Confession: when I was younger, and not really noting what was going on in the SF/F literary world, all I would pay attention to among the Hugo nominees was the “Best Dramatic Presentation” award. I’ve always felt it was something of a problematic award, with things getting nominated that were… less than worthy. This year’s batch isn’t as problematic as past years’– there’s nothing that pops out as a “Really?!?!” In fact, it’s mostly good stuff.
So let’s dive in.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
- The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
- The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
- The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
- Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)
Of these five, the only one I’ve yet to see is Looper, so I really have no opinion on that one. The other four are, essentially, what I expected to see nominated this year. (I did also expect to see Looper on the list, based on what I had heard about it.) So: no surprises or upsets, really.
Easily my favorite here is The Avengers. I’m a big superhero fan, and with The Avengers, I got the big team superhero movie I had always wanted. There’s one shot that makes this movie for me: the one long tracking shot that follows from Hawkeye taking out flyers to Cap and Iron Man on the ground to Black Widow riding one of the cycles to Thor and Hullk on top of one of the behemoths. It’s clear, bright, vibrant, and it doesn’t have hand-held cameras or quick cuts. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a splash page.
Cabin in the Woods is a close second. Clever, fun, and with an explosive third act.
Hunger Games was a solid movie, very enjoyable, anchored by Jennifer Lawrence’s strong performance. And also a very solid adaptation of the book. I’ve no problem ranking it third.
Hobbit was weaker than I wanted it to be. There are great parts in it– the Riddles in the Dark sequence stands out– but it doesn’t add up to a greater whole.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
- Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
- Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”, Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
- Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
- Fringe, “Letters of Transit”, Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
- Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)
I’ve never watched Fringe, so again, I have no opinion there.
“Blackwater” was the high point of the second season of Game of Thrones, and it’s my only nominee that made it to the list. Game of Thrones is probably the most interesting genre show on right now, in that it’s got so many balls in the air and manages to keep them up most of the time. It’s a show that’s taking the through-line of what the medium can do that was started with Babylon 5 and continued with Lost, and made itself into the closest thing genre fans* have seen to being a novel-for-the-screen. It might have been challenging to pick a single episode to stand out, given that, but “Blackwater”, with its laser-like focus on one specific area of the plot, jumped out ahead of the rest.
I’ve made no secret that I’m not crazy this category has become the de facto Doctor Who category, as it’s dominated the category every years since the series was relaunched. In fact, 2009 is the only year Doctor Who did not take three of the five slots. And I’m a big fan, but even still: really? It represents 60% of the best of the best of SF/F television and other short form? So much so that shows like Walking Dead or Alphas or Arrow get snubbed? I mean, “The Snowmen” was fine, but nothing extraordinary, with almost the whole episode held up by the charisma of Jenna-Louise Coleman. The same could probably be said about “Asylum of the Daleks”. I’m a little more fond of “Angels Take Manhattan”, even though it does damage to the Weeping Angels as neat threat, and it forces a major amount of suspension of disbelief along the lines of, “How can someone be lost forever to a man who travels through space and time?” Still, it hits emotional resonances with Amy and Rory, and fits as a farewell for them. So I’ll rank it above the other two. Of them, I’ll give “Asylum” the edge.
That’s all for this batch.
*- Not genre, but I’d argue that Mad Men and Breaking Bad are also doing that.