Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sci-Fi Movie Awards Night

The Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films hands out its Saturn Awards for best genre movies of 2004 next Tuesday, May 3d.

The nominees for best Science Fiction film are The Butterfly Effect, The Day After Tomorrow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Forgotten, I, Robot, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

For my money Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the hands down winner. The movie is set in contemporary times but it's pure science fiction with its playing out of the consequences for humans of a new technology. In this case, a machine that allows people to erase bad memories from their mind. The cast was great, the plot was well executed, and the writing was intelligent. It was a superior movie.

As for the others, The Forgotten is an interesting alien mystery movie that shows how advanced alien technology will seem like magic to mere humans like us. Like Eternal Sunshine it's blessed with a good cast and an intriguing story. Shakespeare once said "all the world's a stage" and the band "Porno for Pyros" had a song "We'll Make Great Pets" about how we might relate to aliens. Well, The Forgotten tells us all the world is a laboratory and humans make great lab rats.

The Butterfly Effect is another stab at the Donnie Darko theme which poses the question what a troubled teenager should do when he finds out the world really would be better off without him. I completely endorse the message of each film. It's also about the perils of trying to be a fixer in human relationships.

Sky Captain has special effects galore but really cool special effects are not enough to make for an excellent movie. I, Robot is an action movie disguised as Isaac Asimov and The Day After Tomorrow is a disaster movie on a global scale and a disaster of a movie.

In the Horror genre the nominees are Blade: Trinity, Dawn of the Dead, The Grudge, Open Water, Saw, Shaun of the Dead, and Van Helsing.

Full disclosure compels me to admit that I haven't seen Blade: Trinity. I hated Blade but liked its first sequel very much.

With that caveat in mind, my favorite horror movie of this bunch has to be Shaun of the Dead. It is a great comedic tribute to the zombie movie.

On the other hand Dawn of the Dead is not much of a tribute to anything. It's just a remake of the original zombie movie of the same name and it adds nothing to the genre. One thing in the movie held my interest and it turned out to be a mistake on my part. I watched the entire movie mistakenly believing that the actor Jake Weber was actually the flamboyant actor Alan Cumming. I was impressed at the counter-intuitive casting and the low key masculinity of the portrayal. Wrong!

The Grudge is a pale imitation of its Japanese original and neither hold a candle to Ringu, the masterpiece of the creepy atmospheric Japanese horror movies.

Saw is very tense but it's got huge plot holes It's also another in the line of gimmick movies pioneered by The Sixth Sense where the revelation at the end purports to explain everything that happened before.

Open Water is an indie favorite for its use of hand cameras and digital video and very low budget filming. It's a claustrophobic portrayal of a couple's doomed last days on Earth as they are tracked for dinner by a pack of sharks. A very realistic feeling movie.

As for Van Helsing, why was the movie even made, let alone nominated for an award? What a waste of Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale.

In the fantasy category, I only saw Hellboy and The House of Flying Daggers and liked them both.

Guillermo del Toro knows how to make movies (Cronos, Mimic, Blade II, are good examples) and Hellboy was no exception. Ron Perlman shone in the title role and the Academy has done him a disservice by not nominating him for best actor.

The House of Flying Daggers is a Chinese martial arts art movie with an annoying plot about ill-fated love. Hero, made by the same director, Yimou Zhang, is better. It's a marvel of color, choreography, directing, cinematography, and storytelling. See that film first.

It's a shame the awards show won't be televised. It's something Sci-Fi channel should consider.



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