Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

In theory, this category can include just about any medium (TV series, Game, Street Performance) as long as it is longer than 90 minutes.  Disappointingly, it end up as the best movie category.  Given my scarcity of going out time, I generally only see films that appeal to my wife (horror), or my kids (superheroes), but this year that covered four of the six, and I watched Annihilation when it dropped on Netflix.  On the upside, this means that I only had to watch Sorry to Bother You to vote in the category, on the downside, a lot of these films are a bit fuzzy in my recollection.


A woman prepares to enter a breech in reality to understand what happened to her husband.

I quite like trippy sci-fi, and the ideas at play – a weird bubble, a random team of experts sent in, and a world where even reality seems to be mutating and hybridising are intriguing and beautifully realised on screen.  Unfortunately there was a self seriousness underling the whole set of affairs that I found dreary and unjustified, and an ending that was almost groan worthy.1

Pretty, Trippy, and just a bit too pretentious.

Avengers: Infinity War

Can Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stop a mad titan from remaking the universe?

Infinity war occupies a strange place in the Marvel Catalogue, on the one hand, it is the cosmic scale adventure we had been waiting for since the Guardians were added to the MCU, on the other it was the set up for Endgame, the true conclusion to the grand arc of the MCU.  When it services the grand adventure and captures it’s lighter tone (Thor meets the Guardians, literally any scene with spiderman) it is really great, when it wallows in darkness I found it less effective.  Still there is no denying that for as bloated as it is, it has some pretty grand action sequences,2 and the ending is absolutely devastating, with Tom Holland’s Spiderman genuinely bringing tears to my eyes.

An average SF action movie elevated by great characters and an impressive ending.

Black Panther

The new king of Wakanda must hold his throne and protect his kingdom.

In my nominating post, I argued that I was the wrong person to talk about how important Black Panther is, and I stand by that.  I will say however that Black Panther is the most important MCU film by so much it isn’t funny.  We have a fully realised Afro-futurism aesthetic, a predominantly black cast,3 and a plot that actually pays some deference to issues of colonialism and racial resentment.  All of which would be for nought if it wasn’t also a good superhero movie with great set pieces,4 a strong cast (particularly the supporting heroes) and fairly good pacing.

A very good superhero movie that is also an important one.

A Quiet Place

Be quiet, or the monsters will get you…

A world with monsters that will hunt you if you make noise sounds like a fun creature feature, but when you set it around an expectant family, it moves over to abject horror.  A Quiet Place is absolutely effective at everything it sets out to be, and while it is fairly predictable with a rather trite ending, the strong performance from Emily Blunt anchors the whole thing.

A quiet little ball of monster based suspense.

Sorry to Bother You

A black telemarketer finds his white voice, and is catapulted to the top of his field.

The most effective dystopias are not Mad Max hellholes, they are the present with a couple of tweaks.  Through the opening of Sorry to Bother You, it would be possible to miss the things that are different in the world, as the inequity present for our protagonist does not seem out of place with the real world.  Even the magical realism element of the character being dropped into the sales calls could be written off as a visual flourish, and once he becomes a power caller, the excesses a parody of the real world.  And I found this world extremely compelling, with the background and foreground elements working together to make an effective and funny commentary on racial and social inequality.  However Sorry to Bother You has one more arrow in its quiver, one that makes it a Hugo contender, and one that I won’t spoil.  Unfortunately for me I found this shift a bridge too far, taking a sandblaster to the themes of the film and smoothing off all of the interesting details.

An interesting comedy about inequality ruined by its SF twist.

Spiderman: into the spiderverse

Spiderman helps spiderman and spiderman and….

No film has captured the comic book aesthetic better than Into the Spiderverse.  It’s not just the action and the framing, which are incredible, but at some stage in watching, you will notice that the four colour dots around the edge of the frame are misaligned, and if you are anything like me, your heart will skip at the attention to detail.  While the plot is fairly rote multiple universe stuff, the genius of multiple spidermen is that there is literally one for everybody,5 and by placing it in an alternate universe, they get to put an interesting twist on all of the villains as well.  Into the Spiderverse even manages to do something interesting with the superhero origin story, which is ironic since Spiderman Homecoming was the superhero movie that proved you didn’t need to rehash the origin story of a well known superhero.

A spiderman for everyone.

Hugo Ballot

  1. Black Panther
  2. Spiderman: into the spiderverse
  3. Avengers: Infinity War
  4. A Quiet Place
  5. Sorry to Bother You
  6. Annihilation

I nominated Black Panther, and nothing on the list displaced it for me (though it was very close).  I also nominated Teen Titans Go To the Movies, and I stand by this, but a rewatch of Into the Spiderverse made me regret not just biting the bullet and putting all three great animated superhero movies from 2018 on my list.6 Filling the middle of the ballot we have two above average films in their respective genres, while Sorry to Bother you is two thirds of a great movie and one third of a disaster, while Annihilation is a beautiful exercise in false profundity.

  1. Interestingly I disliked the book as well, but I feel it didn’t work for different reasons to the movie.
  2. Though could somebody explain to the producers at Marvel how a battle actually works, something plaguing three recent marvel movies, two of which are in this category.
  3. With the token white hero literally occupying the role a token black hero would occupy otherwise.
  4. Though still the battle sequence was a bit of a mess – albeit a mess with battle rhinos.
  5. Schlubby Peter Parker is mine, while my eldest loved Porky Parker.
  6. Incredibles 2.

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