Tag Archives: Source Code

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was added in 1958. It was split into Long Form (over 90 minutes) and Short Form (under 90 minutes) beginning in 2003. Although some traditionalists decry the addition of media-based works (and to be sure, some questionable movies and TV shows have been nominated and even won), this is usually one of the top vote-getting categories, showing it is popular with the Hugo voters.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Nominations (603 ballots cast [compared to 510 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

171 Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (28.35%)
148 Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (24.54%)
113 Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (18.74%)
112 Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (18.57%)
105 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (17.41%)
———————————————————-
94 X-Men: First Class (15.59%)
78 Attack the Block (12.94%)
78 Super 8 (12.94%)
78 Thor (12.94%)
78 Misfits Series 1 (12.77%)
77 Kick-Ass (12.10%)
73 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12.10%)
48 The Adjustment Bureau (7.96%)
36 Contagion (5.97%)
27 Cowboys and Aliens (4.48%)
24 Paul (3.98%)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Final Ballot Results (1613 ballots [compared to 1755 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
2 Game of Thrones (Season 1) (WINNER) 710 711 756 808
6 Hugo 293 295 326 392
4 Captain America: The First Avenger 198 199 247 297
1 Source Code 192 192 208
3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 175 176
5 No Award 45

No Award Tests:
• 1181 ballots ranked Game of Thrones (Season 1) higher than No Award; 115 ballots ranked No Award higher than Game of Thrones (Season 1) – PASS
• ((1613-45)/1922)*100 = 82% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Hugo
3rd Place – Captain America: The First Avenger
4th Place – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
5th Place – Source Code

Analysis

Fourteen items passed the 5% cutoff in what I thought was a lackluster year for movies. Unsurprisingly, the juggernaut Game of Thrones completely dominated the voting. I suspect this trend will continue for as long as the series is in production. Attack the Block and Misfits were not widely distributed in the U.S., or else they probably would have done better. My biggest surprise was that Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn’t higher in the nominations, although I’m not surprised it didn’t make the top five. Contagion should also have ranked higher than it did—did people not think it was science fiction?

Mini-Reviews

Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)

In a year loaded with super hero movies, Captain America stood out as one of the best, both in terms of the emotional arc of the title character and in the use of set design and special effects to convey a sense of reality lacking in many super-hero movies. It’s hard to convert the intrinsically unbelievability of comic books into something that looks good on screen. Although I liked X-Men: First Class more, I can’t argue that Captain America didn’t deserve recognition. See my full review here.

Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)

This faithful and lavish production of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy was the clear favorite in a relatively weak field. It’s hard to compete with a 10-hour production that can include character and plot details that 2-hour movies cannot. My only knock against Game of Thrones is the same one I have about the books: it’s an unresolved chapter in a longer narrative. Nevertheless, as long as HBO can keep the quality at this level, Game of Thrones will be a favorite to win for several years to come.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)

Despite being the second half of the adaptation of the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was pretty well self-contained, and was certainly a monumental conclusion to the film series. Unlike some of the entries that felt more like Cliff’s Notes versions of the books, this installment managed to retain most of the content from the book. The three primary actors, especially Daniel Radcliff, have grown into accomplished thespians who can carry off a story of this magnitude.

Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)

Hugo was my favorite film of 2011. Period. But it is neither science fiction nor fantasy, despite having a brief plot point about a mechanical automaton. Hugo also boasted the best use of 3-D since Avatar. Nevertheless, it never should have been on the final ballot. See my full review here.

Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Although not quite as good as his Hugo-winning film Moon, Jones was able to use his higher budget to craft an entertaining story with big ideas. This tale of time travel and identity manipulation was very much in the tradition of Philip K. Dick. It’s hard to produce a time travel story without paradoxes, and this was no exception. The ending was satisfying on an emotional level, but didn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. Jones has become a top director, and I look forward to whatever he makes next, science fiction or otherwise.

Should SF Be More Optimistic?

A panel at Chicon 7 discussed whether science fiction has become too pessimistic. Dystopian dramas such as The Road, The Walking Dead, and I Am Legend seem to dominate today’s market. Is this a reflection of current societal woes, or a more widespread sense of doom towards the future by writers and producers? What part do readers and audiences play in contributing to the popularity of these darker stories?

