Mon
Feb 25 2013 12:10pm

How Science Fiction (Kind Of) Saved the Oscars

Signaling that we are finally, officially, living in the future, last night’s 85th Annual Academy Awards was simply broadcast as “The Oscars,” forever shucking those cumbersome extra words and numbers. Hosted by nerdy/raunchy Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane, this glitzy Hollywood version of the Super Bowl was full of surprises, a bit of controversy, and a few truly special moments. And other than a totally unexpected eleventh hour appearance from First Lady Michelle Obama, the main thing you couldn't see coming was the way in which geeky SF/F really permeated the whole event. In fact...is it possible that the entire Oscars ceremony was really one big science fiction movie?

Here are the geeky highlights from last night’s Oscars.

Captain Kirk Actually Traveled Back in Time to Save the Whole Show

No matter where you fall on the just-how-offensive-was-Seth MacFarlane issue (let’s get serious, the guy isn’t exactly known for safe/tasteful humor), he did converse with the original Captain Kirk at the beginning of the show! As MacFarlane began his opening monologue, a familiar voice said “Enterprise to Earth!” and then Kirk (played by William Shatner, sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise-A) spoke to the Oscars crowd...from space! Kirk claimed to have traveled back in time to prevent MacFarlane from “ruining” the broadcast, and presented several different alternate-universe headlines, as well as detailing the various missteps MacFarlane was poised to make. So, essentially, the entire Oscars took place in several different alternate universes, as glimpsed through the eyes of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Adding a touch of legitimacy to this was the fact that the official Star Trek Twitter account pointed out that Shatner was indeed wearing his uniform from Star Trek: Generations, which was the last time he legitimately played Captain Kirk! So...does that make the 2013 Oscar ceremony a direct sequel to Generations? 

 

Harry Potter and Robin/Time-Traveling Young Bruce Willis Danced Like Fancy Gentlemen

In response to Shatner’s warning about performing tasteless musical numbers, MacFarlane performed a classy bit of soft-shoe with an ensemble of talented rug-cutters, featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt front and center! Now, we already know there were some time-travel paradox shenanigans snaking their way through these Oscars, but Harry Potter dancing with the Looper-version of Bruce Willis, who is also the future Robin the Boy Wonder? Minds = blown.

 

The Avengers Assembled (On Stage Together)

After a jab from MacFarlane about the Avengers getting shafted by the Academy, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jeremy Renner took to the stage to present the awards for both Cinematography and Visual Effects. Sadly, The Avengers themselves didn’t get to receive an award presented by themselves, and there was some bizarre bickering between Nick Fury/Samuel L. Jackson and Tony Stark/Robert Downey, Jr. Is it possible that they were in character? Or was it just weird?

 

The Jaws Theme Played People Out

This year's Oscars was structured around a thematic tribute to “music in the movies,” and as such, random movie themes played throughout the night, sometimes at rather odd moments (the Jurassic Park theme playing during the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was probably the most unintentionally funny: humane treatment of dinosaurs, anyone?) But the best use of movie music in the ceremonies was when the John Williams famous Jaws theme attacked the award winners if their acceptance speeches ran on too long. The audience seemed offended by this, but Jeremy Renner (along with some of us watching from home) found it hilarious. It could only have been better if Land Shark had shown up and physically grabbed anyone who talked too long....

 

The 50th Anniversary of Bond

While all the Bond actors DID NOT appear on stage together as rumored, the Oscars delivered something slightly better: Halle Berry (employing a well-placed, if somewhat inevitable, Pussy Galore joke) introduced a tribute to the music of James Bond, which culminated in Dame Shirley Bassey performing “Goldfinger.” This naturally elicited a standing ovation and proved, once again, that Bassey is a musical badass for the ages. And while I sort of wish she would have sung her other two wildly unpopular songs—“Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker”—the appearance of Bassey, showing all the kids how it's done, was stirring.

 

A Solid Prometheus Joke Which We Thought Might Have Been True

At one point MacFarlane quipped before a commercial break: “Up next the cast of Prometheus explains what the hell was going on there.” Some of us thought that was going to really happen. So sad it didn’t.

 

The John A. Bonner Special Effects Medal Was Not Presented As Part of The Actual Show

Well, is anyone shocked? To be fair, the montage celebrating special effects was pretty cool.

 

Adele Sang “Skyfall”—and then “Skyfall” Won for Best Song.

Even though Dame Judi Dench was ignored for a Best Supporting Actress nomination (seriously?), Bond fans did get spoiled by this year’s Oscars, first by Shirley Bassey's epic number, and then when Adele took the stage. The bubbly singer’s performance was about as cool and spot-on as you can imagine, and topped off triumphantly when “Skyfall” won the Oscar for Best Song. Adele was ridiculously cute as she attempted to accept the award. Her tears were totally genuine, proving what everyone already knows: we all wish Adele was our best friend.

 

The Dominance of Argo

The Ben Affleck-directed film won Best Adapted Screenplay and then, in a live video appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama herself, it was awarded Best Picture! The fact that Argo cleaned up at the Oscars is heartening, not only because it’s a fantastic and entertaining film, but also because it’s also a story about how science fiction literally helped save people’s lives.

Briefly, if you haven't seen the film: in 1979, CIA agent Tony Mendez collaborated with Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers to create a fake science fiction movie to act as a cover story for the attempted extraction of U.S. hostages from Iran. In real life, the Argo script was based on Lord of Light (which was based on the Roger Zelazny novel of the same name). Mendez’s Hollywood collaborator—John Chambers—also managed to enlist several science fiction heavyweights in the “making” of Argo, including Ray Bradbury and Jack Kirby. And while not all of these SF details made it into the film, the notion that this fantastical sci-fi tale served as vehicle that enabled people to escape capture and even death is truly inspiring. Argo itself might not be a science fiction movie, but it's certainly one that champions the importance of the genre.

