Sense of Wonder: The Last Airbender is no Avatar, and it's time to boycott bad 3-D

The Last Airbender (2010) and Avatar (2009)
M. Night Shyamalan owes audiences an apology. Paramount pictures owes viewers a refund. Not for the overall defectivness of THE LAST AIRBENDER (although there is that). Rather, they owe us for the abominable 3-D presentation, which costs consumers an extra $4 per ticket – money that could be far more entertainingly used by bending it into origami torture devices and inserting into the vulnerable anatomical areas of those responsible for the post-production 3-D conversion.
THE LAST AIRBENDER is the current bete noir of those who prefer their 3-D films shot that way, rather than retrofitted after the fact. Like the upcoming THE GREEN HORNET, Shyamalan’s film was shot in standard 2-D, then converted, because 3-D makes everything better – or, rather, it allows theatres to charge more for the allegedly premium viewing experience. Never mind that the results are haphazard, sometimes lacking depth, at other times stretching the anatomical proportions of a shoulder to that of a mountain range. And the polaroid lenses darken the image by one or two stops, diminishing the sparkle of the cinematography. Far from a premium experience, THE LAST AIRBENDER ends up looking as if it were being projected in a second-run theatre striving to save on projector bulbs by turning down the illumination.
Why would a distributor foist such a defective product on paying customers? Hollywood has jumped on the 3-D bandwagon in a big way since James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster AVATAR blew through the international box office, earning billions worldwide. Fortunately for viewers, AVATAR was actually shot in 3-D, and the difference is stunning in its clarity and depth, helping to immerse viewers in the on-screen action. Unfortunately for viewers, the extra dollars earned by charging more for 3-D screenings tempted Hollywood to cash in, regardless of quality, with last-minute 3-D conversions for ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CLASH OF THE TITANS. THE LAST AIRBENDER – which, ironically, is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon series titled AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – is simply the latest example, and it is an understatement of Godzilla-size proportions to say that LAST AIRBENDER is no AVATAR.
Sadly, if atrocious 3-D conversions continue, audiences might revolt against being ripped off for higher prices that do not deliver higher quality, and we could see the third wave of 3-D come to a premature conclusion, just as similar waves died out in the 1950s and 1980s. That would be a disaster, because today’s 3-D technology is capable of offering viewers something better than they have ever seen before; it simply needs to be done correctly.

The letters "3D" were removed from most posters due to the lack of specially equipped theatres.
The "3D" was removed from most posters due to a lack of specially equipped theatres.

Although the current 3-D craze flew onto the Hollywood radar with AVATAR, it actually launched considerably earlier. Cameron has long been advocating for an industry-wide shift to 3-D, and so has Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose DreamWorks Animation recently released HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and SHREK FOREVER AFTER in 3-D. Two years ago, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH was originally titled JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH IN 3-D, until it became apparent that the lack of 3-D theatres would require that most engagements be in 2-D; unfortunately, the film was so bad that 3-D was almost the only appealing thing about it. The far superior  CORALINE (2009) also used 3-D to enhance its fantasy world, adding depth to the texture of its stop-motion puppets and miniature sets.
Meanwhile, a couple of modestly budgeted horror films put 3-D to good use last year: MY BLOODY VALENTINE and THE FINAL DESTINATION opted for the old-fashioned gimmick of tossing objects out of the screen; pick axes and shrapnel seemed to fly right into your face, providing a cheap but very entertaining thrill, not all that different from the ping-pong ball that seemed to bounce under your nose in HOUSE OF WAX back in 1953. What is different is that the new digital 3-D offers a pristine picture, unmarred by double images, blur, or any of the other problems that used to plague stereo-vision movies of yesteryear.
3-D is being adopted today for the same reason it was in the past: as a way of luring audiences back into theatres. In the 1950s the enemy was television; in the 1980s it was the new home video market. Now we have DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, streaming, iPods, etc. – all of which pose a threat to theatrical distribution. Widescreen high-def television sets can offer a great home viewing experience, but the glory of IMAX 3-D is still available only in theatres. However, Hollywood needs to learn a lesson from the past.
Though technically primitive, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN made great use of 3D
Back in 1973, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN made great use of 3D

