I’m not ashamed to admit that this film made me cry. Twice. There’s a reveal in the last act that I saw coming from a million miles away, and it still made me tear up. There’s no question in my mind that this is the best of the five nominated films. But, is it the best sf film of the lot? I can’t quite decide whether that’s a different question or not.
The computer animated film from Pixar (who won last year’s Hugo in this category with Wall-E) tells the story of an elderly widower who refuses to move from his home to make way for a real estate development. Finally, he decides to go on a South American adventure that he’s dreamed of for his entire life, and he decides to take his home with him (with the aid of a lot of helium). He takes flight and finds a strange world of amazing landscapes, giant birds, and crazed explorers with talking dogs. It’s a fun romp that still manages to get some emotional resonance out of its themes of aging, loss, and adventure. It’s a Pixar film; it’s pretty much guaranteed to be great.
So, what’s not “sf” about the film? It’s a definition that sf-fans like to argue about, and I usually find these discussions pretty pointless. Everyone has their own arbitrary definition, and they really all come down to the Potter Stewart line (“I know it when I see it.”) Up should qualify fairly easily: flying a house to South America with helium balloons is in the realm of pure fantasy, and voice boxes for dogs are pretty clearly in the realm of science fiction. If Raiders of the Lost Ark can win a Hugo, so can this. Still, next to films that use traditional science fiction conceits (aliens, clones, colonization of moons, Star Trek) to explore serious issues (race, imperialism, destiny, labor exploitation), Up does feel a little different. I highly recommend it, and enjoyed it more than any of these films, but I’m not sure it’ll get my vote. It's certainly in the running though.