The good news is that South African blockbuster District 9 has been nominated in the Best Motion Picture category at this year’s Oscars. The bad news is that it is up against the biggest grossing film of all time, the other alien blockbuster, Avatar.
District 9 also finds itself battling against Avatar in the category for Best Editing, as well as in the category for Visual Effects. The fourth nomination for District 9 is in the category for Best Adapted Screenplay (the film was based on director Neill Blomkamp’s short film).
The achievement is remarkable, given the film’s relatively small budget, and the cast of unknowns. But those hoping for a South African slice of Oscar glory may well be disappointed — Avatar, with its huge budget and innovative filmmaking techniques, has been hailed as a revolution in the art of film production.
District 9 also did its fair share of breaking the rules, proving that a sci-fi film can be made with a small budget, with viral marketing to thank for most of the pre-release hype and subsequent success. But winners in the technical categories (editing and visual effects) have usually been films with massive budgets, sometimes where new technologies were created to help the filmmaker translate his vision to the screen. Next to Avatar, District 9 might not stand a chance.
Avatar took the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama at this year’s awards, a category in which District 9 was not even nominated. Although it is common perception (and is usually true) that this award will predict the Oscar winner for Best Motion Picture, this is not always the case (from 2004 to 2007 neither the Best Picture Comedy nor Best Picture Drama winner at the Golden Globes won at the Oscars).
But even if Avatar does not go home with the top award of the night, in case the industry voters want substance over style, District 9 will have to impress more than films such as The Hurt Locker, Precious and Inglourious Basterds, all of which have been nominated for acting, directing and writing awards. It’s some tough competition.