Thursday 25 April 2024

The Kaiju Extension Eligibility Society

Godzilla Minus One puts human-scale characters
in the foreground, while the kaiju casts a shadow
over their lives. (Image via
This spring, almost 70 years after the original hit cinemas, Godzilla Minus One became the first movie in its franchise to win an Academy Award, for best visual effects. By our estimation, this marks the first time since 2006 that an Academy Award-winning SFF movie did not also earn a Hugo nod.

It’s a perplexing omission. Written and directed by Takashi Yamazki, Godzilla Minus One is a compelling and nuanced take on the kaiju cinema subgenre. Using the monster itself as a metaphor for militarism, for cultural trauma, and for guilt, the director has crafted a beautiful allegory about the power of community and rebuilding.

The protagonist, Koichi, is a former kamikaze pilot who is wracked with guilt over his decision to reject a pointless suicide mission at the end of the Second World War, and is haunted by memories of
The team behind Godzilla were
so enthusiastic at the Oscars,
how can you not cheer them on?
(Image via

an encounter with a massive lizard monster that nobody believes he saw. Trying to rebuild his life in the ruins of bombed-out Tokyo, he finds meaning in caring for Noriko, a woman who has also lost almost everything in the war, and Akiko, an orphaned baby.

Godzilla Minus One is a movie about human characters whose lives are upended by forces beyond their control. Their struggles to rebuild against the horror of their past are exacerbated by an impressively imagined monster. Godzilla's appearances are more genuinely frightening because we were so invested in the lives of the people.

Enhancing this first-rate script is a subtle and thoughtful approach with the special effects, and action scenes that emphasize the terror such a monster could evoke. The train carriage scene might be one of the greatest moments in kaiju history.

During an era in which the Hugo Awards seem to be beginning to embrace an international mandate of a “World” Science Fiction Convention, there had been hopes that Godzilla Minus One
Warner Brothers (the studio run by
everyone's favourite CEO David Zaslav)
 forced Godzilla Minus One out
of the cinemas early, thus
limiting its audience in America.
(Image via Warner Brothers)
might become the first live-action Japanese movie to earn a nomination for the award.

The fact that Godzilla Minus One does not appear on the Hugo Award Ballot likely has to do with the fact that it was released late in the year, hitting cinemas in the United States on November 29, 2023. Although it opened as a wide release, it did not have the marketing budget of a movie like Dune or Spider-Man. And although it was relatively successful in the box office, it was pulled from distribution early because executives at Warner Brothers didn’t want a Japanese kaiju movie competing with the American kaiju movie Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire which opened a few weeks after Godzilla Minus One.

These are circumstances relatively similar to those in 1981 that prompted the adoption of WSFS rules that enable the business meeting to extend the eligibility of a movie. If you’ve not read our blog post on the subject, here’s the relevant clause of the constitution:

3.4.3: In the event that a potential Hugo Award nominee receives extremely limited distribution in the year of its first publication or presentation, its eligibility may be extended for an additional year by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the intervening Business Meeting of WSFS.

Given that Godzilla Minus One earned a respectable $56 million in North America, and was on more than 2,000 screens (compared to the English-language Godzilla x Kong, which made almost $500 million on 3,900 screens), it’s not exactly a clear-cut case that this movie was unavailable to Hugo nominators. Nevertheless, a compelling argument could be made that it was denied a fair shot at Hugo nod based on the studio shenanigans and the late-in-the-year release.

We’ll be putting forward an eligibility extension motion at this year’s business meeting. We hope you will support it, and consider it for the Hugo Award in 2025.

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