Sci-fi genre’s star may be rising

Box Office

Science-fiction movies are suddenly popular with the Producers Guild of America, which has included Avatar, District 9 and Star Trek in its nominations for best picture of 2009.

Is this a sign that the genre may be gaining respect in the industry beyond its power to open moviegoers’ wallets? Or does it mean rather that better sci-fi films are being made?


The Hollywood organization, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has recently doubled its “best picture” field to include 10 nominees. The Academy’s board of governors decided last year there were more than five films in 2008 that deserved best-picture consideration — among them, The Dark Knight and WALL-E, which were snubbed when it came to best picture nominations despite being among the most talked-about films in years.


It’s long been accepted that genre films faced an uphill battle at awards ceremonies, particularly at the Oscars.

Academy voters often have overlooked “big box-office successes that also were really big artistic successes,” Christine Birch, an academy member and head of marketing for DreamWorks, told The Associated Press in June. “Those weren’t deemed quote-unquote ‘academy’ movies. This gives those movies an opportunity to not have to fall by the wayside.”

Golden Globe nominations, announced last month by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and to be awarded Jan. 17, included Avatar for best motion picture drama and best director (James Cameron), District 9 for best screenplay, Robert Downey Jr. for best perfomance by an actor in a motion picture comedy or musical for Sherlock Holmes, and Up for best animated feature film. Best original score nominees included Avatar, Up and Where the Wild Things Are. Quirky vampire hit True Blood was nominated for best television series drama, with leading lady Anna Paquin also securing a nomination for best actress in a drama series. (She was snubbed by the Emmys, which, as usual, relegated genre shows to the more technical awards categories — visual effects, directing and editing.)

Academy Award nominations will be announced Feb. 2, with the ceremony taking place March 7. Then we’ll be able to get a bigger picture of the state of science fiction.

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