Saturday, January 2, 2021

Fantastic and futuristic politics and government nominees at the Critics Choice Super Awards for National Science Fiction Day

Happy National Science Fiction Day! For this year's celebration, I'm looking at the nominees for the inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards, "a special event honoring the most popular, fan-obsessed genres across both television and movies, including Superhero, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror, Action and Animation." In particular, I'm writing about the nominated movies and television series that have themes of fantastic and futuristic politics and government.

I begin with the summary of the top nominees from the press release.
Hulu and NEON’s “Palm Springs” leads this year’s film nominees, with a total of five including Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie, Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie for Andy Samberg, Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie and Best Villain in a Movie for J.K. Simmons, and Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie for Cristin Milioti. Several films followed close behind with four nominations including “Birds of Prey” (Warner Bros.), “Freaky” (Universal), “Onward” (Disney+), “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount), “The Hunt” (Universal), “The Old Guard” (Netflix), and “The Willoughbys” (Netflix).
Other than "The Hunt," these movies are not explicitly about politics and government, at least as conventially understood. That means I'm only going to examine the categories where "The Hunt" and other action movies are competing. It didn't help that 2020 was an abysmal year for movies in theaters, so many of the nominees were released on streaming services instead, and that the nominations themselves came out in November, missing December releases.

On the other hand, television has a lot more nominees that examine politics and government, whether modern, fantastic, or futuristic (and sometimes two or all three at once, like the most nominated television series, "Lovecraft Country"), and those nominees are in all categories. This is the same phenomenon that induced me to write Politics and government on television at the 2020 WGA Awards for National Screenwriters Day last year.
“Lovecraft Country” (HBO) received the most television nominations, with a total of six possible wins, including Best Horror Series, Best Actor in a Horror Series for Jonathan Majors, Best Actor in a Horror Series for Michael K. Williams, Best Actress in a Horror Series for Wunmi Mosaku, Best Actress in a Horror Series for Jurnee Smollett, and Best Villain in a Series for Abbey Lee. Amazon’s “The Boys” received five nominations including Best Superhero Series, Best Actor in a Superhero Series and Best Villain in a Series for Antony Starr, Best Actor in a Superhero Series for Karl Urban, and Best Actress in a Superhero Series for Aya Cash.

Several performers received recognition for both their film and television work. Hilary Swank was nominated for Best Actress in an Action Movie and Best Villain in a Movie for “The Hunt” (Universal), as well as Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series for “Away” (Netflix), making her the most nominated individual. Maya Rudolph was nominated for Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie for “The Willoughbys” (Netflix) as well as Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series for “Big Mouth” (Netflix). Jurnee Smollett was nominated for Actress in a Superhero Movie for “Birds of Prey” (Warner Bros.) and Best Actress in a Horror Series for “Lovecraft Country” (HBO).
That's a good summary of the top nominees in both movie and television categories. Now to examine the individual categories with nominees that examine politics and government, both for their treatment of the subject and for my thoughts about how they will fare. I begin with the action movie nominees.

Bad Boys For Life (Sony)
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Extraction (Netflix)
Greyhound (Apple TV+)
The Hunt (Universal)
Mulan (Disney+)
The Outpost (Screen Media)
Tenet (Warner Bros.)
One of my continuing angles in writing these entries is examining the idea that electorates matter. The Critics Choice Association has educated tastes and will choose different nominees and select different winners than either the fans or the creators. I don't have an idea about how the movie creators will vote, as the Golden Globes, various guild awards for movies, BAFTA Awards, and Oscars have all been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I do know how the fans voted for the People's Choice Awards: "Bad Boys For Life was named the movie of 2020 even though it lost a subordinate award, the action movie of 2020, to Mulan...One probably shouldn’t look to the E! People’s Choice Awards for logic or consistency." As for the other nominees, "Extraction" and "Tenet" both earned People's Choice Awards nominations for The Action Movie of 2020 while "Greyhound" earned a nomination for The Drama Movie of 2020, losing to "Hamilton." With the critics voting, I expect the winner will be "Tenet" with "De Five Bloods" as my favorite to upset it.