The two previous 3-D waves lasted about a year each: 1953 and 1983. In each case, the novelty of 3-D wore off quickly, marred by bad movies and eyestrain. There have also been sporadic attempts to use 3-D as a gimmick in exploitation films like THE STEWARDESSES (1969). ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN (a.k.a. FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, 1973) offered X-rated nudity and gore by the boatload, which raised the question of whether 3-D might inherently be most appropriate for lurid subject matter. Certainly, the 3-D Frankenstein film (which was actually written and directed by Paul Morrissey, with an assist from Antonio Margherti) made some of the best use of the process ever; the entrails and organs dangling in front of viewer noses heightened the absurd nature of the campy storyline in a way that no 2-D presentation could match.
The conventional wisdom became that 3-D was a gimmick; even if the technical issues could be resolved, it was not appropriate for “serious” films. For many years, few filmmakers even attempted it, outside of theme park attractions like CAPTAIN EO, motion-simulation rides, and IMAX short subjects like SIEGFRIED AND ROY’S THE MAGIC BOX. Because these short films were presented in at most a handful of specially designed theatres, the quality of the 3-D could be maintained in a way that was not possible for a nationwide release screened at the local multiplex. For years, it seemed that this was all 3-D would ever be.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-DThat changed thanks to new digital technology. Whether or not you swoon at the sight of a pick ax flying into your face, or burning shrapnel exploding out into the audience, you have to admit that MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s 3-D and THE FINAL DESTINATION proved that all the old problems had been; each film looked as good as – or better than – the best 3-D ever seen. Even though they still required polaroid lenses, the image was clear, sharp, and bright; you didn’t suffer from mismatched brightness for the right eye versus the left eye (as happened with the red-green glasses used for the 3-D sequence of FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, for example). In short, this and other recent 3-D films proved that the process could be viable for a nationwide release, with a presentation in your local theatre that could equal the viewing experience previously achieved only in a specially designed venue for something like TERMINATOR 2 3-D.
With high-quality 3-D now seemingly within the grasp of even modest filmmakers, the equation has shifted. It’s no longer a matter of smacking thrill-seekers in the face with a few objects popping off the screen. The beautiful sense of the depth, coupled with the ease on the eyes, allows for opportunities to fashion more subtle movies, in which the stereo-vision simply makes the movie seem more real, as if you are looking through a window upon another world. 3-D can be more than an exploitation gimmick; it might turn out to be a tool used to enhance many different kinds of stories, not just ones emphasizing sex and violence. At very least, the potential seems to be there, if creative filmmakers can seize it.
3-D conversion, however, is another matter – a last-minute effort to layer a phony sheen on a film not designed for it (even if you can add depth, you cannot retroactively create sequences designed to showcase the third dimension). Advocates selling their processes claim their results can be as good as or better than films shot in 3-D, and there are cases that yield good results . Computer-generated movies – which exist only in the virtual realm anyway – can be digitally retooled to create double images for the left and right eye, yielding a convincing sense of depth even if the films lack gimmicky images of objects flying off the screen. Also, the 2006 3-D conversion of Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) looked beautiful: something about the stop-motion figures and sets lent itself to the process; the added depth made them seem even more tangible.
Live-action, however, turns out to be a less successful mad scientist’s experiment, one that creates results as mis-shappen as any Frankenstein monster. There are reports of blockbusters like STAR WARS, TITANIC, and KING KONG being converted to 3-D with great results, which we should be seeing in upcoming re-releases. However, the few post-AVATAR examples we have seen do not bode well, failing to deliver results that would justify the extra expense.
3-D separate the image with bizarre results in CLASH OF THE TITANS
3-D yielded bizarre results in CLASH OF THE TITANS

