District 9 (2009)
You can make an argument that Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut, District 9, could have won the 2010 Best Picture Oscar, but whether it should have is another thing entirely. It’s an uphill battle to contend that The Hurt Locker wasn’t a worthy winner. And just in case you forgot, that was also the year Inglorious Basterds was nominated as well, and who doesn’t like watching Brad Pitt kill Nazis? Then you have Precious, which I haven’t seen, but people seem to like; Up tugged at everyone’s heart strings; and sci-fi got a two-fer that year, because Avatar was also in contention. Was Blomkamp’s directorial debut really the top of this particular heap? That’s a matter of opinion and personal preference. Story wise, and thematically, there’s definitely a lot more going on here than in Gravity.
Like the best of the genre, District 9 uses the sci-fi framework to hold the mirror up to our own world. Drawing inspiration from South Africa’s decades-long era of apartheid, including segregation, forced relocation, and institutional racism, Blomkamp creates an action movie that doubles as a parable of xenophobia and prejudice. It works as both a fast-paced burner as well as movie with something to say. The combination of practical and digital effects, along with Blomkamp’s visual style, give the film a unique, fantastic look, and District 9 introduced the world at large to a totally rad and talented little guy named Sharlto Copley. That alone should be enough to garner a whole shelf full of awards. – Brent