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February 23, 2010

Sci-Fi Movies Ask 'What It Means to Be Human'

With 'Avatar' and 'District 9' up for Oscars, are sci-fi films finally being taken seriously?

An excellent USA Today article this morning explores the question of whether sci-fi movies are entering "a new realm," in the wake of Oscar Best Picture nominations for both Avatar and District 9.

The story notes that sci-fi films are typically slighted by the Academy; only three sci-fi movies (A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, E.T.) have ever been nominated for Best Picture before now.

"We seem to be witnessing a geek ascendancy [with] the appreciation of sci-fi entertainment," sci-fi author John Scalzi told the newspaper. "It's a great time for the genre. . . . Sci-fi lovers should be excited."

The article goes on to note sci-fi's traditional strengths in storytelling and using metaphors as social commentary; both trademarks are clearly evident in Avatar and District 9.

"Story, story, story," District 9 director Neil Blomkamp said. "Ours is a simple human tale, [Avatar] is an epic, Kiplingesque narrative. But both offer characters you can relate to."

But Sigourney Weaver, one of the co-stars of Avatar, probably got it most right when she said, "To look at these movies with [the sci-fi] label is to miss the points they are trying to make. These movies ask us to look at what it means to be human."

Related Tags: Avatar, District 9