CLASH OF THE TITANS presented what looked like flat figures cut out and separated into foreground, midground, and background; when depth did appear, it cold be grossly out of proportion, as when Ralph Fiennes’ hair seemed to be floating about a food behind his head. THE LAST AIRBENDER often looks flat. Worse, it looks so dingy that removing the polaroid glasses often improves the viewing experience; much of the live-action appears without the double images necessary to create the separation between left eye and right eye that is necessary for 3-D. In short, you would be better off paying for a 2-D screening and saving yourself the extra bucks.
And extra bucks is what this is all about, really. Hollywood has been advocating for tiered ticket prices for over a decade, hoping to charge more for their more lavish blockbusters, and 3-D finally has finally given them the excuse they need. But is this a good idea? If theatres charge more, audiences have a right to expect more – and the films had better deliver all the flash of a supernova.*
Instead, we find ourselves in a situation where little local theatres are charging more for a premium experience that is far from premium. This is, to put it bluntly, a rip-off, and viewers should boycott future 3-D conversions until someone proves they can deliver the depth and visual immersion of genuine 3-D. While I’m on the topic of rip-offs: if you attend an “IMAX” 3-D presentation at your local multiplex, the chances are that you are not seeing true IMAX, which requires a phenomenally large screen and steep, stadium-style seating, which can only be achieved in a specially built theatre. But calling it “IMAX” allows the theatres to charge even more, ripping you off twice as much.
AVATAR delivered the spectacle that justified higher ticket prices.
AVATAR delivered the spectacle that justified higher ticket prices.

Genuine 3-D is worth the extra money – if the film itself is good. The same can be said of genuine IMAX. A combination of the two, applied to a great film, offers the kind of spectacle that deserves to be called “premium viewing.” If Hollywood wants to lure viewers back into theatres, away from their iPods and digital downloads, they need to offer the real deal – good films designed for 3-D from the ground up – not bad movies polished up with an artificial sheen that does nothing to hide their underlying faults. To use 3-d that way would be to repeat the mistakes of the past, and if Hollywood is too stupid to self-correct their own destructive course, then we need to send the studios a message: We will pay premium prices for films that truly deliver a premium experience, but not for a ghastly imitation.

  • In a sense, there used to be a tiered system: decades ago, blockbusters were rolled out gradually, first appearing in exclusive, months-long engagements in lavish movie palaces with higher ticket prices, while smaller studio productions and independent films moved more quickly into the less expensive local theatres. Even when Hollywood started releasing everything nationwide on opening weekend, there was still a sort of self-selecting form of tiered pricing: viewers were more likely to drive to an expensive downtown theatre to see LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOW SHIP OF THE RING than to see HOSTEL 2.

'Avatar' Takes 10 Saturn Awards covered the 36th Annual Saturn Awards ceremony last light in L.A.
James Cameron’s AVTAR was the big winner, walking away with TEN of the Awards from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. saturn-award

2010 Saturn Award Winners

Best Science Fiction Film: AVATAR
Best Fantasy Film: WATCHMEN
Best Horror Film: DRAG ME TO HELL
Best Director: James Cameron (AVATAR )
Best Writer: James Cameron (AVATAR)
Best Actor: Sam Worthington (AVATAR)
Best Supporting Actor: Stephen Lang (AVATAR)
Best Supporting Actress: Sigourney Weaver (AVATAR)
Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Saorise Ronan (THE LOVELY BONES)
Best Music: James Horner (AVATAR)
Best Costume: Michael Wilkinson (WATCHMEN)
Best Make-up: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow (STAR TREK)
Best Production Design: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg (AVATAR)
Best VFX: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones (AVATAR)
Best International Film: DISTRICT 9
Best Animation Film: MONSTERS VS. ALIENS
Best Television Series: LOST
Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series: BREAKING BAD
Best Presentation on Television Series: TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH 
Best Actor on Television: Josh Holloway (LOST)
Best Actress on Television: Anna Torv (FRINGE)
Best DVD Television Release: LOST (Complete Fifth Season)
Best DVD Special Edition: WATCHMEN: The Ultimate Cut
Best DVD Collection: STAR TREK Original Motion Picture Collection
Best Local Stage Production (Fantasy/Musical): MARY POPPINS (Ahmanson Theatre)
Best Local Stage Production (Play/Dramatical Musical): PARADE (Mark Taper Forum)
Best Local Stage Production (Small Theatre): FELLOWSHIP: The Musical (Ahmanson Theatre)
The Visionary Award: James Cameron
The George Pal Memorial Award: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
The Producers Showcase Award: Lauren Shuler Donner
The Life Career Award: Irvin Kershner
Best DVD Release : Nothing But the Truth


This reminds me…  I really need to actually see AVATAR.

