With the Academy Awards coming up this weekend, prognosticators and fans who enjoy making awards season predictions probably already have their choices in the can. It seems like La La Land is the shoe-in to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar this year, but a couple of other films still have a shot at swooping in and taking home the top prize. Moonlight is a favorite among many, and Hidden Figures has been carving itself a campaign since its triumph at the SAG Awards. But I'm here to make a plea for another of the nine Best Picture nominees to win on Sunday night: Arrival.
I know I'm grasping at straws here. As predictions show, Arrival has basically no shot at winning Best Picture, as it tends to rank far behind La La Land, Moonlight, Hidden Figures and several more on most lists. But I believe that it should win. Between the fantastic performance from star Amy Adams, the movie's deep emotional core, the gorgeous cinematography, the interesting sound, and the utterly compelling story, Arrival has everything that a Best Picture winner should have. But mostly, I'd like to see the movie win because it would give the science fiction genre a much-needed prestige boost. Though a decent number of sci-fi films have been nominated for Best Picture in recent years (more on that later), no sci-fi movie has ever won. An Arrival win would be a total game changer.
Based on the short story Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, Arrival focuses on Adams' character, Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist, who is tasked with trying to find a way to communicate with the enormous, tentacled, alien creatures inside pods that have landed on Earth. As the aliens "speak" to the humans in circular images from behind a cloudy glass wall, Louise must decipher and interpret their language before hasty humans take actions that may lead to catastrophe. It's a highly intellectual sci-fi film in the vein of Contact, and one that has a much different approach than many other alien invasion films. Arrival also address issues of the military industrial complex, feminism, international relations, and communication differences between genders. So it's not just a riveting alien thriller, but a deep, smart drama.
Arrival's nomination for Best Picture put it in an ever-growing club of recent science fiction nominees. In 1977, Star Wars was the first sci-fi movie to be nominated for Best Picture. But other than 1982's E.T., the genre wasn't really considered for the category until the Academy decided to increase the number of films nominated for Best Picture back in 2009. Since then, movies like District 9, Inception, Gravity, Avatar, The Martian, and Mad Max: Fury Road, among others, have earn nods for the most prestigious category. Alas, none have nabbed the award.
But the increased number of sci-fi films being nominated for Best Picture isn't just the result of the raised allowance of nominees. Sci-fi films seem to legitimately be getting better in recent years, with some entries into the genre, like Arrival, being truly great. Even more, science fiction movies are the most anticipated films of 2017, according to a recent report released by Rotten Tomatoes, so clearly, both audiences and critics are embracing these movies more than they used to. Hopefully, this will mean more awards nominations will come rolling in, and that one of these films will finally land that shiny, bald, Best Picture trophy.
I'm not kidding myself here in thinking that Arrival has a shot at making that happen this coming weekend, but my sci-fi loving self can hope. I'm eagerly anticipating the day when a fantastic science-fiction film finally wins Best Picture. Hey, no fantasy film had ever won before The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, so it's bound to happen for my favorite genre at some point. Until then, I'll cry out this last case for Arrival and sci-fi cinema in general, and hope that the movie's recognition encourages more filmmakers to explore this excellent genre.