One could argue that the Academy just doesn't like sci-fi or fantasy (or horror, for that matter, since only six horror films have ever been nominated for Best Picture), given its track record with nominations. And while I've already wondered how a comic book film like Spider-Man: No Way Home didn't get nominated for Best Picture, the science-fiction film, Dune, was nominated just this year, and the fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King actually won Best Picture back in 2004. So, if those films could be nominated, it just raises this question for me: how did Ex Machina not get nominated for Best Picture back at the 2015 Academy Awards?
Because look, I get it. The Academy usually likes to play it safe by giving Best Picture Awards to musicals or war pictures. And you know the Academy loves its hard-hitting dramas (though, I've already discussed how Do the Right Thing didn't get nominated for Best Picture back in 1990). But, when a sci-fi film like Arrival is so good, or, well-received as was the case for Star Wars and Avatar, well, even the sci-fi shy Academy has to take notice. So, I beg this question again: Why the hell didn't Ex Machina get nominated for Best Picture back in 2015? It still bothers me to this day!
Why Ex Machina Should Have Been Nominated For Best Picture
Let me be clear. I may be a little biased when it comes to Ex Machina. Alex Garland, who wrote what I feel is my favorite comic book movie of all time in Dredd, made his directorial debut with Ex Machina, and it hit all the right notes for me. It's bleak and depressing, but it's also staggeringly close to where we're heading as a society when it comes to A.I. technology. Not only that, but it tells its story economically with a relatively tiny cast, but HUGE ideas. In a lot of ways, it feels like the best Black Mirror episode that never aired.
Not only that, but it's a message movie, which the Academy loves! Sure, A.I. is heading dangerously close to being so advanced that it will one day likely take our jobs, but, it also makes the point that maybe we want this to happen. Let me explain.
We sympathize with the main A.I., named Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, and we shake our heads at the playboy CEO, played by the brilliant Oscar Isaac. Not only that, but our protagonist, Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, acts as our gateway into this story, meaning, he's the one whose emotions we're supposed to be following and relating to. But, get this. He falls IN LOVE with the A.I. I mean, jeez! If that's not a reflection of our current state, given our addictions to our smartphones and the internet, then I don't know what is.
Top to bottom, Ex Machina is a masterpiece in cinema, and a film that was definitely worthy of being nominated for Best Picture back in 2015, especially when considered what it would have been up against.
What Else Was Up For Best Picture That Year?
Now, don't get me wrong. The nominees for Best Picture in 2015 were not bad. In fact, some of them were really good! There were eight out of a possible ten movies nominated for Best Picture in 2015 (I'll get back to that number in a sec), and those movies were: Boyhood, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash, American Sniper, Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Out of those eight films, Boyhood and Birdman were the two front-runners, with Birdman snagging the eventual trophy, which I definitely approve of since I think Birdman is one of the best movies of the past decade. Don't hate!
2015 was actually an interesting year for me since I managed to watch every movie that was nominated. And while I loved Birdman, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma, and Whiplash, I could probably do without the other three. But that's just it! I wouldn't even have to give up those three, as Ex Machina STILL could have been nominated for Best Picture, even with those three included. Because unlike this year where all 10 slots are filled up, there were still two empty slots available in 2015, and Ex Machina could have definitely filled one of them (and hell, Nightcrawler should have filled the other).
In that way, I think it's a crime that Ex Machina didn't even get considered for Best Picture when I guarantee that more people will remember that movie in 20 years than they'll remember The Theory of Everything or American Sniper. Foresight, people! Foresight!
What Ex Machina Did Get Nominated For
Now, it's not all bad, as not only did Ex Machina get nominated for 2 Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, and Best Visual Effects), but it even won the latter, which was perfectly justified since the humanoid robot STILL looks amazing to this day. So, at least it took home that trophy.
But, it was nominated for scores of other awards as well from other institutions. The Golden Globes nominated Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress, but she didn't win. That said, she did win at the Chicago Films Critics Association, where Alex Garland also nabbed the Most Promising Filmmaker Award.
The Toronto Film Critics Association also awarded Garland for Best First Feature, and Vikander won again for Best Supporting Actress from said critics. So, it's not like Ex Machina just got completely shut out during the awards circuit, since it definitely nabbed some victories. Still, why didn't it get nominated for Best Picture? Well…
So, Why Didn't Ex Machina Get Nominated For Best Picture?
Well, and just hear me out, but I don't think the Academy really likes "hard" sci-fi films. What I mean is, out of the very few sci-fi movies that HAVE been nominated for Best Picture (I count 10 with E.T., Star Wars, Avatar, The Martian, Inception, Dune, District 9, Arrival, Gravity, and Her), I'd say that a majority of them are "soft" sci-fi, in that they involve sci-fi elements, like aliens or dream machines, but not so much science fiction that could be relatively conceivable in the nearby future, which is what hard sci-fi is all about.
Of the films I mentioned, only The Martian, Her, and maybe Gravity really stand out as more "grounded" sci-fi, while the others are more concerned with spectacle than actual science. In that way, I think Ex Machina just might have been too cold of a sci-fi film (kind of like Children of Men) to be up for Best Picture, which is why, as great as it is, I think it was left out of the Best Picture race in 2015.
But what do you think? Do you love Ex Machina as much as I do? For more news on the 2022 Oscar nominations, make sure to stop by here often!
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.