Of Course, Science Fiction Movies Should Contend For Best Picture

There’s something funny about the fact that it remains reportable news that a science fiction movie, in this case, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, is getting released as if it might actually be a contender for Academy Award nominations. When it comes to the movies that win Best Picture, in recent years we’ve tended to like stories that are from worlds not precisely our own, be they pre-World War II England, the specific milieu of military bomb defusers, Indian television studios, a moralized modern West, Middle Earth, or a musical-theaterized Chicago (Crash, The Departed, and Million Dollar Baby are notable exceptions over the past 10 years, in that they lack an element of distance or strangeness to them) and that have either a specific message of contemporary social significance or a metaphor for it. There’s precisely no reason that science fiction and fantasy can’t hit those sweet spots other than genre snobbery: exploring a vision of industrialized space is at least as useful and realistic as exploring a gangland Chicago where everyone bursts into song all the time.