May 26, 2019

Hugos 2019: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form is "a dramatized production in any medium, including film, television, radio, live theater, computer games or music. The work must last less than 90 minutes (excluding commercials)." In practice, that's mostly meant episodes from TV series, with Doctor Who dominating. This year, there's a very intriguing entry that's a combination music video/short SF film...but we'll get to that.

My ballot:

7) The Good Place, "Jeremy Bearimy"

I simply cannot comprehend many Hugo nominators' and voters' continued affection for this mess. This show grates on me like coarse sandpaper. In the interest of fairness, even though I hated the two episodes that were nominated last year, I tried to watch this and had to turn it off fifteen minutes in. The only good thing about this episode was the title, which provides a fairly witty, rhyming new name for "looping time-travel shenanigans."

6) No Award

5) The Good Place, "Janet(s)"

The only reason this episode is (barely) above No Award is the actor playing the various Janets (Chidi, Eleanor, Jason and Tahani in Janet's guise), D'Arcy Carden. She alone made the thoroughly unpleasant--and in the case of Jason, cringingly dumb--four main characters slightly less unpleasant. (Also, the Void special effects were cool.) Carden gave a tour de force performance in this episode, and she should be nominated for an Emmy.

4) Doctor Who, "Rosa"

This retelling of Rosa Parks' showdown on the Montgomery bus line the night of December 1, 1955 suffers, I think, because of viewing it through a British lens. Jodie Whittaker, as 13, continues to be excellent, and there is a very good scene between Yasmin and Ryan where they talk about the difficulties they have as people of color in the present day. But the sight of the Doctor and her companions running around behind the scenes striving to make sure that history unwinds as it should
struck me as frantic and rushed, and in a way, cheapened Rosa's decision. This story deserved a more restrained, subtler episode, and this isn't it.

3) Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae

This is the unexpected, pleasant surprise of the category. I'm not now and have never really been into hip-hop and R & B, but this is a collection of music videos with a framing science-fiction story about a "Dirty Computer," or rather android, Jane 57821 (Monae) having her memories (the individual songs/videos) wiped one by one. Tessa Thompson, of Thor: Ragnarok and Sorry To Bother You, plays Zen, her love interest. Janelle Monae was also in Hidden Figures, one of my favorite films of the past few years, so I knew she can act. The Dirty Computer Emotion Picture can be found on YouTube, and it's well worth your time.

2) Doctor Who, "Demons of the Punjab"

This retelling of history comes off far better, because it's British history: the Partition, the dividing of India and Pakistan on August 17, 1947, seen through Yasmin's grandmother's eyes. There's a fascinating alien race introduced: the Thijarians, once master assassins and now witnesses to the dying, which includes Prem, Yasmin's grandmother's unknown Hindu first husband. There's some unpleasant, and deliberate, parallels drawn to today, where an artificial declaration of a border can turn neighbors and friends into enemies. This episode works from beginning to end, as "Rosa" doesn't.

1) The Expanse, "Abaddon's Gate"

I nominated the entire Season 3 of The Expanse for BDP-Long Form, so it's no surprise that this episode, for me, comes out on top. When I rewatched it on Amazon (where you can stream the first 3 seasons, and where Season 4 will air later this year), I was struck by the tightness of the writing and the suspense the story builds, along with the excellent performances (particularly from David Strathairn and Cara Gee--Drummer is just a boss). There were also some good character moments, especially the scene between Amos and Reverend Anna. The effects were top-notch, considering the first three seasons came out on Sy Fy. The final voiceover, from Holden, not only sets up next season, it centers the series on its human drama. I can't wait for Season 4, where, among other things, we will get to hear Chrisjen Avasarala in all her F-bombing glory.

(Next year, of course, Game of Thrones will be back--well, maybe, considering all the uproar over the final season--and I wish the Hugo powers-that-be would restrict this category to one episode per show. I mean, really: no Handmaid's Tale? No Westworld, or Man in the High Castle, or Haunting of Hill House? Come on, voters. There's life after Doctor Who and that other show I will not name, you know.)

No comments: