Following the announcement of the 2017 Oscar nominees earlier this week, social media was flooded with protestations of “why him?”, “why not her?” “why THAT movie?”. Think-pieces emerged almost instantaneously, breathlessly questioning why Deadpool was left out (er, because it isn’t nearly as good as everyone pretends it is?) and whether La La Land will really get all fourteen(!) of the awards for which it’s been nominated (please god no).
One of the biggest complaints, outside of why there weren’t more people of colour nominated, as per, focused on the absence of any horror, sci-fi or otherwise weird fare. By all accounts, the strangest inclusion was arguably Michael Shannon for Tom Ford’s strange, and super-dark, Nocturnal Animals. “Where’s The Witch!?”, screamed Twitter. Surely it had better cinematography than, er, Silence?
The fact of the matter is that Oscar is a snob. He always has been and he always will be. In recent years, an onslaught of criticism, fuelled by the infamous (and completely justified) #oscarssowhite hashtag, has led to The Academy being forced to take baby-steps towards further diversification in the nominees. This is why the likes of Ruth Negga, Mahershala Ali and Dev Patel, among others, have received nods in high-profile categories this year.
However, when it comes to honouring genre movies, we can safely assume that most of us will be long dead before something like Green Room is acknowledged by The Academy’s notoriously fusty voters. Consider the fact the most famous example of a horror movie receiving an Oscar was The Silence Of The Lambs, which won a whopping five awards out of the seven it was nominated for, including Best Picture, which is virtually unheard of nowadays.
That was back in 1992. The year before, Kathy Bates controversially won for Misery. Try to name any horror movie nominated for high-profile Oscars in the intervening 25 years. You can’t, because there haven’t been any. Sure, the classics were given their due (our very own Tyler handily listed same for you right here) but a Best Picture nom? A Best Actor nod? Forget it.
There are suggestions, in certain quarters, that Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s much-celebrated ballet shocker, which bagged a Best Actresss prize for Natalie Portman back in 2011, is considered a win for horror. Unfortunately, Black Swan is not a horror movie (although it may qualify by Not Quite Horror standards).
Elsewhere, King Kong (an adventure movie from Peter Jackson) was nominated in 2006 and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (a bloody, but lively musical starring Johnny Depp) two years later, in 2008. Neither could really be considered pure horror, certainly not in the same manner we discuss the likes of The Witch, Green Room, et al. Simply put, when it comes to straight fright flicks, Oscar leaves us wanting year after year.
It’s surprising, then, that so many genre fanatics are up in arms again this year. Did we really expect anything different? Sure, it’s disappointing that Eggers hasn’t been honoured for his game-changing, and beautifully shot, movie or that a weird little oddity such as I Am Not A Serial Killer or The Greasy Strangler, both made for next to nothing and with fully-committed performances, original ideas and tightly-written scripts, aren’t honoured alongside the likes of Manchester By The Sea or Moonlight.
And yet, there’s something oddly comforting about the fact horror has yet to properly invade the biggest industry circle jerk of the year. For one thing, it prevents our favourite movies from being subjected to endless dick-measuring contests in the months leading up to the big night. Imagining if every criticism being levelled at La La Land was instead transferred to The Witch (is this movie anti-women? Was the goat mistreated? Is the ending actually a huge letdown?).
Consider, if you will, the great Patrick Stewart and breakout star Michael St. Michaels duking it out over the Best Supporting Actor prize, or their merits being weighed up by marketing geniuses who think they’d be better suited going for Supporting gongs rather than Best Actor, since that’s obviously going o be posthumously awarded to the great Anton Yelchin.
It’s head-wrecking enough watching this stuff play out for months on end, over the same five films. With horror as personal and fan-devoted a genre as it is, it would be nigh-on heartbreaking to go through the same thing for our favourite movies of the year. This way, our beloved little genre can remain an outsider-owned and operated freak-show, an outlet only for those who properly get it which, along with punk rock, is perhaps the only genuinely alternative outlet left nowadays.
We don’t need Oscar to tell us our movies are great. We already know, and we champion them accordingly. With that in mind, here are some alternative nominations for some notable categories in the (completely fictional) Horror Oscars, just for fun. Note how few movies actually feature, and feel free to add your own as you like:
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe
The Neon Demon
Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room)
Robert Eggers (The Witch)
André Øvredal(The Autopsy Of Jane Doe)
Jim Hosking (The Greasy Strangler)
Best Supporting Actor
Brian Cox (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe)
Sky Elobar (The Greasy Strangler)
Steven Seagull (The Shallows)
Patrick Stewart (Green Room)
Chase Williamson (Beyond The Gates)
Anton Yelchin (Green Room)
Michael St. Michaels (The Greasy Strangler)
Emile Hirsch (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe)
Richard Brake (31)
Graham Skipper (Beyond The Gates)
Best Supporting Actress
Meg Foster (31)
Imogen Poots (Green Room)
Abbey Lee (The Neon Demon)
Avin Manshadi (Under The Shadow)
Kate Dickie (The Witch)
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)
Olwen Kelly (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe)
Sheri Moon Zombie (31)
Narges Rashidi (Under The Shadow)
Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon)