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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Are genre movies getting more respect these days, and if so, why?

Today’s question comes from reader doa766:

Why are Avatar and District 9 getting so much critical and awards recognition now when neither Aliens or Blade Runner got any when they were released?

is it because highbrow, art or oscar bait movies have decreased in quality? is it because of a generational and average age change on critics and awards institutions? or is it because critics/awards people back then were afraid of stand out, in the sense that they did think those movies were among the best of their respective years but it wasn’t proper at the time for a respected critic or award show to recognized them as such?

I think is the latter, I mean Avatar is great but Aliens is even better and back then the Academy nominating Weaver as best actress for Aliens was a way of saying “we know you’re movie is great but this is the best we can do if we want to be taken seriously”. Cameron is clearly one of the most talented director in Hollywood and yet he only received mainstream awards for Titanic. His more conventional (and non Sci-fi) movie.

I think doa766 hits on it with his comment about generational change. The critics reviewing movies today are, in large part, those who were teenagers when Alien, Aliens, and Blade Runner were new and fresh and exciting. And so we were primed to see District 9 and Avatar as something more than “mere” genre films, as science fiction and fantasy have generally been dismissed as. (The same might be true of all the love critics lavished on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) I suspect it’s a symptom of the overall geeking of our culture.

To boil it all down: Are genre movies getting more respect these days, and if so, why?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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