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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hugo Awards: Best Dramatic Presentations (Long Form and Doctor Who-Form)
So now we're getting into some of the more obscure awards categories, and these seem to be a true outlier, as they cover forms that are well covered outside the Hugos. There are some who don't see the point in these categories because of that, but given how little respect genre filmmaking tends to get, I'm not as gloomy. I love movies, so Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form tends to be a pretty easy one for me. Of course, the issue I have with the category this year is that my preferred #1 pick (Upstream Color) was not nominated (another reason I should have nominated this year)... In any case, here's my tentative ballot. In all honesty, once you get past #1, I could probably swap a lot around depending on how I feel at the time, but this is where I'm at for now:
  1. Gravity - Have spacesuit, will travel. Perhaps more for the technical, visual achievement than for the rather straightforward story and thematic elements, this nevertheless worked on me much more than the other nominees and is a clear #1 vote. Was in my top 10 from last year, and also won the coveted Kaedrin Most Visually Stunning award...
  2. Iron Man 3 - This is a movie that has grown in my estimation over time, and while I enjoyed it just fine on first viewing, I found the second viewing better for some reason. Not dramatically so, but Shane Black's script does give this a slight edge, and it helps that the Marvel movies tend to underline and reinforce other entries in the series. This was a "Just Missed the Cut" pick last year, but I think I might upgrade it to full blown honorable mention.
  3. Frozen - A movie I didn't actually see last year, but caught up with eventually because it became so popular. And I'm glad I did, as I'd rank it amongst the upper tier of recent-era Disney flicks (not including Pixar, of course). I don't think I'd put it above a good portion of their renaissance period stuff from the late 80s and early 90s, but it comports itself very well indeed, and I enjoyed it, even if it's not something that's really sticking with me...
  4. Pacific Rim - I'm really surprised that I have this as low as I do, because I was really high on this when I first saw it. And to be sure, it is still a big ball of fun, but catching it again as it airs on cable, I notice that I only really care about one particular monster battle (which, granted, is pretty great). That being said, this is one of the few movies where a sequel might actually excite me (and it's happening, so we'll see it again).
  5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - A fine movie, perhaps even an improvement over the first installment (in terms of filmmaking craft, at least) and Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as always (as was Jena Malone and honestly, the casting is all rather great), but my problems with these movies relate more to the worldbuilding and setting of the story. In particular, I find the villainous totalitarian regime to be incompetent in the extreme, and the movies even stress that more than the books. I always feel weird in thinking that I would be a much better dictator than this President Snow moron, but here we are. So while many of the tactical elements of these movies are fine (which leads to a generally enjoyable viewing experience), it's the strategic background that I have a problem with. And because that background is always there, I can never really get past it...
Also conspicuously absent from this category is Her, another small indie film that perhaps didn't get seen by enough voters. Upstream Color was at least on Netflix Instant, so there's no excuse there. But then, I guess Hugo voters are predominantly literature-focused, which lends credence to the pointlessness of these awards. If you're not going to do the work of seeking out interesting stuff, this category doesn't make too much sense.

And now we come to the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, which is also basically known as the "Best Doctor Who episode of the year" award. Year in, year out, this award is dominated by Doctor Who episodes. They usually comprise 3-4 of the nominees, and one of those has won the award 6 out of 8 times. There are 6 nominees this year, and 4 are Doctor Who related (though two of those are more meta-Doctor Who stories than actual Doctor Who episodes). I also fully expect one of these episodes to win.

