Aliens at the Oscars

Mar 13, 15:38 by IROSF
Thread for the discussion of Science Fiction and film.

MaryAnn Johanson's discussion of the Oscars is here.
Mar 13, 19:46 by Bob Blough
I must say that I have just started the article about the SF genre and the Oscars. These are both favorite subjects of mine and Mary Ann Johanson's initial information is incorrect. Fredric March did win Best Actor for DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE in 1931-32. It was the only tie for BEST ACTOR in the history of the awards. The other winner was Wallace Beery in THE CHAMP
Mar 13, 21:00 by Bluejack
I'm missing the error; Johanson does say that he won; yes?
Mar 14, 01:20 by A.R. Yngve
"Kong was gorgeous to look at and luscious to hear, certainly, but it appears the Academy couldn't see past its style to the considerable substance underneath."

I disagree. I think the script of Jackson's version was without substance and couldn't handle the monster as a metaphor/symbol: instead it tried to treat Kong in the most literal manner possible, and turned him from an archetype into a Horny Old Man.

(A "Horny Old Man" plot is a story which attempts to make a love affair between an old man and a MUCH younger person seem more profound than it is, and dresses it up with pseudo-intellectual bullshit. The classic example is Bertolucci's LAST TANGO IN PARIS.)

The original KING KONG was more intelligently written, because it didn't treat Kong as a literal big old gorilla, but as a modern myth. Also, the original wasn't THREE HOURS LONG.

Mar 14, 08:36 by Daniel M. Kimmel
For those who enjoy Mary Ann's writing, she will be at Lunacon this Saturday (March 18). I've shared many panels with her over the last few years (and should have my own next contribution to IROSF in the April issue)so if you've enjoyed either of our essays -- or, preferably, both -- come say hello.
Mar 14, 09:20 by Sherry Fraley
I agree that SciFi/Fantasy stories and films portray relevant issues for the human condition just as well as the other types. Actually, many times I "get it" in a more poignantly powerful and inspiring way than from the more in-your-face message movies. But sometimes I think that most people just don't view SciFi/Fant. films from a perspective other than light entertainment. Maybe their imagination is not integrated into their daily "grown-up" reality anymore. So they don't see the powerful relevance some of these films have, and they are not always moved emotionally by significant moments in them. They don't make that little extra connection that makes all the difference.
Mar 14, 10:08 by Nancy Beck
I agree with A.R. Yngve re Jackson's King Kong: it didn't deserve a Best Picture nod. Although the scenes in 1930s NYC are spectacular (and worthy of a technical award), the film was too long. If he'd cut about 30-40 minutes in the ship heading to Skull Island, it would've been much better (and not as sleep inducing).

I'm an old movies fan (nut, I guess ;-)), and a book on the career of David O. Selznick had a several page spread on Kong. The story for the original grew out of the mind of Merrian C. Cooper (and to a certain extent, his friend, Ernest B. Schoedsack). Cooper loved adventure flicks and books as did Schoedsack because he lived an adventure-filled life (panning for gold in the Yukon, supposedly escaping from a Russian jail, etc.).

Plus he filmed exciting scenes for a couple of silent movies...on location, which wasn't exactly done in the 1920s. So all that, together with his being on location shooting some gorilla/ape scenes, got him thinking...

And, fortunately for him, David O. Selznick was in charge of RKO at that point. Although adventure movies weren't his thing, he saw something in the rushes (or dailies) Cooper was feeding him, and so carved a little extra money out of other budgets to be put into Kong.

What's that old saw? Brevity is the soul of wit? Usually makes for a better movie, too. ;-)

Mar 16, 06:40 by David Gardner
I enjoyed reading this piece, and I frequently agreed with the film choices that MaryAnn thought should have received some recognition. One line brought me up short, though:

Joss Whedon's at least as laden with political and sociological import as all of the other film's nominated for Best Picture in 2005

What do political and sociological import have to do with art? I don't watch Hamlet to learn about the Danish culture, nor MacBeth to be instructed in Scottish politics. I watch them for passionate, realized examples of intelligent beings living their lives. Similarly, I'd easily call Blade Runner one of the best films ever made, but not because of the social commentary (which is definitely present). Rather, it's because I care about the individual characters and I'm compelled to watch them.

A film (or any piece of literature) may have socio-political relevancy, but that alone will never make it a great piece of art. It can, however, make a polemic, or a piece of propaganda.
Mar 20, 09:18 by Adrian Simmons
A lot of this situation seems to center around the hoary old chestnut of just 'what is science fiction/ fantasy'. For example: I'd consider SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to be a cop-procedural/drama/suspense. Not really horror- and it's all the more scary because it ISN'T horror. People do smart things and still lose, and not because Buffalo Bill can't be killed by normal weapons, but because he's smart and vicious.

So what would you classify THE LIFE AQAUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU?
Mar 20, 12:33 by David Gardner
I concur with the ProGoblinAgenda (and there's a sentence you don't get to utter often). I'm not sure what the Goblin's stance is on the "hoary old chestnut," though. I think it's crucial to understanding sf/f/h and why and how it diverges from mainstream.

What is perceived as sfnal by most people is, on the surface, a construct of marketing, i.e., we know that a work is sf because it's in the sf aisle. When something like The Handmaid's Tale or Replay comes along it's marketed as mainstream, because fandom has a different expectation of a story than does the mainstream audience.

Is there a deeper reason for this marketing strategy, though? MaryAnn says that The Picture of Dorian Gray is "nominal fantasy." What makes it nominal to fandom, I think (and I'd like to see other's opinions on this) is that it doesn't go into any great detail explaining the mechanics of its magic, choosing instead to focus on Gray (character) and his decent into personal anarchy (plot). The portrait is nothing more than a McGuffin for exploring human nature, and fandom finds that uninteresting.

Mar 27, 00:41 by Rick Lee
I realized something about the Academy back in 1995 when a great film about a successful disaster Apollo 13,
a triumph of human ingenuity, lost out to the blood bath of Braveheart. Both films were about courage, enduring in the face adversity, but one was about the future and the other about the past. Don't get me wrong. Gibson deserved his Oscar nod for Best Director, what he accomplished was monumental. But Apollo 13 will always be the better picture in my mind. Why? Because it states humans can rise above their crude nature and accomplish the future.

What I realized: it's show business.

The Academy Awards is no longer just about being the best, it's also about politics and business. The latter probably can be tied to the rise of VHS/DVD sales in the 1980's and 1990's. Having that Oscar means greater post release sales and why so much energy is spent soliciting the votes in recent years. If you already recouped you investment at the box office and projections show you DVD sales will be great since everyone wants it because of all those special effects, you may not put as much effort into politicking for an Oscar like the smaller drama the didn't do as well at the box.

Does Hollywood realize good SF with all it's special effects can have good drama and good comedy and good mystery and good acting and good directing?

Good SF has a solid basis in science, it may stretch it to the limit, but the foundation in science is always there to create the conflict that needs resolved. And that is the nature of writing a good screenplay: conflict and resolution. In my opinion, recent films that demonstrate this with hard SF would be: GATTACA, Contact and even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Soft SF films might include The Truman Show. Both GATTACA and Contact won Oscar nods for lessor categories, but nowhere close to the big prizes.

The day will come when an Oscar will be handed out to a SF film that just could not be ignored.

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