My feeling is that modern science fiction is no more or less optimistic than it has ever been. Classics such as Metropolis, Dr. Strangelove, and Blade Runner have often painted cautionary pictures of the future, warning us of what might be, not what will be. I would argue that dystopian SF is generally more thought-provoking than utopian SF. The best literature relies on conflict to propel characters to change and grow. Utopian societies are often bland and uninteresting.

Things like Buck Rogers and Star Trek are loved by millions for their optimistic visions of technological innovation and political harmony, but even they have conflict to drive their stories. They are often criticized for their naïvety, too.

Taking a look at this year’s Hugo Award nominees, I see optimistic stories far outnumbering the dystopias. Among the novels, Deadline is really the only dystopia, and even it has an underlying optimism that says society will learn to deal with a zombie apocalypse with new medical testing and security technologies. Among the dramatic presentations, Game of Thrones could possibly be considered a pessimistic fantasy universe, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows certainly has some very dark moments before the forces of good spectacularly triumph over the forces of evil.

Last year saw pessimistic films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Contagion, but they were more than countered by generally optimistic offerings such as Source Code, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Thor, Cowboys and Aliens, and Paul.

Science fiction TV has been dominated for several years by Doctor Who, the ultimate in optimism. Battlestar Galactica was certainly dark, but depicted the eventual triumph of humans. I think one reason Terra Nova failed was that audiences were not attracted to a world where running away from a dystopian society was encouraged rather than staying and working to improve it. Meanwhile, shows like Eureka, Alphas, and Warehouse 13 continue to offer lighthearted SF adventure.

To me, no matter how dark or depressing a science fiction story is, there is a fundamental optimism inherent in all science fiction. After all, science fiction (at least the majority that’s set in the future) imagines that there will be a future for mankind. You can’t get much more optimistic than that!

2012 Hugo Award Nominations

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) announced the nominees for the 2012 Hugo Awards and the nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The complete list may be found at the Chicon 7 website.

x

Novel

There were only two novels nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula this year, Among Others by Jo Walton and Embassytown by China Miéville. George R. R. Martin is a huge fan favorite, and with his hit Game of Thrones TV series it was all but certain that A Dance With Dragons would be nominated. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey was on a fair number of best-of lists, so it’s presence on the Hugo ballot is not a big surprise. The bigger surprise is Deadline by Mira Grant, which I don’t think was on too many best-of lists, but the author (real name Seanan McGuire) is very active in SF fandom and Deadline is a sequel to her book Feed that was nominated last year. Embassytown has been raking in most of the awards so far, but I wouldn’t count out Martin’s popularity to make him a dark horse favorite.

Graphic Story

With only 339 ballots, this category continues to be one of the least popular. Nevertheless, the nominees this year are markedly better than in years past. Perennial nominees Fables and Schlock Mercenary made the list again this year. The fannish Girl Genius was replaced by the fannish Digger by Ursula Vernon, which was begun in 2007 and completed in 2011. Coming in at over 700 pages, it will be interesting to see who has the stamina to wade through the whole thing. This is a comic that I had never heard of before, but I just read the first 20 pages and it looks intriguing, at least. My favorites, by far, are Locke & Key and The Unwritten. It’s unfortunate that terrific graphic stories such as Habibi by Craig Thompson, Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, and The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman didn’t make the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Game of Thrones has to be the odds-on favorite, what with its pedigree and ability to tell a 10-hour, fully realized story. I wouldn’t count out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 due to the immense popularity and sentimentality for this final installment of the Harry Potter series, but it seems a long shot, nevertheless. Hugo might also sneak in as the winner, but as good a film as it is, it really is not science fiction or fantasy, except in the broadest sense. Source Code was a fine follow-up to Duncan Jones’s Moon, but it is not nearly as good. Captain America: The First Avenger has no chance to win (and in my opinion, X-Men: First Class was the better superhero film last year). I’m a little surprised that Midnight in Paris wasn’t nominated, but I suspect it’s a bit too mainstream for the Hugo voters. I’m also a little surprised neither Puss in Boots nor Rango were nominated, but animated films seem to be less well regarded. The biggest surprise, by far, was the omission of Rise of the Planet of the Apes from the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Doctor Who dominates the category, as usual. I give Neil Gaiman’s episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” the edge due to Gaiman’s popularity among Hugo voters. I suppose Chris Garcia’s Hugo acceptance speech was dramatic, and although it was certainly moving, it really does not deserve to be nominated. My choice, which I admit is a long shot, is the Community episode “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which is a clever and hilarious meditation on parallel world theory. My biggest disappointment was that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the Academy Award winning short film, was not nominated.

