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Ten Sci-Fi and Fantasy Oscar Snubs
It is an honor just to be nominated or so these fine films have been told.
By Michael Henley
February 21, 2013
It’s an honor just to be nominated…or so these fine films have been told. Here is Mania's look at the great genre films that were snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
One of the smartest and most imaginative sci-fi films to come along in several years, Rian Johnson’s Looper is a blend of crime, sci-fi action, and serious meditation on nature vs. nurture and the tricky mechanics of predestination. Looper brims with terrific dialogue, generous character development, and refreshing originality. So where was its best original screenplay nomination? The Oscars should know better than to slap down a genre film when it’s this well done, but we all know it’s not the first time.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
While Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a plodding mess, Wrath of Khan is generally regarded as one of the best sequels ever, a rip-snorting adventure tale that suffused the franchise with new blood and wildly entertaining pop thrills. Some of its identifying marks are a literate screenplay by director Nicholas Meyer and seriously great performances by Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner (yes, really), and the hammily iconic Ricardo Montalban. The film was nominated for none of these things, or anything else.
To be fair, this one’s iffy. The Academy Awards were first held in 1929, and even though that was for the calendar years 1927 and 1928, Fritz Lang’s hugely influential silent epic of humanoid robots and giant cities might not have been much of a blip on the Hollywood radar at the time. But still, with years of retrospect, the omission is pretty glaring. Put Metropolis on the list of movies that changed Hollywood forever, yet never brought home the gold.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is one of the best films ever made, sci-fi or no. Intelligent, daring and visionary, it changed and challenged the boundaries of visual storytelling. People still argue about the true nature of the film and its characters to this day. It’s rare to get a film script so tight it doesn’t waste a moment, yet so slippery it can be read multiple ways, let alone one coupled with gorgeous cinematography and superlative direction. The film got technical nods for its fx and design work, which is a pittance paid to a visual and cerebral feast.
Dark City (1998)
Visually sumptuous and conceptually challenging, Alex Proyas’ Dark City is a heady cocktail of film noir and existential angst, the story of a man who awakens one “night” to discover he is part of a freakish alien experiment involving malleable realities. A brilliant script, wonderful performances and fantastic art direction and cinematography combine into pure, unapologetic cinema. But not many saw it, including, apparently, every member of the Academy. They noticed it not a bit.
Moon is seriously great, a document of deep-space isolation and loneliness, which recalls the aesthetics and sensibilities of 2001 before venturing off into a…much different direction. There are so many wonderful things in Moon: Sam Rockwell’s brilliant performance, Duncan Jones’ dazzlingly confident direction of his first-time feature, a screenplay that’s clever, poignant and surprising…none of those things impressed the Oscars, however.
Newcomers to Shane Carruth’s Primer, prepare for the most realistically convoluted and insane time-travel story ever. Lots of films use time travel as a device, but few have the audacity to venture into the “wait, what?!” territory that sci-fi literature can. Carruth’s screenplay for Primer fully embraces paradox, then becomes a tangled web of confusing timelines so baffling that flow charts might be needed (and fans have made them available online). But it all holds up. I think. Surely that’s worth a best original screenplay nod, yes? Guess not.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight is the film that brought prestige to the superhero genre. It was a critical and commercial juggernaut, and, to be fair, did rack up eight Oscar nominations (the top one being Heath Ledger’s posthumous nod for the Joker). But none of those were Best Picture, and now even the Academy itself seems to recognize that as a mistake. Granted, 2008 was a very good year for films, and the best pictures that year were a nice batch. But The Reader instead of The Dark Knight? Why so serious, Academy?
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Hear me out. Yes, Lord of the Rings got a pile of Oscars as tall as a cave troll, primarily for the trilogy capper, Return of the King. But where was even the slightest consideration for the man who helped bring Gollum to life, Andy Serkis? Sure, his performance was enhanced by groundbreaking special effects, but it wasn’t replaced. Serkis was so good performing the role on set that he became Gollum, and the effects artists followed his lead. The Oscars consistently prove that when a brave new world of cinema beckons, they’ll shift their feet nervously.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
The Harry Potter series ruled the film world for a decade, when all was said and done it solidified itself as one of the finest, most consistent and overall most important film franchises of all time (name another series that made it to eight movies without a bum note). Potter saw some low-key Oscar love, including eleven cumulative nominations. But all in technical categories. The directors, screenwriters and cast members that brought Potter to life for ten years were never recognized for their achievements, making the entire series a pretty conspicuous boat that the Academy just plain missed. Oh, Oscar. You’re such a Muggle.
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