Also, the acceptance speech from Ben Affleck was ridiculously heartfelt. We forgive you for Daredevil, Ben! Thanks for Argo!

From Kirk to Potter to Adele to Obama, this year's Oscars were a wild ride. The question now is: what universe are we living in? The one where MacFarlane took Captain Kirk’s advice...or not? And what does Chris Pine think about all this?

Bonus: Crushable noticed several memebers of the Malfoy family WON Oscars last night. Behold.


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com and really wants to see Les Miserables.

11 comments
Brenda H
1. Brenda H
Technically you can consider Argo to be a science fiction movie - an alternate timeline of the actual historical events. :P
Alex Brown
2. AlexBrown
Of course, there was also the pervasive boredom, incessant bad jokes, and rampant misogyny, so I don't know that I'd go so far as to call the 2013 Oscars "saved"...
Brenda H
3. Jason Malcolm Stewart
Argo was an "SF" movie? Really? Eeek... We are streching here. And whatever you think of McFarland's brand of humor, saying he represents SF fandom is a scary idea.
Ryan Britt
4. ryancbritt
@2 + 3
I personally don't care for McFarland, nor have I been able to watch more than 2 minutes of Family Guy without leaving the room. But, I liked that he brought in Shatner as Kirk. And in no way do I think he represents anything but himself.

Also at no point do I claim Argo is an SF movie, but it is PRO SF.
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
"...the guy isn’t exactly known for safe/tasteful humor."

That'd be my fix to that sentence. The Von Trapp joke was funny, but it didn't make up for "lol straight white dudes are at the top of an asymetrical power structure, lol" which on top of everything, wasn't funny. I don't give him a pass for "we knew he was going to be grindingly banal in his offensiveness" because we knew it, rather I just think that means the producers share the blame.

Luckily, JLaw is magic.
Brenda H
6. liontime
Since without the Canadian embassy and its' staff, The six Americans would have died there, this is definitely alternate history science fiction. Not much related to the facts but Americans regularly change the facts to suit themselves anyway and since we know this it doesn't matter.
Chris Nelly
7. Aeryl
The one that bugs me the most, aside from the sexualization of a 9 year old, is the boob song, because a several of those shots are depicting sexual assault, but her her, BOOBZ!
Brenda H
8. cpj
In regards to the oddness with the Avengers moment, their "argument" (many are not sure whether it was faked or not) was in regards to the protest by vfx artists that was at that moment happening just a litle ways from the Oscars.

At a time when the highest grossing movies at the box office are vfx spectacles, the vfx industry itself is currently in a state of crisis, and is failing. With many pressures from such things as under bidding, incredible pressure from the studios, globalization, and unlike the rest of the industry, a lack of union representation (just to name a few of the issues), vfx houses and the industry are failing as we speak.

One example is Rhythm and Hues which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy, even as they won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. When movies such as Life of Pi makes hundreds of millions of dollars, many feel there is something seriously wrong with the current structure when the companies that make these types of movies possible are going out of business. The artists united to protest this, in an attempt to start to change things. The Avengers cast were alluding to this "Let's just give them the Oscar" and move on, but either through a lack of preparation or odd writing, it came off as very confusing to most people, and plain insulting to the artists.

There is talk online about what happened, but this is a very good explanation of these issues and that night (much better than I could ever hope to):

http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/195pwe/vfx_protest_at_oscars_hundreds_of_visual_effects/c8l9mjr
Brenda H
9. cpj
In regards to the oddness with the Avengers moment, their "argument" (many are not sure whether it was faked or not) was in regards to the protest by vfx artists that was at that moment happening just a litle ways from the Oscars.

At a time when the highest grossing movies at the box office are vfx spectacles, the vfx industry itself is currently in a state of crisis, and is failing. With many pressures from such things as under bidding, incredible pressure from the studios, globalization, and unlike the rest of the industry, a lack of union representation (just to name a few of the issues), vfx houses and the industry are failing as we speak.

One example is Rhythm and Hues which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy, even as they won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. When movies such as Life of Pi makes hundreds of millions of dollars, many feel there is something seriously wrong with the current structure when the companies that make these types of movies possible are going out of business. The artists united to protest this, in an attempt to start to change things. The Avengers cast were alluding to this "Let's just give them the Oscar" and move on, but either through a lack of preparation or odd writing, it came off as very confusing to most people, and plain insulting to the artists.

There is talk online about what happened, but this is a very good explanation of these issues and that night (much better than I could ever hope to):

http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/195pwe/vfx_protest_at_oscars_hundreds_of_visual_effects/c8l9mjr
T C
11. Freelancer
As history becomes more accurately revealed, we'll be wanting for forgive Ben Afleck for Argo much more than for DareDevil.

The most notable fiction of the night, as has been true for more than twenty years, is the concept of integrity in the Academy. Pictures win for politics, not performance, message, not quality. Both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty (I hate that I must type that title, nobody who ever served in the military says it that way), take extreme dramatic license, then foist their product as docudramas. PFFFFT.

Shirley Bassey was definitely for real. Next most real was Dustin Hoffman taking advantage of proximity to Charlize Theron. I could hear Groucho Marx; "Any closer and I'll be behind you."
Brenda H
12. natestera
FreeLancer has the right of it. Having uttered it any number of times, usually unhappily when it was O-dark-thirty and I was getting on transport plane or helicopter... Jeez, and they named it that? I thought they had military advisors and such...?

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