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.

The Fritzes 2020: Audience Choice Voting

The form to cast your vote for Audience Choice is at the bottom of this post.

On 09 FEB 2020, scifiinterfaces.com is announcing awards for interfaces in a 2019 science fiction feature film. An “Audience Choice” will also be announced, and determined by the results of the poll, below. What is your selection? You should see the movies in full, but you can see reminder videos and summaries for each of the nominees, below.

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.

Alita: Battle Angel

The year is 2563. After doctor Ido revives a mysterious cyborg girl from a junkyard, she discovers he is a bounty hunter for evil rogue cyborgs and wants to be one. After she finds a new superpowered body, she is able to save her friend Hugo by turning him into a cyborg, too. With his new abilities, he tries to scale a cable to the forbidden floating city Zalem, but dies. The movie concludes with Alita committing herself to vengeance.

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 USD worldwide and bringing to climax 11 years of filmmaking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story happens after Infinity War, where Thanos performed “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, defeat Thanos, and along the way resolve some longstanding personal arcs.

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.

High Life

High Life is certainly the most unusual film among the nominees. Convicts in the far future are sentenced to find a new energy source traveling into a black hole. On route to their certain death, sex is forbidden, but they find release in a Holodeck-style masturbatorium called The Box. Meanwhile, there are power struggles and murders and intense sexual situations. 

I am Mother

A robot raises a child from embryo to young woman in a mysterious underground facility. As the human explores more of her world, she learns dark truths about the facility, her life, and the robot she’s come to know as Mother.

Men in Black: International

The Men in Black franchise got new life in 2019 with the release of Men in Black: International. In it a young woman named Molly charms her way into the MIB, only to join Agent H on a mission to forestall an invasion by the hideous but beautiful race called the Hive. On the way, they uncover a mole in the organization while Molly helps H overcome a dark event from his past.

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.

X-Men Dark Phoenix

Superhero movies are not known for their restraint. Dark Phoenix starts with our mutant team rushing into space to, oh, you know, rescue some astronauts, and Jean Gray absorbing a “mysterious space force” in order to save the day. Over the movie, she finds her psychic and telekinetic powers amplified, but ultimately out of her control. She is hunted by the U.S. military, an alien race called the D’Bari, a Magneto gang, and even her own team, to no avail.


Of those movies, which do you think had the best over all interfaces? Cast your vote below. To avoid flagrant ballot stuffing, you must have a google account and be logged in to that account to cast your vote.

Voting will be open until 01 FEB 2020, 23:59 PST.

Please share this post on your social media to get the vote out! Thanks!

The Fritzes 2020: Nominees

This year scifiinterfaces is going to try something new: Giving out awards for the best interfaces in a movie in the prior calendar year. The timing will roughly correspond to the timing of the Oscars.

It’s going to be an “alpha” release version, mind you, since I don’t have a sponsor lined up, and you always have stuff to figure out the first time you try a massive project, and it’s hard to rally collaborators around a new thing. So, the “award” will be virtual, even though the honor is real. Also everything will happen via this blog and social media rather than any live stage event or anything like that. I have tried to do this on a larger scale in the past, but each time something stood in the way. Wish me luck.

The idea here is to reward and encourage excellence and maybe help readers discover what awesomeness is happening in sci-fi interfaces, without going into the full-scale, scene-by-scene critique that normally occupies this blog. The Oscars give awards for “Achievement in production design,” but this often entails much more than the very specific craft of sci-fi interfaces, which is the focus of this project.

On the name

The award will be called the Fritz, in honor of Fritz Lang, who was the first filmmaker to put realistic interfaces in a sci-fi film, specifically his 1927 film Metropolis. 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.

4 Awards

Sci-fi films have to answer to many masters, and rather than just give one award, I’m going to go with 4. Two of these will respect films that err towards either believability or spectacle—I believe there is often a wicked tradeoff between the two. The main award will honor films that manage that extraordinary challenge of accomplishing both. The fourth award is a viewer’s choice, where I share all the nominees and ask readers (like you) which they think is the best.

  1. Best interfaces (overall)
  2. Best narrative
  3. Best believable
  4. Audience Choice

Perhaps in the future there will be other categories, like for shorts, student work, or television serials. But for now just these four are going to tax the resources of your lone hobbyist blogger, here. Especially as I try to keep up regular reviews.

I will have the help of a few other judges. (I’m still chatting with them now to see if they want to be named. The Academy stays anonymous, so maybe these judges, should, too?) Winners will be announced the week of 09 Feb 2020.

What gets considered?

Focusing efforts on a narrower category of media helps the task be manageable, which is important since a new program cannot rely on submissions from others. I have loosely followed the Academy’s guidelines for eligibility for feature-length films (over 40 minutes), with the exception that I included feature-length films released on streaming media as well, such as those produced by Amazon and Netflix, which never saw theatrical release.

These guidelines gave the judges a list of 27 candidates to consider, and the following are the final nominees, presented in their category in alphabetical order. Keep in mind that the nominees were elected for the quality of the interfaces in the context of the film, but with specific disconsideration for other aspects of the work. In other words, a film could be panned for nearly any other reason, but its interfaces just marvelous, and it could wind up a nominee.

Nominees: Best believable

Nominees: Best narrative

Nominees: Best interfaces (overall)

Congratulations to all the nominees. Nice work.

If you’re the sort who likes to see all the nominees in a category to justify your outrage at the results, get to watching. You have a few weeks to see or re-see these before results are shared.

Stay tuned to scifiinterfaces.com here or on twitter for more, including when and where to vote for Viewer’s Choice.

Announcing the Fritzes

I am pleased to announce an inaugural award for the year’s best interfaces seen in sci-fi movies throughout the prior year, to honor and encourage excellence in sci-fi interfaces, called the Fritzes. I will be give out the awards in February of 2015. The films will be nominated by and voted on a small academy of interaction designers, sci-fi makers, and critics.

If you’re wondering, the name of the award honors Fritz Lang, who, with his film Metropolis, made history with the first serious work of science fiction in film to contain interfaces. Though dark and often times dystopian (heck, Moloch is a character), it marked the first film in which interfaces became a part of the way we told the human story. The Fritzes honor excellence in both storytelling and interface design.

Our sponsor

Intel Corporation has generously offered to support the creation of a custom-designed award to be delivered to recipients after the awards are announced. It’s currently being fabricated, but you can see the draft rendering of it, below.

Note there are opportunities for other sponsorships, please contact me if your organization is interested.

Fritz Sketch 02 3:4 VIEW

Stay tuned

More information about the awards, including the categories and dates will be forthcoming in early 2015. Stay tuned to scifiinterfaces.com to stay up to date on the latest information, including how to nominate your independent film.

A possible mini-con

I am considering hosting a mini-conference the day of the awards, that might include

  • the Redesigning Star Wars workshop that I threw to great feedback in Stockholm
  • Workshops to learn sci-fi interface prototyping software

Speakers

and of course, an awards show itself. Maybe cocktails.

Before I embark on this, I’d love to hear how many folks are interested in attending such a sci-fi interfaces mini-con. I don’t know what ticket prices would be, but that partly depends on how much interest there is. If you are interested in attending something like this, please let me know by answering the poll below.

Note if you have AdBlock installed, the poll will not appear. Disable it for this site to access the poll.