The all-time geekiest Oscar triumphs
Recent history shows geek culture has gone mainstream.
Movies that appeal to the geek in all of us have traditionally had a tough time winning respect at the Academy Awards – for instance, did you realize that Stanley Kubrick's landmark sci-fi film "2001" wasn't even nominated for Best Picture in 1969? But recent history has shown a growing appreciation for the role of both geeks and geek culture within Hollywood, as sci-fi, fantasy and superhero movies have garnered several high-profile Academy Award nominations and wins that were so elusive throughout the first four decades of Oscar history. In this slideshow we'll look at the geekiest Oscar triumphs of the past 35 years, from "Star Wars" all the way to "The Social Network"!
1978: A landmark year for geeky films at the Oscars
The '78 Oscars are best remembered as the year that "Star Wars" broke through as the first big-time sci-fi film to be nominated for Best Picture. Although "Star Wars" didn't win any of the major awards, it did rack up wins for art direction, film editing, visual effects, costume designs and original score. The 1978 Oscars weren't only geeky because of "Star Wars," of course, as Steven Spielberg got nominated for Best Director for his "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and longtime on-screen nerd Woody Allen won the Best Director statue for his work in romantic comedy "Annie Hall."
1995: Martin Landau wins Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Ed Wood"
Prior to Tim Burton's critically-acclaimed biopic, not many people had ever thought much about Ed Wood, the schlocky Z-movie film director who helmed such anti-classics as "Glenn or Glenda" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space." But Martin Landau's 1995 Oscar win for his role as a washed-up Bela Lugosi in "Ed Wood," as well as the rise of the cult TV show "Mystery Science Theater 3000," helped catapult 1950s b-movies to our national consciousness.
2002: "A Beautiful Mind" wins Best Picture
While the focus on "A Beautiful Mind" is on a brilliant man's struggle with mental illness, it is also the first Best Picture winner to have a famous math geek as its leading man and protagonist. Legendary mathematician John Nash, who is played in the film by Russell Crowe, is most famous for giving us the Nash equilibrium, a game theory solution concept in which no individual player can gain advantage over other players by unilaterally changing strategy (we experience an obvious example of this equilibrium when driving to work every morning, since we stand nothing to gain by unilaterally driving on the left side of the road in the face of oncoming traffic).
2004: "Lord of the Rings" wins Best Picture
In what is so far the biggest win yet for geek culture at the Oscars, the conclusion to Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy walked away with the Best Picture trophy. The Oscar was a terrific payoff for the hard work that Jackson and his crew put into the three films, which were all filmed consecutively without breaks. The three "Lord of the Rings" films have since become the most beloved trilogy of geeky films since the original "Star Wars" trilogy was in its heyday.
2009: Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor as the Joker
If sci-fi and fantasy films have faced a long road toward Oscar respectability, films based on comic books have had it even tougher as no comic-inspired film has yet to be nominated for Best Picture. But the late Heath Ledger's unforgettable performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight" was just too good for the Academy to ignore and Ledger's posthumous Oscar marked the first time a comics film had won one of the major awards. Ledger's family graciously accepted the award on his behalf during the ceremony.
2009: Roger Corman wins a lifetime achievement award
Roger Corman was a legendary figure among sci-fi and horror fans as he produced or directed dozens of B movies over the course of a career that has now spanned five decades. Although Corman classics such as "Attack of the Crab Monsters," "A Bucket of Blood" and "Gas-s-s-s" were never Oscar-worthy on their own, the Academy recognized their collective worth in 2009 when they awarded Corman a lifetime achievement award "for his rich engendering of films and filmmakers."
2011: "The Social Network" nabs eight nominations
Who would have thought that a semi-factual account of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's career would become one of the most compelling films of the year? But screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher masterfully crafted a movie that added high drama to the art of code writing and got nominated for eight Oscars in the process. Whether the film wins Best Picture or not, "The Social Network" is a huge step forward for geekdom's place in Hollywood.