Good Job, Nerds: Celebrating the Science of Cinema

Everyone knows that the Oscars were held this past Sunday, with all the usual pomp and circumstance. While trying to be hip to appeal to younger demographics, there was no shortage of nods to the past, with giant sets depicting Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and other classic films. And while they actually skipped the segment where a speech is said about each Acting nominee, there was still a surplus of actors fawning all over each other – which makes sense; after all, it’s a celebration of the movie industry.

Did you know there’s another Academy Awards ceremony in the same month as the Oscars? The Scientific and Technical Awards are held a few weeks before the Oscars. It’s not just as simple as “these are the technical awards that wouldn’t fit in the broadcast;” the actual awards are a little different. Instead of competing against the films of just one year, the awards recognize pioneers in the general movie industry. A type of CG lighting first used in “Shrek 2” takes the CG industry demonstrably one step forward; the people who developed it get an award.

Without the people recognized at the Sci-Tech awards, the movie industry would not be where it is, for better and for worse. James Cameron is able to achieve his vision because of these people. Michael Bay is probably able to churn out more Transformers-lite films. Stunts with heavy props can be done safely. In terms of the actual process of making a film, the Sci-Tech recipients are the ones who redefine it.

On the night of the Oscars, after a brief segment describing the Sci-Tech Awards, James Franco deadpanned to the camera, “Good job, nerds.” Honestly, it was disheartening. Sure, it was a line that’s intended to be funny; sure, the Sci-Tech Awards are often referred to as the Nerd Oscars or the Geek Oscars (I’ve even done it in the past). And maybe Anne Hathaway, a musical theater geek and drama kid if I’ve ever seen one, could have pulled off the line better because she seems more like she’s “one of us.”

But even without the poor delivery, the throwaway line was uninspired writing and just plain sad. Typically, the Oscars are the mutual admiration society for the Hollywood set. People were crying with joy because Billy Crystal graced the stage for a few moments; they were gushing over Oprah. Neither the writers nor the hosts could muster up a little respect for people who directly influence the industry as a whole?

And I looked up James Franco, assuming he was one of those model-turned-actor pretty boys. He’s not. He’s supposedly quite a natural at mathematics; now he’s one of those pursue-your-craft type of actors. He should have known better.

However, it’s no secret that the Oscars were lacking in several respects this year. So let’s brush aside the insensitive delivery of a guy who looked like he was stoned anyway and take a moment to appreciate the Sci-Tech Award recipients, and others in their field – the ones who take us to galaxies far away, the ones who pioneer technology that enable the Robert Rodriguez wannabe to get started. The ones who have made technology not something that hinders or detracts from a production, but instead make possible to realize worlds never imagined. Without a trace of snark, I say, good job, nerds.

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