Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hugo Nomination Speculation Time: Dramas and Graphic

Hugo nominations are due a week from this Sunday, and I'm trying to put together a nomination ballot, so here (and Friday) are some of my favorite works and some of the usual semi-informed speculation. Today we'll cover the two Dramatic Presentation categories with a word or two about the Graphic Story category.

2011 was the year of the science fiction movie. Exactly 32.9 bajillion movies came out with some sort of science fiction or fantasy aspects. These include Season of the Witch, The Green Hornet, The Rite, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly, Rango, Battle Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, Little Red Riding Hood, Limitless, Paul, Sucker Punch, Hop, Insidious, Source Code, Your Highness, Dylan Dog, Thor, Priest, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Midnight in Paris, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Green Lantern, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Zookeeper, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Captain America, Another Earth, Cowboys & Aliens, The Smurfs, Attack the Block, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Final Destination 5, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, In Time, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Apollo 18, Real Steel, The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3, Immortals, Melancholia, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, Hugo, and The Darkest Hour. The latest Big Momma's House sequel probably had an alien invasion and/or vampire romance.

That’s over fifty.

I saw about a dozen of these, all before September (when my amazing daughter came along to make sure my wife and I would never go out for fun again). So, to some extent, I have to narrow the list down on word of mouth. Of the films I didn't see, Hugo looks great (though it has made googling the Hugo Awards more difficult...grrr). Attack the Block looks fun, and I've heard surprisingly good things about Real Steel, which looks thoroughly cheesy. I have a hard time believing that In Time wasn't good, considering it has such an interesting speculative concept and a strong sf pedigree (written, directed, and produced by Andrew Niccol or Gattaca), but there seems to be a pretty strong consensus against that one.

Of the movies I have seen:
I'd imagine Rise of the Apes is a shoe-in, though I don't quite see what everyone else sees in it. It's not the usual Hollywood bombast, I guess. Super 8 was very fun and pleasantly nostalgic, and it should be in the mix as well. Duncan Jones won with his last film, and Source Code was pretty good too. Woody Allen could be a dark horse with cutesy time travel film Midnight in Paris (believe it or not, the highest grossing Woody Allen picture of all time). I really enjoyed the somewhat-cheesy films Captain America and X-Men: First Class, which both got some extra mileage out of the superhero genre by using historical settings. I don't expect to see either of them on the list in such a crowded year. Harry Potter VII-B was not as good as Harry Potter VII-A in my opinion, and it's hard to guess whether it would receive a nom like its predecessor. I know Paul has a lot of geek fans, though I really disliked that one. And, I'm sure I'm not alone in my dislike of Cowboys & Aliens; combining a generic western with a generic alien invasion story does not magically create something original.

It's such a big class of films, it's hard to narrow down the nominees. To add to the dilemma, my vote will probably go to a televisions series. I plan to nominate the entire season of Game of Thrones in the Long Form category, and I'll probably be rooting for it to win.

There are a lot of different ways this could go, but I guess I'll predict Rise of the Apes, Super 8, Source Code, Hugo and Game of Thrones. 

In Short Form, we might as well just give the award to Neil Gaiman for "The Doctor's Wife" in the sixth series of Doctor Who. Who and Gaiman are Hugo perennials - put them together, and it's game over, especially since the episode has garnered a lot of rave reviews (I thought it was a middling episode, full of Gaiman and Moffat tics. Can Gaiman just not stop himself from putting a gothy Victorian girl front and center? Is there a goth equivalent to "manic pixie dream girl"?)

If Gaiman hadn't written that episode, Doctor Who would be looking very beatable after a fairly disappointing season. I did enjoy the mid-season finale "A Good Man Goes to War," which had a fantastic opening sequence and some new insights on the Doctor. I wouldn't be surprised if a few other Who episodes made the list.

There was a lot more sf tv in 2011, but it was mostly awful. Terra Nova, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, blah. The Cape? I don't think so. I did like Falling Skies, which had a fun, 80s-sf vibe. It was more V than the V revival. And it does correctly predict that history professors will be the saviors of humanity. That said, I don't think it's Hugo-worthy.

I rather hope that some short films, like last year's The Lost Thing, get nominated. Time Freak and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore were Oscar-nominees that looked promising.

Finally, there is Graphic Story. The category is in its fourth year, and, as I understand it, could expire.This might be for the best, considering how narrowly Hugo nominators' tastes seem to cluster around a couple of web comics, some popular Vertigo properties, and works from writers known for their prose or tv work. Girl Genius has won this award every year, but the Foglios have pulled it from contention this year, guaranteeing that something new will win...probably Fables. I can imagine that Schlock Mercenary and Unwritten will also show up on the ballot.

I doubt I'll cover this category this year, but I do really hope that Craig Thompson's Habibi gets a nod. It's a gorgeous graphic novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic middle east that resembles the world of The Arabian Nights. Yes, there's a fair amount of Orientalism, but there's also clearly a love of he source material, a respect for the Koran and the Arabic language, and some of the most beautiful art you'll ever see that also plays with the sequential medium in some really interesting ways. 


  1. "Hugo" was an interesting film, but it didn't really strike me as speculative or science fiction. It seemed like more of a historical fiction drama. I was surprised by how different the film was from what I had expected based on the trailers.

    I agree "Game of Thrones" deserves some Hugo attention. That's actually at the top of my list, since most of the speculative films I've seen this past year just weren't any good. I thought "Rise of the Apes" was decent, but I wouldn't pick it for a Hugo. I've heard good things about "Source Code" and "Super 8", but I haven't had a chance to see either yet. Of the movies I've seen, I guess I would favor "Melancholia" and "X-men: First Class".

    Also, that's disappointing to hear that Dr. Who's season 6 is sub-par... I just finished watching season 5, so I was looking forward to getting into 6!

    1. I'd heard that the Hugo trailer is misleading. It looks like a steampunky "boy and his robot" thing, but I'm probably totally wrong (don't spoil me!). Maybe I should withdraw that part of prediction.

      I was wondering about Melancholia. It looked very interesting, but von Trier gets on my nerves easily. I also think Another Earth could be an intriguing off-the-beaten-sf-path entry, though I haven't seen it either.

      Who series 6 isn't that bad. There's a lot to enjoy. I just thought the highs weren't quite as high, the lows were a little lower, and the overarching plot felt kind of tired.

  2. I've seen the "Remedial Chaos Theory" episode of the sitcom Community on a couple of people's lists, and....well duh. Silly me for not thinking of it. It's a brilliant episode of one of my favorite shows. I will definitely be nominating it.