That's just as well, because I consider the premise of the most overtly political movie nominated, "The Hunt," to be an indulgence of a revenge fantasy and expect the film to be a well-executed — pun intended — exercise in bad taste. I'd rather see "Da Five Bloods," "Greyhound," "Mulan," or "The Outpost," all war movies, win instead. Remember, the military is a branch of government and war is a kind of international politics.
Tom Hanks – Greyhound (Apple TV+)
Chris Hemsworth – Extraction (Netflix)
Caleb Landry Jones – The Outpost (Screen Media)
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Will Smith – Bad Boys For Life (Sony)
John David Washington – Tenet (Warner Bros)
Both Will Smith and Chris Hemsworth won People's Choice Awards for their roles, Smith as The Male Movie Star of 2020 and Hemsworth as The Action Movie Star of 2020. I don't think either will win here. The critics will prefer someone with more craft than star power such as Delroy Lindo, Caleb Landry Jones, or especially John David Washington, who is my choice to win. Of course, if they want both, they can vote for Tom Hanks. Remember, electorates matter.
Betty Gilpin – The Hunt (Universal)
Yifei Liu – Mulan (Disney+)
Blake Lively – The Rhythm Section (Paramount)
Iliza Shlesinger – Spenser Confidential (Netflix)
Hilary Swank – The Hunt (Universal)
I can't use the People's Choice Awards as a foil here, as none of these women earned a nomination there. Instead, I'll pick the nominee with the best track record as an award-winning actress, Hilary Swank, who is also nominated in the next category.
Jim Carrey – Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount)
Kathryn Newton – Freaky (Universal)
Martin Short and Jane Krakowski – The Willoughbys (Netflix)
J.K. Simmons – Palm Springs (Hulu and NEON)
Hilary Swank – The Hunt (Universal)
If the fans were voting, I'm sure Jim Carrey would win, but the critics are voting instead, so I think it will come down to Swank and J.K. Simmons for this award.

Follow over the jump for the television nominees.

I begin with the most realistic of the genre nominees for small screen shows, the action series.

9-1-1 (Fox)
Hanna (Amazon)
Hunters (Amazon)
S.W.A.T. (CBS)
Vikings (History)
Warrior (Cinemax)
My personal favorite is "9-1-1," which my wife and I watch as soon as it comes out on Hulu. If the People's Choice Awards had a category for action television, it would be competing with "S.W.A.T." for the honor. I don't think the critics will agree with that matchup. Instead, I expect they'll vote for either "Hanna" or "Vikings."

As for the political and government content, all of them have some except possibly for "Warrior," and even that's about justice, so I'm confident the winner of this category will have something interesting to say about the topics.
Daveed Diggs – Snowpiercer (TNT)
Andrew Koji – Warrior (Cinemax)
Logan Lerman – Hunters (Amazon)
Alexander Ludwig – Vikings (History)
Shemar Moore – S.W.A.T. (CBS)
Al Pacino – Hunters (Amazon)
I'm surprised that "Snowpiercer" has nominations for acting but not for the show itself and that it's here and not in science fiction/fantasy. Still, if it's like the movie, it explores most of the themes I examine on this blog — climate, sustainability, population, food, technology, and inequality — so it's a worthy nominee. As for who will win, my choice would be Al Pacino followed by Daveed Diggs. Shemar Moore would have a better shot at a People's Choice Award, but the fans aren't voting; the critics are. Electorates matter.
Angela Bassett – 9-1-1 (Fox)
Jennifer Connelly – Snowpiercer (TNT)
Esme Creed-Miles – Hanna (Amazon)
Mireille Enos – Hanna (Amazon)
Katheryn Winnick – Vikings (History)
Alison Wright – Snowpiercer (TNT)
My wife and I would vote for Angela Bassett, who won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her role in "9-1-1."
"9-1-1" may not be the most prestigious drama series, but it is a favorite of my wife and me. I think it's a fun and positive portrayal of public safety, both fire and police, in my old home town of Los Angeles. I'm glad Bassett won this award. Congratulations!
The critics might agree, but this is a very competitive field, where Jennifer Connelly and Alison Wright would have a good chance of winning so long as they don't split the "Snowpiercer" vote between them. The same could be said about Esme Creed-Miles and Mireille Enos for "Hanna." Katheryn Winnick of "Vikings" is no slouch, either.

