Today I’m going to soapbox about something utterly inconsequential and only tangentially related to science. Apologies all around. It’s the weekend though, so I trust you’ll forgive a bit of a deviation from the usual!
The nominations for the Oscars are out, and generally it’s a pretty mundane lot. Take the Best Picture nominees, for instance:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
To be perfectly honest I’ve seen none of these. I’m sure they all have their charms, but no one I’ve talked to (and my friends have good taste) really painted them as “Best Picture” quality. Surely the academy can be forgiven for the lack of Batman, which was a great movie but I’m not sure I’d call it great film. On the other hand I don’t think many people think it’s any more silly in its plot than Slumdog.
But again I’m personally unqualified to judge on the grounds that I haven’t seen them (except for Batman). Nonetheless surely they could have pitched one of those five to make room for what I thought was a legitimately great piece of science fiction film: Wall-E.
“But Matt,” you might say, “it’s a computer-animated kid’s movie about robots falling in love. It can’t be a serious film.”
Well, so what? It tells a beautiful story with pathos and sympathy, and does so with an aesthetically and technically stunning style. I don’t think there’s much more you can ask from great film. For comparison, take a look at the “Best Animated Film” nominees:
Let’s be serious. This is like having a “Best Legal Thinkers” category and nominating Marcus Tullius Cicero, Barney Fife, and Boss Hogg. It’s almost insulting to the intelligence.
Some of this might be sour grapes on my part. A large part of what I read growing up was golden age science fiction and to this day I have a soft spot in my heart for the rare movie that is legitimately good science fiction in the literary sense. Most people don’t even recognize those movies as such when they appear – The Prestige is very pure science fiction but I doubt if 10% of the people in the theaters watching it were aware of that fact. (It is also a powerful and amazing film regardless of genre, probably my favorite of 2006)
Now I’m no critic and my own opinions are not likely to be nearly as well-informed and nuanced as the Academy voters. But since ScienceBlogs has of late been pontificating about the “rightful place” of science in America, as a scientist I officially issue my ex cathedra pronouncement about film: Wall-E is the best one of 2008.