As someone on the relative outskirts of Doctor Who fandom, this was not a terribly exciting category. I definitely remember watching old-school Doctor Who on PBS when I was a youngin, but the only real episode that I remember was a Tom Baker one called State of Decay, and honestly, I haven't seen it in over 20 years. I have been very slowly working my way through the modern-era series (currently on Season 3), and I am seeing distinct improvements as time goes on (season 1 was a real slog though). So I think I generally had enough context to watch these episodes, even if there were some bits that I was clearly not getting... That being said, here's my tentative ballot:
  1. "Game of Thrones" The Rains of Castamere - It is so very rare that a series can pull off a surprise of such magnitude in the third season, especially when you consider that the show already had a reputation (to put it mildly). This was amongst the most shocking moments of television that I've ever witnessed, so I feel I have to acknowledge that in the voting. I don't know how the creators pulled this off (and while irrelevant to this particular episode, they continue to pull off such feats in season 4). I know this show is not for everyone, and heck, this shocking moment is ridiculously tragic and heinous, but it's so well executed that I find it difficult to recognize anything else.
  2. "Doctor Who" The Day of the Doctor - As I understand it, this feature-length episode (released in theaters, even) commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who had many potential pitfalls and could very well have been an utter failure. That it works reasonably well, even for underseasoned Who dorks like myself is a testament to how successful they were. I'm sure I was missing out on some things, but I found it to be an above-average Who episode, which was well done and had plenty of interesting ideas (and some nice cameos that I did pick up on). I fully expect this to take the award this year, even if it's not my favorite of the episodes.
  3. "Orphan Black" Variations Under Domestication - This is a show that I had planned to check out at some point, especially when it went on Amazon Prime Instant, but the Hugo nom is what got me to actually start the show. So far, so good, and I'll almost certainly continue to watch. I haven't been so sucked in as to full-bore binge it, but I've enjoyed the series to date. This is a good episode, though I don't really see what distinguishes this from the rest of the series, such that it deserves a nomination. As a whole, the series is fun, but seems a little too dependent on a amazing lead performance (several, actually) from Tatiana Maslany. There are worse things to be said, but grand conspiracy stories always give me pause.
  4. "Doctor Who" The Name of the Doctor - I will say, I felt like this episode was more problematic for underseasoned Who viewers like myself, though it wound up being a decent enough episode I guess. I really don't have much to say about it though. It's clearly not as good as "The Day of the Doctor", nor would I put it ahead of the other nominated shows... However, it is at least science fiction, which can't be said about the next two nominees.
  5. An Adventure in Space and Time - Not a Doctor Who episode, per say, but it's basically the dramatization of the making of the show during the time of the first Doctor. As such, it doesn't feel much like science fiction and is being ranked accordingly. That being said, it's reasonably well done and never bored me or anything like that...
  6. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot - Also not a Doctor Who episode, this one is more like a sorta parody of the making of the 50th Anniversary. It stars the living actors who have played Doctor Who (but who were not really featured in the 50th Anniversary episode) as they try to find a way to be included, in some way. It's played for laughs, and is clearly taking the piss out of the likes of Steven Moffat, etc... but it's also not science fiction, and to me, a fair amount of the humor didn't really work so much. Again, I get the feeling that this is more for die hard fans of the series, so I'm certain I'm missing something, but as it shakes out, this one remains at the bottom of my ballot...
This category seems more problematic than the Long Form, if only because of the constant Doctor Who love. I don't really see any solution though, as nominating a whole season would be more of a "Long Form" accomplishment, but if you open it to individual episodes, you get multiples from the same show. I do wonder what else would be nominated if any given show was limited to a single episode (the mechanics of which would be a bit odd, but still). That might get a wider array of shows nominated, but then, what if Doctor Who legitimately had the two best episodes of SF television last year? There's no real solution, I guess, but I am glad I watched these, so there is that. We've got some other obscure categories to cover here, and some that I probably won't cover at all (looking at you, Editing categories!) I should complete Warbound soon, at which point I'll be mostly done with the fiction (I am actually reading the second Wheel of Time book, but so far, I see nothing that will change my feelings on the series). So stay tuned, more Hugo stuff is incoming...
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This post is part of the Kaedrin Weblog. It's been categorized under Science Fiction and was originally published in July 2014.

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