Archer (FXX)
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Big Mouth (Netflix)
Central Park (Apple TV+)
Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)
The nominee that best exemplies "fantastic and futuristic government and politics" is "Star Trek: Lower Decks," which is a hilarious take on Star Trek during the time period of "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," "Voyager," and "Picard." While it may be my choice, I'm sure it won't be the critics, who I think are more likely to choose "BoJack Horseman," "Rick and Morty," "Harley Quinn" (the one member of the Critics Choice Association I know is likely to vote for this show), "Big Mouth," or even "Archer," in that order. Again, electorates matter.
Will Arnett – BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
H. Jon Benjamin – Archer (FXX)
Nick Kroll – Big Mouth (Netflix)
John Mulaney – Big Mouth (Netflix)
Jack Quaid – Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)
Justin Roiland – Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
J.B. Smoove – Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
My choices to win are John Mulaney, Will Arnett, and Jack Quaid, in that order.
Kaley Cuoco – Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
Tawny Newsome – Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)
Maya Rudolph – Big Mouth (Netflix)
Amy Sedaris – BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Aisha Tyler – Archer (FXX)
Jessica Walter – Archer (FXX)
Maya Rudolph won an Emmy for her role in "Big Mouth," so she's my pick to win this award, even though the one member of the Critics Choice Association is likely to vote for Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn. Amy Sedaris is more likely to upset Rudolph than Cuoco. As much as I like Tawny Newsome, she gets on my wife's nerves for being way too shouty in "Lower Decks."

The Boys (Amazon)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (The CW)
Doom Patrol (DC Universe and HBO Max)
The Flash (The CW)
Lucifer (Netflix)
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
My personal favorite is "The Boys," which is also the most political. It's also the superhero show most often mentioned in The top TV shows of 2020 according to IGN, WatchMojo, and IMDB, so I expect it would be the favorite to win. The other nominee that is most about government is "Lucifer," even if it's not really political. I think "The Umbrella Academy" would have a better shot at upsetting "The Boys," although my wife and I like "Doom Patrol" better.
Jon Cryer – Supergirl (The CW)
Tom Ellis – Lucifer (Netflix)
Grant Gustin – The Flash (The CW)
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)
Karl Urban – The Boys (Amazon)
Cress Williams – Black Lightning (The CW)
The best actors in this field are Antony Starr and Karl Urban, both from "The Boys." However, they might split the vote, letting someone like Tom Ellis, Grant Gustin, or Jon Cryer sneak past.
Melissa Benoist – Supergirl (The CW)
Aya Cash – The Boys (Amazon)
Diane Guerrero – Doom Patrol (DC Universe and HBO Max)
Elizabeth Marvel – Helstrom (Hulu)
Lili Reinhart – Riverdale (The CW)
Cobie Smulders – Stumptown (ABC)
I think Aya Cash from "The Boys" is the actress the critics will choose, although my personal favorite is Diane Guerrero, who displayed amazing range as Crazy Jane and all of her multiple personalities in "Doom Patrol." Melissa Benoist might win a fan vote, as she did in 2017, much to my annoyance, but I don't think she'll pull that off here. Again, electorates matter. So do selection criteria, which is why Lili Reinhart is here, even though she would win a game of "one of these things is not like the others." That's because of the asterisk in all the superhero series categories, which leads to the following footnote: "Superhero categories also include Comic Book and Video Game Inspired Series." "Riverdale" is a comic book series, which is why Reinhart earned a nomination here.

Evil (CBS)
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Lovecraft Country (HBO)
The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Supernatural (The CW)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
This is a quality horror field that shows well how electorates matter. If the fans were voting, the choices would be "The Walking Dead," "Supernatural," and "The Haunting of Bly Manor," in that order. I've been following and voting in the Saturn Awards long enough to know that "The Walking Dead" would clobber its competition in a fan vote. That's not how I expect the critics will vote. Instead, I think they will vote for the most nominated television series, "Lovecraft Country." It is very political, being the second speculative fiction program about America's history of racism to use the Tulsa Massacre as a pivotal event after "Watchmen," and encompasses not only horror but science fiction and fantasy as well. "Lovecraft Country" certainly is ambitious! As a result, it will probably eclipse two other worthy nominees, "Evil" and "The Outsider," both of which my wife and I enjoyed even as they scared us and both of which are paranormal police procedurals, even though the investigators in "Evil" work for the (Roman Catholic) Church, not the State.
Jensen Ackles – Supernatural (The CW)
Mike Colter – Evil (CBS)
Michael Emerson – Evil (CBS)
Jonathan Majors – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Ben Mendelsohn – The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Jared Padalecki – Supernatural (The CW)
Michael K. Williams – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
While my favorite is Mike Colter of "Evil," I think the critics will vote for Jonathan Majors of "Lovecraft Country." Both actors are charismatic, but "Lovecraft Country" is the better show. Also, I think Michael Emerson, who came to fame as Linus on "Lost," makes for a compelling villain and will draw off votes from Colter.
Natalie Dormer – Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (Showtime)
Cynthia Erivo – The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Katja Herbers – Evil (CBS)
T’Nia Miller – The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Wunmi Mosaku – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Victoria Pedretti – The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Jurnee Smollett – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Seeing Natalie Dormer from "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" among the nominees reminds that both she and the show were snubbed elsewhere. First, Dormer was not nominated for Best Villain in a Series, which she deserves. Second, big "Penny Dreadful" fan that I am, I think "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" deserved a nomination for Best Horror Series. On top of which, it examines the history of my old home town, Los Angeles, including a lot of politics and government, so it definitely fits the theme of this post. That written, I doubt Dormer will win. Instead, I think it's between Cynthia Erivo, who really impressed me in "The Outsider," and Jurnee Smollett, who was defintely the female lead in "Lovecraft Country" (Wunmi Mosaku played a supporting character). I'd vote for Erivo, but my second choice would actually be Katja Herbers of "Evil." She impressed me first in "Westworld" and continued to do so in "Evil."

