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Oscars Wrap-Up, Plus More on China


Because I am caring and responsive and also because it’s easy when I’m on a deadline, I go through reader e-mail to answer questions. This week, the questions hearken back to two previous columns, one on the Oscars (which were awarded on Sunday, in case you live under a rock) and the other on China. Oscars first:

Any thoughts on the Oscars results this year?

Well, depending on whether you consider Hugo and Midnight in Paris to be science fictional and/or fantasy films, this was either a really good year or a really bad year for the genre.

If you remember from my Oscar-nominations column, I don’t really consider either film to be science fiction or fantasy films in the way that Avatar, Inception, District 9, or the Lord of the Rings films were, so it was hard to claim them for the nerd tribe. If you think as I do, then not only do Hugo’s five
Oscars not count for the genre, they actively blocked the few science
fiction and fantasy films on the slate this year, beating Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes in various technical categories. In which case: Boo, Hugo! Boo!

But on the other hand I will note that my exclusion of Hugo and Midnight in Paris
from the realm of science fiction and fantasy may be a minority view.
One piece of evidence of this: The members of the Science Fiction and
Fantasy Writers of America, the largest such organization in the known
universe, recently nominated both Hugo and Midnight in Paris for its Bradbury Award,
which honors films in the genres. If professional science fiction and
fantasy writers consider these films to be science fiction and fantasy,
it says something.

(Now for some irony: I am the current
president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Which
means my constituency is opposed to my position! Uh-oh.)

If you,
like the members of SFWA, accept these two films as science fiction
and/or fantasy, then, wow, did the genre rock the Oscars this year, with
six wins in impressive categories including Cinematography (Hugo) and Best Original Screenplay (Midnight in Paris). In which case: Yay, Hugo (and Midnight in Paris)! Yay!

Despite my professional role as a cheerleader for the genres, I’m not going to convert post-Oscars to considering Hugo and Midnight
science fiction/fantasy films. I do think it’s wonderful that great
filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen are comfortable with
fantastical tropes when it comes to films (of course Woody Allen’s
played with such tropes before, with Sleeper and Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo),
but I don’t think in either case the films were considered science
fiction or fantasy by the Academy voters. They were a family film (Hugo) and a romantic Woody Allen comedy (Midnight), with some fantastical flavorings. I’m OK with you telling me I’m wrong, however.

Next, the China question:

With your article about China and movies last week, it seems like you’re saying that China will start telling American movie studios what films to make.

Well,
no. One, I don’t think China has any interest in doing that. Two, even
if it did, I don’t think it would be stupid enough to do it overtly.
Three, it doesn’t have to tell studios what to make and what not
to make. If an American studio has decided that it needs to sell a film
in China, it’s going to factor in China’s requirements as a matter of
course — just like if a studio decides that a film needs to be PG-13,
it’ll make sure the script is devoid of F-bombs and nakedness. The only
time China itself will get involved is when the filmmakers submit the
film for consideration to be shown in the country. By that time the
filmmakers will have tuned the film to be as acceptable as possible.

Which
is to say that China doesn’t have to say anything; Hollywood will check
itself. And that already happened, even before China made this most
recent shift in foreign film policy. Note this Los Angeles Times story from last year about how the upcoming remake of Red Dawn
— shot in 2009 and held up because of studio issues — shifted its
communist invader from China to North Korea. No one cares about
offending North Korea, or selling movies there. China? They care a bit
more.

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