Avatar director talks environment on Earth Day

James Cameron on the set of Avatar
James Cameron on the set of Avatar

James Cameron, whose 2009 hit AVATAR raised the ire of conservative critics for its pro-environment message, has given an interview to Politico, in which he discusses the issues that inspired him to make the film. I know the conventional wisdom among elite science fiction fans is supposed to be that Cameron is arrogant and full of himself, but he makes a lot of sense in the interview, focusing not on himself or his films but on the bigger political issues.

Cameron was in town last week, along with “Avatar” star Sigourney Weaver, to testify on Capitol Hill about various issues, including a proposed dam project in Brazil. He also met Barack Obama for the first time — the president said he and his family enjoyed the 3-D movie.
“Oh, yeah, he was highly complimentary about the film,” Cameron said, nonchalantly. “That’s great, but it’s just a movie. … Does it engender some rise in consciousness at a national and international level? It remains to be seen.”
Speaking of the mega-grossing 3-D movie, Cameron hopes that it can serve as a business model for others.
“Look at ‘Avatar’: It’s good for the environment and it’s good for the economy,” said Cameron. “That’s the paradigm that we all need to look towards. The Republicans have created this concept that you can either have a healthy economy or you can work on the environment — but you can’t do both. You have to choose between them — but you don’t! … What’s good for energy and what’s good for the environment is ultimately going to be good for the nation.”


Cameron Talks Avatar 2 Ideas

Director James Cameron
Director James Cameron

The LA Times have been talking to James Cameron (AVATAR, ALIENS) on the eve of the AVATAR DVD release, due to hit shelves tomorrow (which also happens to be international Earth Day). During the interview Cameron lets some vital AVATAR  sequel plot details slip and confirms the theatrical re-release of AVATAR is arriving this summer.

Cameron on his plans for an AVATAR trilogy,

“We created a broad canvas for the environment of [the] film. That’s not just on Pandora, but throughout the Alpha Centauri AB system. And we expand out across that system and incorporate more into the story – not necessarily in the second film, but more toward a third film. Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment – a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rainforest”.

This is an interesting approach for a sequel to take and could even better the visual beauty on display in the original film. It should also be a good fit for Cameron as the director has been obsessed with the ocean throughout his career, having extensively dealt with the aquatic in films such as THE ABYSS, TITANIC and ALIENS OF THE DEEP. He also spoke about his plans to shorten production time for the sequels,

“The challenge on the next Avatar is to do what we did before at half the price and in half the time. Again, that’s an impossible goal, we won’t accomplish that, but if we can reduce by 25% in both categories, we’ll have really accomplished something.”

Cameron is well known as a man who likes a challenge and reducing his budget and production time by half, or even a quarter, would be very hard task for films of this scale. If he manages to pull it off it’d be very impressed. On the planned re-release of AVATAR,

“We’re working on finishing an additional six minutes of the film – which includes a lot of Weta work – for a theatrical re-release in August. We were sold out of our Imax performances right up to the moment until they were contractually obligated to switch to Alice In Wonderland, so we know we left money on the table there.”

This news, on the other hand, is far less encouraging. Does AVATAR really need a re-release? And all for the sake of just six extra minutes of running time? This seems like a pointless exercise in making yet more money from the film to me, and it suggests Cameron is getting rather greedy in his old age.
Both AVATAR sequels are a long way off yet but stay tuned into Cinefantastique Online for all updates on the world of Pandora.

“We’re working on finishing an additional six minutes of the film – which includes a lot of Weta work – for a theatrical re-release in August. We were sold out of our Imax performances right up to the moment until they were contractually obligated to switch to Alice In Wonderland, so we know we left money on the table there.”

