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Oscars from Space

Space and the Academy Awards

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Apollo 13 DVD: Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell - Oscars from Space - Space and the Academy Awards

Apollo 13: Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell Did Not Get Nominated for the Oscars

Universal Pictures
The Academy Awards, also know as the Oscars, haven't been very good to space. Since there have been a limited number of movies about actual space exploration, most films associated with space would be science fiction. While some of those may have received technical and special effects Oscars, there have been a limited number to receive or even be nominated for one of the main Academy Awards categories.

The Academy Awards (Oscars) have been around since 1928, but the first space related movie nominated for a major award didn't come until 1968. That film was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick was nominated for Best Director, but lost to Sir Carol Reed for "Oliver!" It would be nearly 10 years before another major nomination.

1977 was a good year for science fiction space related movies at the Oscars. "Star Wars" was nominated for Best Picture, while Obi Wan Kenobi, himself, Alec Guinness was in the running for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Meanwhile another science fiction film had some nominees. Melinda Dillon was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," while its director, Steven Spielberg was nominated against his friend, Star Wars director, George Lucas. The winners actually were:

  • Best Picture: "ANNIE HALL"
  • Best Supporting Actor: JASON ROBARDS in "Julia"
  • Best Supporting Actress: VANESSA REDGRAVE in "Julia"
  • Best Director: WOODY ALLEN for "Annie Hall"
Five years later, Steven Spielberg was back at the oscars with "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial," up both as Best Picture and Best Director. Unfortunately, it was not destined to happen. Best Picture of 1982 was "Gandhi" for which Richard Attenborough also picked up Best Director.

The following year, 1983, was an improvement at the Academy Awards, not in numbers, but in genre. A space related film which was not science fiction received nominations for major Academy Awards. The movie was "The Right Stuff," based on the Tom Wolfe book about the Mercury Project and the birth of NASA. That year, "The Right Stuff" was nominated for Best Picture while Sam Shepard was in the running for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager. "Terms of Endearment" nearly swept the Oscars that year, in this case taking Best Picture, Best Actress for Shirley Maclaine, Best Supporting Actor for Jack Nicholson, and Best Director for James L. Brooks.

The next year, Jeff Bridges's role as an alien in "Starman" failed to receive a Best Actor nod. That went to F. Murray Abraham in "Amadeus." However, 1985 was a great year for space in the movies. Don Ameche won Best Supporting Actor for "Cocoon," as one of a group of trespassing seniors who swim in a pool containing alien cocoons, then find themselves energized with youthful vigour.

The aliens weren't so friendly in 1986 when Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for reprising her role as Ellen Ripley in the sequel, "Aliens." The Academy voters weren't friendly to her either when they picked Marlee Matlin for "Children of a Lesser God."

It would be nearly another ten years before a space related film caught the attention of Academy Awards voters. This time it would be another true story. A marvelous film about an incredible adventure called "Apollo 13," was nominated for Best Picture. Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan were in the running for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. I thought it a shame that Tom Hanks did not receive a bid for Best Actor his role as Jim Lovell. Perhaps his wins the previous two years led the Academy Awards voters to look for new blood. Instead, Nicolas Cage won for "Leaving Las Vegas." "Apollo 13" didn't win any of the other majors, either, as "Braveheart" took Best Picture and Kevin Spacey and Mira Sorvino picked up Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars.

That was the last year that a space film was even nominated at the Academy Awards (Oscars). I think it's about time to change that streak. Let's see what happens this year.

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