by film lovers today? Thought not. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Oscar Bias

On Sunday the Academy Awards will be presented and I really don’t care which film wins for best picture because I haven’t seen any of the nominated films. I’ll eventually watch some of the nominees on cable though. But looking at the list, I realize that as usual there isn’t a science fiction film nominated for best picture. Well, The Three Of Life features scenes of the Earth being set afire from our sun going supernova billions of years from now, but that film doesn’t dwell on those described moments. Then there’s Hugo, which has some arguably slight sci-fi elements, namely the dramatization of Georges Melies and his silent film Voyage To The Moon, but Hugo is more of a fantasy film and an ode to early filmmaking.

Some research reveals that in the entire history of the Oscars only six science fiction films have been nominated for best film. They are A Clockwork Orange, the original Star Wars, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Avatar, District 9, and Inception. (On a side note, Inglourious Basterds is considered by some to be science fiction only because its ending establishes the film to be about alternate history.) Sure sci-fi films dominate the technical categories such as special effects and sound, but that’s about it when it comes to recognition from the Oscars.

Films like Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey have made the top 100 list from the prestigious American Film Institute’s AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies, yet weren’t nominated for best film in the year they were released. Many other sci-fi films have stood the test of time, while some best picture nominees and winners have been forgotten by today’s audiences. For instance, we continue to talk about The Empire Strikes Back and Back To The Future, yet the movies that won for best picture in the years these sci-fi classics came out are largely ignored (1980’s Ordinary People-IMO, for the record, Raging Bull should’ve won that year; and 1985’s Out Of Africa-not even sure what that movie was about). How about the sci-fi films that were nominated? Does anyone actually believe that Annie Hall is a better film than Star Wars? Sure maybe a bunch of elitist snobs do but despite what George Lucas has done with the saga, the original film has stood the test of time and is a popular as ever. In the case of Avatar, there were stories of many Academy members having an axe to grind with James Cameron and had a rapid disdain for Avatar because of all the computer animation. For my money District 9 was a better film than either Avatar or the winning film, The Hurt Locker. With E.T., it was a better film than Gandhi, but by the time the awards came out there was an obvious backlash against Steven Spielberg’s film.  You can thank the marketing departments that plastered E.T.’s mug on everything at that time. Plus Gandhi was considered more respectable, mainstream and IMPORTANT.

It’s vital to realize that the Oscars are really just popularity/political contests and marketing campaigns among Hollywood insiders who award the statues to sentimental favorites and buddies. The Academy Awards are awash with tales of snubs and cronyism and outright dumb selections which goes beyond sci-fi films. Take the pick of Crash in 2005 over the more popular and more controversial Brokeback Mountain. Or the trite comedy Shakespeare In Love over Spielberg’s classic Saving Private Ryan. That oversight was primarily due to a massive marketing campaign by the former’s executive producers.

Oddly this bias doesn’t extend to fantasy movies because those types of films have received best picture nominations since the 1930s (1937’s Lost Horizon and 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz were the first fantasy films nominated for best picture) right up to this year. One even grabbed the Oscar for best picture nine years ago; that was The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, which many fans felt was the weakest in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. It should be noted that the bias against animated films is even worse, but that’s another story.

The hostility against sci-fi films by the Oscars is clearly evident and will continue for the foreseeable future.  It’s a shame really, since so many past sci-fi films are considered classics not just by fans but by mainstream viewers and critics. This prejudice may have begun with science fiction’s B-movie origins. But as anyone can tell you, sci-fi films have become more sophisticated and true pieces of cinematic art. Shockingly if you go to online sci-fi forums there are many members who put down sci-fi films and don’t consider them worthy of being nominated. So the bias even permeates among many so-called fans who just can’t see these films past their settings. The bottom line is that the Academy has to get over this bias and join the rest of the crowd. Until then we can only root for an occasional acting nomination or the reliable special effects category. Either that or wait for the Saturn or Scream Awards.

José Soto