Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Wow. The Ray Bradbury Prize nominees are so very different, it's anyone's guess who'll win this year. (Lucky for them that 3 Body Problem won't qualify until next year.) 

Established in 1992 to honour Ray Bradbury, the prize will be awarded at the Nebula Conference in California, on 9 June. Ray Bradbury himself won a Pulitzer Prize (2007). 

I've watched all the films and series up for the award this year - the nominees are:

  • Nimona, Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor, Pamela Ribon, Marc Haimes, Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Keith Bunin, Nate Stevenson (Annapurna Animation, Annapurna Pictures)
  • The Last of Us: “Long, Long Time”, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin (HBOMax)
  • Barbie, Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach (Warner Bros., Heyday Films, LuckyChap Entertainment)
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio, Chris McKay (Paramount Pictures, Entertainment One, Allspark Pictures)
  • Spider-ManAcross the Spider-Verse, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham (Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Avi Arad Productions)
  • The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli, Toho Company)

Nimona (only on Netflix):

The story of a monster who's monstrosized by monstrous humans, this animation of the web comic and graphic novel has wide appeal.

Nimona is destructive fun with a strong message about inclusion, and it made me cry (!) at one point. It's nicely designed, on a par with Dungeons and Dragons: full of action, angst and clever dialogue. It's also accompanied by a brilliant metal soundtrack.

Nimona's source text won the Slate Cartoonist prize for Best Web Comic and was nominated for the Harvey Award.

The film is true to Noelle Stephenson's vibrant illustrations, and Nimona's various incarnations, but changes up the story. In the comic Ballister Blackheart is actually a supervillain and the circumstances around the loss of his arm are different, but the story still revolves around his relationship with Goldenloin. There's a king, instead of a queen at stake in the comic and Nimona's backstory in the film is a bit different, but I can see why. 

I think it has a good shot at the win.

The Last of Us:

Catalogue record for The last of us season 1 on DVDBased on a role-playing game, The Last of Us TV series reminds me of T. Kingfisher's What Moves The Dead; a tribute to Edgar Allen Poe's obsession with fungi as a source of human animation. 

From minute one there's stomach-churning action and heartbreak. The planet has warmed to the point at which a fungus (cordyceps) is able to thrive in the human body, turning people into angry zombies.

Joel, who lost his daughter in the outbreak twenty years ago, accompanies teenager Ellie on an odyssey across the USA. Ellie is different: she may be able to help people beat the fungus. Joel, Ellie and the people they meet get under your skin, but don't get attached, because most people Joel and Ellie encounter end up dead.

A Long, Long Time (episode 3), is the episode nominated. This chapter has more up close-up views (and scares) of the zombie-humans: their faces blooming with fungus; resembling demogorgons from Stranger Things. Joel and Ellie are headed to the fortified village that Bill and Frank live in. Essentially this episode is Bill's story: a survivalist with the hell setup. He has a bunker under his basement and is armed to the teeth. 


Catalogue record for Barbie on DVDWho of us hasn't seen Barbie? Many fans were taken aback by Ryan Gosling's nomination for Best Actor, which appeared to snub Margot Robbie's fantastic characterisation of the doll we love to hate. Margot Robbie is one of my favourite actors. That stance would be to ignore the staggering amount of accolades and nominations for this movie?

Barbie's world is shaken when the worst happens - her heels touch the floor! Shock, horror. This sparks off an existential crisis: she's faced with choosing to return to her old, shallow life, or finding her truth in the real world. The fly in the makeup is Ken, who, going through his own identity crisis without Barbie, enacts a takeover to make Barbie Land more butch.

It's brilliant, with wonderfully recreated settings and costumes bright enough to give the viewer a headache, but it may be aced here by more sci-fi leaning voters.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves:

Catalogue record for Dungeons & Dragons: Honour among thieves on DVDI thought this was good, though many reviewers expected a more complicated plot. Not me, I expected excellent special effects and scenery, and got a movie I quite enjoyed.

Based on a RPG, the story is entertaining and funny with a good, emotive plot, a strong message about believing in yourself, and engaging, anti-hero characters, reflecting ordinary people who are role-playing. There's a harper, a sorcerer, a barbarian, a rogue, and a druid; on a mission to find the tablet of reawakening and the harper's daughter, who has fallen into the hands of a red wizard while he's been in prison for stealing.

The effects are good: the shapeshifting druid is pretty cool, with some excellent magical creatures and nice titling at the end - parchment and card made to look like a game board. Oh and Hugh Grant!

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse:

This incarnation of Spider Man is amazing viewing. From Marvel and Sony Animation, it's surreal, and includes a cameo from one of the most famous comic writers of all, Stan Lee. Miles is the first African-American/Puerto-Rican Spiderman, created in 2011. 

Catalogue record for Across the spider-verse on DVDMiles was bitten by a robot spider and is the central character/hero of Into The Spider-Verse. In this film he's 'not the only one' - he's one of many versions of Spidey in the Spider-Verse, and he joins a host of crime-fighting, web-spinning, vertigo-shunning wearers of the spider uniform.

The animation in this film is insane!

Remember the echo of layers of colour that you used to get in old comics? The film moves through formats, colours and shapes, at times recreating the look of an actual printed comic. Wow! At one point the scene resembles Sin City, with torrential rain coming down like lasers, while in another, the scene with Gwen and her dad, beautiful colours are dripping down the walls.

It also has great dance soundtrack.

The Boy and the Heron (Apple TV+):

The Boy and the Heron is possibly the most beautiful item on the screen. Created by Hayao Miyazaki, it's about Mahito, a boy who's taken to the world of the dead by a grey heron, to find his mother. The film, with a star-studded cast of voices including Mark Hamill, Christian Bale, Willem Defoe, Robert Pattinson and Florence Pugh, (Black Widow, Oppenheimer) is proof that 2-D isn't a dead format - it's been a hit on the film festival circuit.

A different kind of story on screen with a Christchurch connection

Last but not least, a wild card in the game writing section.

In game writing, New Zealand has a contender from Christchurch! Dredge has a very cool look with enthralling graphics. Players must catch different species and take them back to a store to gain points and upgrade their boat and tech. I'm not a gamer, but I'm kinda 'hooked'.

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