Oscarthon: Best Picture- District 9

A ten part series on the Best Picture nominees, structured around four basic questions.

Part 3: District 9

Was It Any Good?

For a largely unheralded August action-flick, it was pretty awesome. It starts out in the very trendy as-of-late documentary format- like a big-budget episode of The Office, only about the inner workings of the Alien Affairs department of MNU.

Copley was a welcome surprise, bringing gravitas to what sounds like it could be a very campy role- that is, (spoiler) slowly transforming into an alien. The aliens are well-realized CGI, with what sounds like a language all their own. Sure, the reasons they were there, leaderless, and unable to leave for the entire time were sketchy and unexplained, but it was worth it to get compelling extra-terrestrials who don't actually look that human for once (unlike James "she's gotta have tits" Cameron's attitude in Avatar).

The second half devolves into a splatterfest, sure, but if you can stomach it it's pretty emotionally satisfying. And the ending is the first Obvious Sequel Set-Up that's excited me in quite a while.


Would I See It Again?

Check, and check. There's not a whole lot to be gleaned on repeat viewings, but it's still compelling and fun. The calibre of the nominations it recieved speak clearly to its quality: Picture, Editing, and Screenplay.

I'm on board for the DVD, and a potential District 10.

What Did It Acheive?

First, the budget: District 9 proved you can match things like G. I. Joe by spending just $30 Million, if you spend it wisely, and tell a smart story.

But here's the thing: I like this film a lot on its merits, but I wasn't taken by the political allegory. Yes, it parallels the events of apartheid, in particular the mass eviction from "District Six." But it doesn't really have much to add.

It has some clear bad feelings about xenophobia and government reliance on corporate militias, but not much beyond that those things suck.

And the racial undertones are a huge mixed bag- why are the aliens, the stand-in for the black population of the apartheid era, explicitly described as aimless, unintelligent, and worker-drone types? Why are the Nigerian gangs violent, voodoo-practicing cannibals?

But still, when the big ship started to move, I was like "Awe. Some." And I was at rapt attention.

Will I Remember It Years From Now?

And then some. If nothing else, it corrected my tragic lack of knowledge about South Africa under apartheid (yeah, I bet I'm not the only one to Wikipedia it right after getting out of the theater. Just saying.).

It's a shame that it's clearly not a player in Picture, Visual Effects, or Adapted Screenplay next month, and it would be a huge upset for it to win Editing. But this is the kind of thing people were excited about the expansion to 10 nominees for in the first place: the oddball films about aliens and things that normally get forgotten.

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