Oscars in an Alternate Universe Where the Academy Loves Sci-Fi

I usually get a little down in late February. It's not just because of the dark, the cold, and the New England snowdrifts piling up on my deck. It's Oscar season, and as a fan of science fiction, the Oscars are a pretty depressing awards show. Looking back, the Academy Awards have rarely given sci-fi films top honors, instead saving a few measly statuettes for visual effects and sound editing. But what would the world look like if Oscar voters loved science fiction as much as I do? Which movies would have been nominated for best picture?

2012 Best Picture Nominees:

  • Amour

  • Argo

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild

  • Django Unchained

  • Les Miserables

  • Life of Pi

  • Lincoln

  • Silver Linings Playbook

  • Zero Dark Thirty

Add: The Avengers

You can't compare The Avengers to a quiet meditation on old age like Amour or a period drama like Lincoln. But in its genre, The Avengers stood out this year. It's also not unheard-of for the Oscars to reward a blockbuster summer film (think of Titanic in 1997). It's also worth noting that during Titanic's record-breaking streak at the 1997 Oscars, the broadcast of the awards had its highest-ever Nielsen ratings. There's something to be said for rewarding a movie that everyone actually saw this year.

2011 Best Picture Nominations

  • The Artist

  • The Descendants

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  • The Help

  • Hugo

  • Midnight in Paris

  • Moneyball

  • The Tree of Life

  • War Horse

Add: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I'm not one for rewarding sequels, but the end of the Harry Potter series was a beautiful adaptation of the book (in some ways, an improvement over the book). I would have been just as pleased if nominee Hugo had top honors in 2011. While it isn't a science fiction movie in itself, Hugo is a spellbinding love letter to imaginative and otherworldly stories. For me, it was far and away the most enjoyable film of the year.

2010 Best Picture Nominations

  • The King's Speech

  • Black Swan

  • The Fighter

  • Inception

  • The Kids are All Right

  • 127 Hours

  • The Social Network

  • Toy Story 3

  • True Grit

  • Winter's Bone

Just give 'em the damn Oscar: Inception

Certainly The King's Speech was a worthy film, but of the films listed above, Inception is the only one that subsequently became a verb. Inception may also go down in history as one of the most influential movies of the 2010's, with its photo-realistic effects and retro-cool vibe. It will also mark the dawn of the reign of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Some day, our kids will laugh at us when we say he used to be a dweeb on TV.

2009 Best Picture Nominations

  • The Hurt Locker

  • Avatar

  • The Blind Side

  • District 9

  • An Education

  • Inglorious Basterds

  • Precious

  • A Serious Man

  • Up

  • Up in the Air

Add: Star Trek

It seemed inevitable that James Cameron would get a nod for Avatar, but in the first year the Oscars expanded the number of best picture nominees, certainly it makes more sense to recognize Star Trek than A Serious Man. While I genuinely believe Up was the best film of 2009 (yes, the balloon movie), no Star Trek film has ever been nominated for best picture, and J.J. Abrams’ contribution was certainly the best Trek in years.

2008 Best Picture Nominations

  • Slumdog Millionaire

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  • Frost/Nixon

  • Milk

  • The Reader

Add: The Dark Knight

Seriously. Benjamin Button? Remember how I said that Inception was influential? Forget it - The Dark Knight got even the most comic-bashing critics on board with Batman, and led to five years’ worth of science fiction and comic films so dark that you literally can't see them on your screen unless you have an LED and a Blu-ray.

Tonight, I might go to sleep well before the producers of this year's best picture stand up to give their speeches. I know that the winner is likely to be a predictable pick: Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, or if the Academy is feeling particularly unorthodox, Silver Linings Playbook. But if Joss Whedon decides to just storm the stage in a Hulk costume, will someone please wake me?

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