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- Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
- Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
- Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
- Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
- Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
- Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)
For me, this category splits into neat groups of two:
5&6 – just above No award: Deadpool and Ghostbusters.
Deadpool was fun and a great attempt at making a film that matches the character’s quirks and humour. However, it was nothing really remarkable – a funnier, bloodier, more sex-positive take on the superhero genre amid a large number of superhero films.
Ghostbuster was, for a remake of a well-loved film, fresh and competent and funny. Kate Mckinnon’s Holtzmann added some extra zing. But…well it was a remake and it didn’t really do anything startlingly new story wise. Fun but not special.
I’d put them both above No Award but only just – not because they were bad films but because I think we can demand better of SF filmmaking. Yes, I’m cool with remakes and more comic book characters getting on screen but for awards, I want to see more challenging stuff.
3&4 – good but not great: Rogue One and Stranger Things.
Rogue One took a war film sensibility and applied it to Star Wars and came up with a thrilling space adventure. A moving, if inevitable, ending added depth beyond the main Star Wars family-themed plot.
Stranger Things also delved deep into the late 20th -century nostalgia mines and found gold, precious metals and a portal to the vale of shadows. A great cast and some creepy scares all combined for some great television.
Both really enjoyable and great examples of how working within established genre constraints can still lead to clever, fresh-feeling dramas. But can the bar be set higher? Yes, it can.
1&2 – I just can’t pick between: Arrival and Hidden Figures.
Arrival was a solid SF film with a clever mix of concepts. The structure was cleverly executed to bring home the theme of beings who don’t perceive time was we do. Despite the time messing, the film avoided feeling intentionally confused. Really good stuff. More films like this, please.
Hidden Figures, on the other hand, fictionalised real events around space travel. Part sitcom, part triumph-over-adversity, part nerds sciencing the shit of things, what was there not to love about this film? OK, Kevin Costner’s white saviour bit maybe was less lovable.
I really can’t pick between these two. Original, well acted and focused on very plausible scientific characters using their minds to engage with things beyond the mundane world.