Summary

Overall, it looks like most of the nominations are deserved. With a record number of nominations (1101), one can assume that most of the nominees have a goodly amount of support and that frivolous entries are minimal. I am looking forward to reading, listening to, and viewing as many of the nominees as possible.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category, I have compiled a list of productions that could be considered.

A number of people are recommending Hugo be nominated. Hugo is by far my favorite film of 2011, but I just don’t see how people can consider it a fantasy. It’s got an automaton as a plot point, but that’s based on a real invention. I suppose Hugo could be considered an alternate history, but that seems to be stretching the definition too much.

A multi-part production such as Game of Thrones or Torchwood: Miracle Day can be nominated in the Long Form category if nominators feel that the mini-series should be taken as a whole, rather than as individual episodes. The dividing line between Short Form and Long Form is 90 minutes running time, but may be adjusted slightly one way or another if a majority of nominators place a borderline work in the other category.

My expectation is that Game of Thrones will be nominated no matter what, so I will use my nominations for other works. I will surely nominate Rango, and most likely Arthur Christmas, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and X-Men: First Class will make up my other choices. The Adventures of Tintin and Source Code would also be worthy, in my opinion.

For your consideration:

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adventures of Tintin  [Annie Award nominee]

Another Earth

Arthur Christmas [Annie Award nominee]

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cars 2 [Annie Award nominee]

Cowboys & Aliens

The Divide

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

Game of Thrones, Season 1 [Emmy Award nominee]

Gnomeo & Juliet

Green Lantern

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

In Time

Kung Fu Panda 2  [Annie Award and Academy Award nominee]

Limitless

Melancholia

Midnight in Paris [Academy Award nominee]

Paul

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Puss in Boots  [Annie Award and Academy Award nominee]

Rango [Annie Award winner and Academy Award nominee]

Real Steel

Rio  [Annie Award nominee]

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Source Code

Super 8

The Thing

Thor

Torchwood: Miracle Day

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Winnie the Pooh

X-Men: First Class

Source Code

Source Code (2011)
Written by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snapshot: A well done psychological thriller and thought-provoking exploration of the concept of parallel universes.

Spoilers ahead!

On one level, Source Code is Quantum Leap (1989-1993) on steroids. A man, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), gets sent to an alternate reality, inhabits the body of someone there, and tries to correct an injustice. (There’s even a cameo by Scott Bakula near the end of the movie.)

The overriding theme of Source Code, though, is very similar to Duncan Jones’s superb 2009 film Moon. Like Moon, Source Code is a character study of one man who finds himself isolated and at the mercy of distant controllers telling him to do things that make no sense. Similarly, once Colter figures out the truth of his situation he tries to turn the tables on his handlers in order to survive.

The basic set-up is this: Air Force Captain Stevens is one moment fighting in Afghanistan, then the next moment is in the body of a man named Sean Fentress on a commuter train headed for Chicago. Neither Stevens nor the audience knows what’s going on at first. Slowly we learn that Stevens is part of a military operation codenamed Beleaguered Castle, and that he is being repeatedly sent back to the final eight minutes of the train’s existence to find the identity of the terrorist who planted the bomb that destroyed the train.

The highly implausible explanation for this mind transfer is that dead brains retain the last eight minutes of experience, and that these brainwaves can be coded into a computer program to simulate what happened. This “source code” enables Stevens to not only experience Fentress’s thoughts during these eight minutes, but to actually control Fentress’s body and do new actions that change the outcome of the simulation.

In essence, the film is showing that parallel realities are being created by Stevens every time he goes back to the train, despite the explanation given by the scientist (Jeffrey Wright) who is the mastermind of the operation. This brings up oh so many questions about what’s really going on, especially in light of what happens at the end of the movie. I think part of the charm of Source Code is that the viewer can’t be sure what the truth is. To me, that is the hallmark of good science fiction—letting the viewer/reader think for themselves and project their own interpretations on things. This is why Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), The Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest, and almost anything by Philip K. Dick are some examples of science fiction at its finest.

Source Code is probably not a masterpiece that will be revered by the ages, but it’s thought-provoking, fun, and has a satisfying emotional conclusion. It’s a terrific story about a man ravaged by war who seeks redemption and acceptance. It’s a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t forget that characters you care about in interesting situations  are what audiences want to see. Duncan Jones is two for two in creating thoughtful, literate science fiction films.