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The 2014 Hugo Awards: Mission of gravity.

Well, pumpkins, the deal went down over the weekend of August 14-18 in London, as the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention met in secret conclave to bestow its honors upon the deserving.

(Actually I exaggerate a bit about the Convention meeting in secret conclave. It just sounds impressive that way. I wasn't in London myself . . . my all-expense paid invitation somehow being misplaced in the mail . . . but doubtless it was the usual jostling, costuming and raucous boozing about that pretty much makes up any SF convention.)

Of course, as you might well surmise, my interest was strictly focused on the Dramatic Presentation Awards. I would've been interested in the Best Fan Writer Award, but in spite of all your efforts (and I'm certain you people did your absolute level best), my name didn't make it into nomination. Oh, well . . . always next year.

To be up front and honest on the matter, I really wasn't expecting too much in the way of surprises this year. Not that the genre has showed signs of slowing up, but the number of quality releases just haven't been up to par. Too many of the studios are focusing on mega-dollar "blockbusters" where, if they had any real sense, they'd be working at releasing many more less expensive but intelligent features.

So it came as no shock to learn that Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" took the honors for Best Dramatic Presentation/Long Form. I liked "Gravity" better than I thought I was going to, which I suppose sounds strange to those of you who've been following this column for some time (and God bless you!). It's just that I become suspicious whenever a SF film garners a great deal of praise from the mainstream. To give an example: James Cameron's "Avatar" is an absolutely brilliant science-fiction film . . . if you know absolutely nothing about science-fiction. Otherwise it's just an overrated rehash of common SF themes. God defend us all from mundanes who try to "get" science-fiction.

And I have to state right here that I'm not the biggest Sandra Bullock fan in the world, which was another reason "Gravity" initially made me edgy. But, upon reflection, it occurred to me that, in "Gravity", the emphasis was more on reacting than it was on acting. Curaon's film may have been the first one where the special effects took on the dimension of a performer.

"Gravity" also had it easy in its overall lack of competition. I liked "Frozen", but I must confess I was surprised to find it among the nominees. Then again, we're back to my earlier statement about the lack of quality films over the past year. Nowhere was this more evident than in the fact that another nominee was Francis Lawrence's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire". I mean, give to me that break, people! The "Hunger Games" franchise is popular for the same reason that the "Twilight" films were popular: they resonate with the Snookietrash community (most of whom think that Heinlein is a German beer).


Shane Black's "Iron Man 3" was also a nominee. If it had been one of the two earlier films in the series then it might've had a chance, but this wasn't up to par with its predecessors. As for the remaining nominee . . . Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" . . . I personally know people (several whose opinions I respect) who felt that it was a good movie. For me I'll have to say maybe. It was certainly several steps above the "Transformers" films, and one should never discount del Toro entirely, but when compared to "Gravity" the final choice was clear.

Much more interesting was the competition for Best Dramatic Presentation/Short Form. Especially since the previous year marked the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who" and, among the six nominees for the award, four were from that franchise. But when the dust settled, "The Rains of Castamere" episode from "Game of Thrones" copped the award (perhaps being the bloodiest piece of filmmaking ever to be so honored). I personally have no complaints with this, mainly seeing as how I was somewhat disappointed in what the "Doctor Who" people managed to produce. The 50th Anniversary episode . . . "The Day of the Doctor" . . . hardly lived up to all the hype and, for the 50th anniversary of a science-fiction program (hell, for any program period), I positively know for a fact that I wasn't the only one expecting something considerably more brilliant. For that matter, the trailer for the episode was a lot more fun to watch.

Much better, by far, was Terry McDonough's "An Adventure in Space and Time": a wonderfully charming dramatization of the creation of the "Doctor Who" series (and as good a primer for how to sell a science-fiction series to a network as anyone might want to wish for). A considerable amount of effort went into this; not only in re-creating the BBC of the early 1960s, but in finding actors who could bring the roles to life. David Bradley's portrayal of William Hartnell (the first Doctor) was worthy of an award in its own right. I've been chatting this up positively to one and all, and I personally believe "The Rains of Castamere" beat it out by only a hair.

Of the remaining two "Who" entries, I preferred the whimsical "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot" to the much more serious (some might say too serious) "The Name of the Doctor". And, to be honest on the matter, I preferred both of them to the "Orphan Black" episode, "Variations Under Domestication", which was the tail-end Charlie among the nominations. Perhaps if I gave "Orphan Black" more of a chance . . .

But that's how 2014 went at the Hugos, pumpkins. Now we must crawl back into our holes and lick our wounds, and set our sights for Spokane, Washington where the 2015 decisions will be made.

(And remember: that's "Best Fan Writer".)

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