Fritz 2020: Best Interfaces

The movies nominated for Best Interfaces manage the extraordinary challenge of being believable and helping to paint a picture of the world of the story. They advance the state of the art in telling stories with speculative technology. The nominees for Best Narrative are I Am Mother, Spider Man: Far From Home, and Men in Black: International.

The winner of the Best Interfaces award for 2020 is Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

In the second 2019 nominee movie from the MCU, Peter Parker fails to have a normal summer studying abroad in Europe. He witnesses what he thinks are elemental monsters wreaking havoc on popular tourist cities, and a new superhero named Mysterio fighting them. Over the course of the film, Parker and his Scoobys discover the terrible truth before defeating and exposing the real bad guy. In the end, Parker learns to accept Tony Stark’s legacy, and then has his secret identity rudely outed.

Technology is at the very heart of this plot. And while it could have played out with lots of gee-whiz wiggling-chart nonsense, Far from Home puts in the work to make the interfaces believable, germane to the plot, and still pretty amazing. Sensational. Spectacular, even.

When you watch the film again, keep an eye out for Mysterio’s drone tracking screens, the solid comedy with the trigger-happy AI Edith, and even the lovely suit-design tools that echo Iron Man from over a decade before, and you’ll see why the film is nominated for Best Interfaces of the year.

You can watch Spider-Man: Far From Home online at Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and with subscriptions at Hulu and Starz.


I would love to extend my congratulations to all the studios who produced this work, but Hollywood is complicated and nothing makes it easy to identify exactly who is to credit for what. So let me extend my congratulations generally to the nominees and winners for an extraordinary body of work. Here’s looking to the next year of sci-fi cinema.

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Fritz 2020: Audience Choice

All of the movies nominated for other awards were presented for an Audience Choice award. Across social media, the readership was invited to vote for their favorite, and the results tallied. The winner of the Audience Choice award for 2020 is Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame is an indie feelgood about a group of friends who go rock hunting together. Just kidding, of course. Endgame is the biggest box-office movie of all time, earning 2.67 billion dollars worldwide and bringing to climax 11 years of filmmaking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story happens after Infinity War, where Thanos did “the snap” that disintegrated half of all life in the universe. Endgame sees the remaining Avengers build a time travel device in order to “undo” the snap, and along the way resolve some longstanding personal arcs.

Interfaces don’t get as much screen time as they have in preceding films, but the ones we do see are lovely. They include some elegant gestural interfaces, like when Thor snaps a gag onto Loki’s mouth, or the Iron Gauntlet that automagically reconfigures itself to fit Hulk’s massive fist. The interfaces even craft emotional beats, as when Thor successfully reclaims Mjolnir from the past. No really, I sniffed.

One of the most subtle feats of the film is how it builds on the groundwork laid in the preceding 21 movies. It doesn’t need to take pains to explain the heads-up display that smoothly guides Avengers as they freefall through the quantum sponge, because the audience will almost certainly have seen the Iron HUD before.

Endgame’s interfaces help tell the story of heroes using every tool at their disposal to defeat one of the MCU’s worst, most Malthusian villains.

You can watch Avengers: Endgame online at Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and Disney+ via subscription.


Congratulations to the designers, the studios, and the production companies.

Fritzes 2020: Best Narrative

These movies’ interfaces blow us away with wonderful visuals and the richness of their future vision. They engross us in the story world by being spectacular. The nominees for Best Narrative are Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, and Captive State.

The winner of the Best Narrative award for 2020 is Captive State.

Captive State

After an alien occupation, most of humanity falls in line with the oppressors. But not everyone. Captive State tells the story of a resistance movement bent on freeing humanity and saving the earth from ruthless alien capitalists.

The interfaces in the movie show how “the Legislature” (as the aliens are called) and their human lackeys manage to keep humanity oppressed with drones and tracking “bugs”, as well as the scrappy resistance fighters’ tools for striking back.

This thriller is full of twists and surprises, and its interface designs are compelling and terrifyingly believable, earning its nomination for a Fritz award.

You can watch Captive State online at Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.


Congratulations to the designers, the studios, and the production companies.

Fritzes 2020: Best Believable

These movies’ interfaces adhere to solid HCI principles and believable interactions. They engage us in the story world by being convincing. The nominees for Best Believable are Ad Astra, High Life, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

The winner of the Best Believable award for 2020 is Ad Astra.

Ad Astra

Sometime in the near future, Roy McBridge heads to Mars to find his father and see if he is responsible for immense electrical surges that have been damaging the earth. His journey is troubled by murderous moon pirates, frenzied space baboons, Roy’s unexpected emotions, and the aforementioned surges.

Much of the technology is incidental yet still quite convincing and usable. His bedside news alarm, the various briefing slates, and interplanetary message pads. There are a lot of translucent screens throughout, but that’s a grandfathered trope by now.

By the time Roy reunites with his father and then returns to earth, he and the audience have been through the wringer. The technology is not the point of the story, but it helps tell that story in a very well-done way.

You can watch Ad Astra online at Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.


Congratulations to the designers, the studios, and the production companies.

Fritzes 2020: Honorary Award

I have wanted to do this for about 6 years. I began imagining it as a thing on an actual stage with physical awards and a sponsor and an academy of hundreds. But things kept getting in the way of the big-production version, (as you can tell by, you know, the lack of any awards from 2014 until now). So in 2019, I thought about what the minimum-delightful version might be, and I’m happy that this was the trick that finally worked.

And tonight’s the night. Alongside the 92nd Academy Awards happening in the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles, California, I’ll be announcing five awards. For my RSS subscribers (about half of you), I’ll make a short post for each award that will wind up in your readers, a little less than an hour apart each. For those who follow social media notifications to the site, notifications are timed to go out just after the posts are released. Finally, the final results will be documented as a page that will be part of the persistent navigation on the site.

To kick off the “evening,” I’m first giving an honorary and posthumous award to Fritz Lang.

Honorary Award

The Fritz award is named for him, since he was was the first filmmaker to put realistic interfaces in a sci-fi film, specifically his 1927 film Metropolis. (It was the first film I officially reviewed on the blog.) Lang was grappling with the larger role of technology in society, and his interfaces are wonderfully evocative and illustrative. Naming the awards after him honors his pioneering spirit and craft. Plus there’s a fun irony of “being on the fritz” being slang for broken technology. Just look at the wonder of this horrible “human router” interface from the film.

You can find full length films of Metropolis online, such as this high res copy posted by YouTube user Pedro Campos Miranda.

The Fritzes award honors the best interfaces in a full-length motion picture in the past year. Interfaces play a special (and for my money, under-appreciated) role in our movie-going experience, and are a craft all their own that does not otherwise receive focused recognition.

In this first year, awards will be given for Best Believable, Best Narrative, Audience Choice, and Best Interfaces (overall.) A group of critics and creators were consulted to watch the nominated films, compare their merits, and cast votes. Thanks to everyone who helped to get things to this point.