Close But No Cigar: Science Fiction’s Best Picture Nominations — And Losses
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
I wasn’t alive for 1968 cinema in its incarnation and release, so I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, but this is just ridiculous. 1967’s nominees were some of the greatest ever to compete against each other, but that couldn’t be said for the next year. The musical Oliver!, in which the direction is strong but much else is grating, beat out the superior large-scale drama The Lion in Winter from Anthony Harvey, but neither Romeo and Juliet nor the Seinfeld-ian Rachel, Rachel needed to be in that category. And so the Academy was sent back to the pre-Stone Age as Stanley Kubrick got robbed in the second of a handful of shameful examples of Oscar negligence.
The Academy didn’t even say it couldn’t do that, Dave, when it shamelessly left the seminal and contemplative 2001: A Space Odyssey off of its list of nominees that year. Kubrick and his team won for the massive and still compelling special effects, but that’s it. Any way you compare 2001 and Oliver!, unless it’s amount of musical numbers, Dave Bowman and HAL 9000 should have taken the award and held it up as a monolith for future filmmakers to be influenced by. I’m willing to listen to the arguments of those who say the film is too slow, and that its opening takes too long to transition into the central narrative. And then I’d say those people were missing the point, and that sometimes a film can be an experience without bowing down to the standard three-act blueprint. I don’t know if it should have won the Best Picture overall, but the fact that 2001 wasn’t even up for debate is yet another sign of the Academy’s infallibility. – Nick