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Outlander (Starz)
Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
Upload (Amazon)
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
I finally get to write about science fiction, the reason for today's holiday! I basically previewed the matchup between "Star Trek: Picard" and "The Mandalorian" in Star Trek vs. Star Wars — futuristic politics and government at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. In terms of total awards, "The Mandalorian" won with seven Creative Arts Emmy Awards. However, "Star Trek: Picard" took home its one Emmy, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special, in the only category where it was in direct competition with "The Mandalorian." Here, it finally gets to go head-to-head as a series. While it won in a technical category at the Emmy Awards, I think "Star Trek: Picard" and its sister show "Star Trek: Discovery" will lose to "The Mandalorian." That would be true no matter who voted, the fans, the creatives, or the critics. Sometimes, different electorates will come to the same decision.
Robbie Amell – Upload (Amazon)
Travis Fimmel – Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Sam Heughan – Outlander (Starz)
Kayvan Novak – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Pedro Pascal – The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Nick Offerman – Devs (FX on Hulu)
Patrick Stewart – Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
On the other hand, electorates would matter very much in this category. The critics like "Outlander" enough to nominate the show and its actors, but not enough for it to win. If it were up to the fans, the show and its actors would have good chances of winning, as Sam Heughan did at the Saturn Awards in 2019 and at the Gold Derby Awards this year, fighting it out with Pedro Pascal for this category. On the other hand, the creatives in Hollywood won't give "Outlander" the time of day. As I wrote in September, "The fans love 'Outlander.' The professionals, not so much."

Enough of this particular rant. While I would be thrilled if either Heughan or Pascal wins, I suspect the critics will vote for Patrick Stewart or Travis Fimmel of "Raised by Wolves." The latter might surprise a lot of fans, but not me.
Caitriona Balfe – Outlander (Starz)
Amanda Collin – Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Natasia Demetriou – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Sonequa Martin-Green – Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Thandie Newton – Westworld (HBO)
Hilary Swank – Away (Netflix)
Jodie Whittaker – Doctor Who (BBC America)
Just as I did for horror actresses, this category reminds me of three snubs for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series, "Away," "Doctor Who," and "Westworld." If the Critics Choice Association had different categories for science fiction and fantasy, two of them would probably have been nominated in science fiction, while "Outlander" and "What We Do in the Shadows" would be in fantasy along with "The Good Place," another snub. Still, I'm glad to see the actresses from those series nominated, setting up a close contest between Swank and Thandie Newton, with Amanda Collin a dark-horse pick to win.

Tom Ellis – Lucifer (Netflix)
Abbey Lee – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Samantha Morton – The Walking Dead (AMC)
Sarah Paulson – Ratched (Netflix)
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)
Finn Wittrock – Ratched (Netflix)
My first reaction to seeing Tom Ellis in this field was "Wait, Lucifer Morningstar is not the villain, but an anti-hero protagonist." Then I remembered that he's also playing Lucifer's brother Michael, who is the villain of the most recent season. After seeing both Lucifer and the previous season of "Supernatural," I've come to the conclusion that Michael is a jerk and that he's an example of Good Is Not Nice. That written, I don't think Ellis will win this category, either. Instead, I think it will be Starr of "The Boys" with Sarah Paulson, the title character of "Ratched," having the best chance of upsetting him for the trophy. In contrast, if the fans were voting, I'd say Samantha Morton's Alpha from "The Walking Dead" would win. Negan was evil, but he was charming in his own way. Besides, he actually believes in civilization and redeemed himself. There is nothing charming about Alpha, who has no use for civilization. This Crazy Eddie disapproves. Also, electorates matter.

That's it for today's post. Stay tuned for an entertainment angle for the year in Google search that I plan on using for Norther, which I promised in Farewell to 2020 from Vox, TODAY, and CBS Sunday Morning on New Year's Eve.

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