Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oscar Anger: A Rant

I should know better. I don't like awards shows as a rule. I don't like the politics of them, plain and simple.

Last week, I watched the 82 Annual Academy Awards.

I know, I know, I do these things to myself. So, what was it that bothered me about this particular awards show? I'll limit my response to one thing only: the horror montage.

Where to even begin? I think the horror genre is to film what the romance genre is to books. Underappreciated. Neglected. Abused.

Just as many turn their noses up at romance as crass genre fiction and not “real literature,” horror movies are seen as pop culture schlock and not fine cinema. This kind of snobbery is ridiculous. It’s based off the notion that because something is popular, because it is blatant in its themes and deals with some of the most basic human emotions, it can’t be meaningful in a truly artistic way. Love and fear are central to the human experience, and yet the expression of these in popular media are more often than not devalued and impugned. Guilty pleasures, not respected interests.

The Academy has a long history of ignoring the horror genre. It’s been over 35 years since The Exorcist won 2 Oscars. So, I had high hopes for the horror montage, hoping to finally see the genre get some of the respect it deserves.

And, I have a soft spot for zombies. No pun intended.

(Aww...it's zombie Bill Nighy)
So the horror montage rolls. It hits the high points of the genre. It hits the low points of the genre. It hits some points that aren’t even in the genre. Then it stops, at which point I nearly exploded out of my seat in agitation. A full horror montage spanning the history of horror in film (which is really the entire history of filmmaking), and not a zombie to be seen. Livid, thy name is Gretchen.

The classics were accounted for, films like Psycho, Nosferatu, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and Carrie.

The modern fanboy horror/slasher films were accounted for, films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Films that are not horror, at least not in any traditional sense, were included. Jaws? Aliens?? Silence of the Lambs???

Don’t even get me started on the New Moon clip. I’m pretending it wasn’t there.

I had to rewatch the montage 2 more times before I saw it. A faint glimpse, 1 second long, of pale figures standing motionless. I think this fuzzy snippet of film is all there was to represent the zombie delegation. It may have been from Night of the Living Dead (maaaaaaaybe), it was too short and indistinct to tell. There may also have been a fast moving zombie encompassing another full second of film. After a third rewatching I still wasn’t clear.


(A still from Night of the Living Dead, not the still from the montage)
How, I ask you, can zombie films go all but ignored in a montage of horror history? Since the release of White Zombie in 1932, zombies have played a key role in horror cinema. In 1968, George Romero changed the face of horror with Night of the Living Dead. Decades later, writers and directors are still imitating Romero's style. And yet, in the one ode to horror granted by the Academy in the last 37 years, zombies and the work of visionaries like George Romero are suspiciously absent. No, I'm not counting 1 second of indistinct film as inclusion. Omiting the films of George Romero from a montage of popular horror is like omiting The Godfather from a montage to gangster films. Leaving John Wayne out of a western tribute. Ignoring Nora Robert's when discussing the history of modern romance. In short, it's appalling.

This is why I don't like awards shows. I like the underdog, I like them to get their day in the sun, be it an underappreciated actor/writer/director, or a genre that simply isn't esteemed. Horror probably won't grace the Oscars again for a decade or more. For zombies, well, it looks like it will be far longer than that.

~Gretchen

4 comments:

  1. Not exactly the rant I expected. I don't like blood, gore, suspense, terror, etc., so this isn't a genre about which I care. Good writing (you) though!

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  2. So in the Zombie Oscars, what shows would win?

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  3. I'm a fan of zombies too. I hope they make "World War Z" into a movie.

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  4. Norma - Thanks :) I do love my zombies, but they aren't for everyone. Between me and you, I don't really like much else in the horror genre. The thought of watching "Saw" grosses me out.

    Jody - In the Zombie Oscars, I think "Shaun of the Dead" should definitely sweep, but I'm a little biased ;)

    Honestly, "Fido" was a very creative zombie movie. I also really like the "Resident Evil" films and "28 Days Later". Then there's always classic Romero. Hmmm...I'll have to make a ballot and get back to you.

    Brenda - OMG, World War Z is truly one of the best books I've ever read! I try to make others read it all the time. I've heard they're adapting it into a movie, but I haven't heard any other details yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't mess it up. All joking aside, if they hold true to the book and do it right, that is a zombie movie that I believe could have some honest to goodness Oscar power.

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