Laserblast April 22 DVD & Blu-Ray: Avatar arrives for Earth Day

click to purchase
click to purchase

This is a rare week during which Laserblast blasts your way not once but twice. Why this strange anomaly in the space-time continuum? Because unlike during the other 51 weeks of the year, not all of this week’s DVD and Blu-ray discs are coming out on Tuesday. Arriving two days later than the rest of the pack – on April 22, to be exact – is James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster AVATAR. The home-vid debut was delayed to coincide with Earth Day – an appropriate date for the ecologically-themed science fiction. The film will be available in DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, these discs will be extras-free, allegedly to conserve space needed to maintain optimum picture quality. Needless to say, some sort of “ultimate edition” is being prepped for November, which will include all the bonus features being omitted here. Although no date has been announced, a 3-D version is expected sometime later. recently revealed some of the bonus features that will be appearing in the November ultimate edition release:

This four-disc edition will include a brand-new two-hour documentary on making Avatar, as well as unused additional scenes from the movie, which Weta Digital is now working on.
The additional scenes involve the Na’vi school run by Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), and Jake’s training as a Na’vi.
Many of the bonus features in the ultimate edition will appear in the intervening months through the Avatar Program at using a unique code found inside the Avatar Blu-ray/DVD.

Empire hands out awards to Avatar, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes

For her performance in AVATAR, Zoe Saldana won the Empire Award for Best  Actress.
For her performance in AVATAR, Zoe Saldana won the Empire Award for Best Actress.

This weekend, England’s Empire magazine handed out their annual Empire Awards. Unlike many other awards that are not targeted only at horror, fantasy, and science fiction, the Empire Awards honored several genre films. AVATAR won in three categories: Best Picture, Best Director (James Cameron), and Best Actress (Zoe Saldana). The J.J. Abrams redo of STAR TREK took home the award for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film. SHERLOCK HOLMES was tops in the Best Thriller category. and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was named Best Horror Film (the honor seems a little late for a 2008 movie, but I guess the wonderful Swedish vampire film did not reach the U.K. until last year).
I’m always leery of awardst hat offer multiple Best Picture categories. Its as if the voters cannot make up their minds, and so they just hand out as many statues as possible. It also leads to the slightly silly result that AVATAR – obviously a science fiction film – wins for Best Film but not for Best Science Fiction Film. Oh well, if that gives the well-deserving STAR TREK a win in the later category, I guess that’s a good thing.

Sense of Wonder: Cameron bites back at conservative critics

Back in January, I wrote a little editorial (“Conservatives Carp at Avatar“), in which I noted that right-wing “thinkers” and gone off the rails with specious and downright silly arguments about percieved faults with the themes in James Cameron’s blockbuster film. Months later, I see that Cameron has finally fired back, during a press conference to promote his film’s April 22 DVD release (on Earth Day, appropriately enough). According to this article in the NZ Herald, Cameron called Glenn Beck a “madman” and a “f-cking asshole,” to boot.
While some might object to the angry language, I think it’s nice to see Cameron standing up for himself. Too often, well-intentioned liberals restrain themselves, abiding by a self-imposed sense of fair play that is not shared by the other side. And to be honest, Beck is at least a kook, if not a madman.
Unfortunately, the article by Guy Adams frames the story as a temperamental director lashing out against his critics, without addressing the merits of the arguments. Instead, Adams tries to present Cameron as having been assailed from all sides of the political spectrum, which necessitates identifying the New York Times’ David Brooks as being “on the left” – which is, frankly, a ridiculous assertion to make about a Bush apologist. (I guess the fact that Brooks smiles a lot instead of breathing fire, is what makes him pass for left-wing in Adams’s view.)
After finishing with Beck, Cameron remained in fine form as he moved on to global warming skeptics:

He declared his desire to “call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads,” before reflecting that his best efforts at persuasion would be futile because such people “have got their head so deeply up their ass I’m not sure they could hear me.”
“I didn’t make this movie with these strong environmental anti-war themes in it to make friends on the right, you know…”

Extras-free Avatar DVD coming in April notes, with understandable skepticism, that Fox Home Entertainment’s April 22 Blu-ray release of AVATAR will be entirely extras free, allegedly in order to conserve space on the disc. Of course, the space problem will be solved by November, when an “ultimate edition” (presumably loaded with bonus features) will hit stores in time for the Christmas shopping season. And at some yet-to-be-named date, a 3D version will arrive.
You don’t have to a conspiracy theorist to agree with Linda Holmes suggestion that the release strategy is deliberately designed to get fans to pay three times for the same film: once in April because they can’t wait, once in November because they want the bonus features, and once more in the future because they want to see it in 3D.

Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction at the 2010 Oscar Show

AVATAR took home three Oscars at the 2010 ceremony.

Despite multiple nominations, genre films take home only a handful of technical awards.

Going into Sunday evening, the 2010 Academy Awards presentation had ample opportunity to break with their standard tradition of snubbing horror, fantasy, and science fiction films in all but technical categories: two major films, AVATAR and DISTRICT 9, had been nominated not only for Best Picture but also in other top categories, such as Direction and/or Screenplay. However, when the dust settled and the wins counted at the end of the night, it was the same-old story, with cinefantastique shut out of all but a handful of categories: science fiction and fantasy films wound up with a total of six Oscar statues, almost all of them in technical categories:

  • The genre’s “big” winner was AVATAR, which earned the nod for Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects.
  • UP took home the gold twice, for Animated Feature and for Music
  • Finally, STAR TREK took home the statue for Makeup.

Genre fans could perhaps take some solace by noting that the evening’s Best Picture winner, THE HURT LOCKER, was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who helmed the effective cult vampire film NEAR DARK back in 1987. Bigelow made history last night by becoming the first female director to win an Oscar.
One towering figure in the realm of horror, fantasy, and science fiction was honored on Oscar night, though not in the way he fully deserved. Producer-director Roger Corman (THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND) was among four winners of a lifetime achievement award. Unfortunately, in its infinite wisdom, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had handed out these awards at a smaller ceremony last November. All we saw last night was a few, short video clips, followed by a brief shot of Corman sitting in the audience (well, at least they invited him to the big show).
For fans of cinefantastique, the highlight of the 2010 ceremony was the tribute to the horror genre. NEW MOON co-stars Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart introduced the segment by noting that horror, although a perennially popular genre, has not been honored by the Oscars since THE EXORCIST took home two statues back in 1974. One could quibble with this factoid (it all depends on whether you include Oscar-winners like ALIEN and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in the “horror” genre), but the essential point is a good one.
Below is a complete list of the genre’s winners at the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony:

  • Up: Pete Docter


  • Avatar: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg (Art Direction); Kim Sinclair (Set Decoration)


  • Avatar: Mauro Fiore


  • Star Trek: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow


  • Up: Michael Giacchino


  • Avatar: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones

For the complete list of 2010 Oscar winners, click here.

2nd Annual Wonder Awards Winners

Zoe Saldana is the Wonder Awards choice for Best Actress, in the Best Pic winner, AVATAR.
Zoe Saldana is the Wonder Awards choice for Best Actress, in the Best Pic winner, AVATAR.

It’s Sunday, March 7, and everyone is wondering what the winners will be. Well, wonder no more, because here are the official winners of this year’s Cinefantastique Wonder Awards. Oh sure, other people are tuning into the Oscar telecast to see whether Sandra Bullock takes home an Academy Award, but for aficionados of horror, fantasy, and science fiction cinema, the Wonders are the awards that really matter, because they offer a chance to recognize great films that are often denied Academy Award nominations because of their genre affiliation.
Of course, this year is a bit of an exception, because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated two science fiction films for Best Picture, AVATAR and DISTRICT 9, along with one animated fantasy, UP. With several other Oscar nominations in technical categories, the genre has at least a fighting chance of winning some recognition from Academy voters.
Nevertheless, the Wonders are the true measure of achievement in the genre, voted on by experts with a life-long love of horror, fantasy, and science fiction – and more important, voted on by those imbued with that all-important Sense of Wonder.



  • James Cameron for AVATAR


  • Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchll for DISTRICT 9
  • Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (story by Docter, Peterson & Thomas McCarthy) for UP


  • Saoirse Ronan in THE LOVELY BONES


  •  Robert Downey Jr in SHERLOCK HOLMES
  • Sam Rockwell in MOON


  • Vera Farmiga in ORPHAN


  • Jackie Earle Haley in WATCHMEN






  •  Henry Selick for CORALINE


  • Mauro Fiore for AVATAR


  • James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivki for AVATAR


  • Michael Giacchino for STAR TREK


  • MOON