Horror Ten Spot: Horror Movies Snubbed by The Oscars

Around this time last year, we put forth a list of ten favorite Oscar winning horror flicks. And by "winning flicks" we don't just mean Best Picture awards, we cited all aspects of filmmaking...acting, directing, writing, editing, cinematography, music...all of it. Well, as you know by now, the 85th Academy Awards ceremony goes down this Sunday, and to make amends for the usual lack of horror nominations this year, we thought it'd be fun to take a look back at some of the all time head-scratching Oscar horror snubs. That is, actual horror movie categories that were nominated for an Academy Award, only to ultimately fall short of winning. Adding insult to injury, our list includes work that, in most cases, inarguably lost to inferior work...be it due to politics, momentum, popularity, what have you. Give it a look, you might be just as appalled about the snubs as we are!


At the time (1960), I don't think Billy Wilder winning Best Director was much of a controversy. However, we know history has solidified PSYCHO as a genre defining classic, essentially serving as a template for the modern day slasher film. And while Billy Wilder is one of the all time great film directors, so too is THE APARTMENT in the comedy world...can one really argue that THE APARTMENT had more of a profound effect on its respective genre than PSYCHO did its own? I highly doubt it. THE APARTMENT elevated its genre, PSYCHO created one. It's that line of reasoning that makes me think Hitch - who never won an Oscar - should have panned gold for his work in PSYCHO. Not only is the film masterfully realized, it's material is far bolder than anything else released in those days.


I truly believe that if Billy Friedkin hadn't scored so many Oscars only two years prior for THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST would have won a lot more than it actually ended up with. That said, 1973 was smack dab in the center of the second golden age of American cinema, and it's neither a shame nor an oversight that George Roy Hill's THE STING took home the Best Picture statuette. Still, cases for various EXORCIST contingents could easily be made...not just for Best Picture, but for Friedkin's direction, Linda Blair's performance, Ellen Burstyn's performance, Jason Miller's for that matter...even Owen Roizman's cinematography. The fact that THE EXORCIST only won for adapted screenplay and sound mixing, at least in retrospect, certainly seems puzzling.


Of all Oscar oversights, this one irks me most. Granted, I'm aware that NETWORK is one of the best movies ever made, but there's no way in hell Beatrice Straight - who appears onscreen for all of 6 minutes - gives a more fully realized performance than Piper Laurie does in CARRIE. No. F*cking. Way. The oppressive, overzealous religious wing-nut of a mother in CARRIE is not only a turn for the ages, it's truly, flat-out frightening. Coupled with Sissy Spacek's demure, cowering performance as the mousy title character (which was nominated and deserving as well), Brian De Palma captured a rare horrific alchemy that will endure on celluloid forever. How Laurie is able to go so far over the top yet remain so utterly believable is a testament to an acting talent that began cultivating back in 1950.


While it's awesome Ruth Gordon won a Supporting Actress Oscar, likely a lifetime achievement award, the real star of ROSEMARY'S BABY is Roman Polanski's screenplay, which he adapted from Ira Levin's novel. The strength of the script is mirrored in Polanski's skillful direction...we always feel slightly off kilter when watching the movie. Something constantly feels amiss. Is Rosemary really being recruited by a neighborly coven of Satan worshippers, or is she imaging the whole thing? Such a delicate line is towed all the way through the entire picture, and it's the subtle nuances in the script that make such a feat achievable. I have to believe that if Levin's novel were as fabled and well known as THE LION IN WINTER, it would have had a better chance of winning.


After winning 2 Oscars in her first 3 nominations, the great Bette Davis was nominated an additional 8 times...all for Female Lead. Her last nomination came in 1963 for her utterly fearless turn in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, a wicked movie that must have caused quite a stir when it was released in '62. Davis ultimately lost to Anne Bancroft for THE MIRACLE WORKER, which seems obvious considering the subject matter (Helen Keller). The fact Davis won twice before certainly didn't help her chances either. That said, Davis put forth such an uncharacteristically vile performance in BABY JANE that it's quite criminal she lost out to Bancroft. Just taking on such a daring role ought to have been more commended at the time, regardless of Davis' past triumphs.


Considering what a global splash it made when released worldwide in 2006, I really can't fathom how PAN'S LANYRINTH did NOT win best Foreign Film at the '07 Academy Awards. Sure, the German film THE LIVES OF OTHERS was powerfully sobering, but come on, who the hell saw it? PAN'S LABYRINTH, written and directed by Mexican visionary Guillermo del Toro, was not only a critical hit, it was also wildly successful financially. Going further, the meld between such imaginative grand-scale artistry and undoubted populist entertainment is damn near impeccable. In other words: a perfect marriage of art and commerce...of heart and head. One need look no further than the films 8.3 IMBD rating, ranking #108 on the site's Top 250 to see what an impression it's made.


POLTERGEIST went 0 for 3 at the 1983 Academy Awards ceremony. Not only did Jerry Goldsmith's memorable score get overlooked (in favor of John Williams' E.T. score), so did the ghastly Visual FX and Sound FX Editing...also in favor of E.T. Of course, Spielberg outright directed the ultimate winners in those categories, though long speculation has hinted that Tobe Hooper was replaced by Spielberg during the filming of POLTERGEIST. Either way, I feel strongly that the visual FX in the definitive haunted-house movie hold up better than the animatronic E.T. puppet. I also believe Goldsmith's score is far more effective than Williams'...likely due to the necessity of plotline. E.T. has more of a feel-good score, naturally, while POLTERGEIST has more of a feel-scared score. I like the latter!


Yeah, here's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. In 1988, the Best Visual FX award was given to, wait for it, INNERSPACE. Did I get that right, motherf*ckin' INNERSPACE? Just... wow! As ridiculous as that is on its own, the fact it beat out the FX work Stan Winston and his team put forth in PREDATOR - FX that hold up tremendously well over 25 years later - is downright laughable. I mean, INNERSPACE? What a cataclysmic blunder. To give you a sense of context, consider the winners the year before and after. ALIENS won in '87, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT in '89. If the Academy list read ALIENS, PREDATOR, ROGER RABBIT...and so on...no one would bat a damn eye, would they? But ALIENS, INNERSPACE, ROGER RABBIT? A goddamn travesty!


Because Visual FX are so tightly tethered to Art Direction, I can't really comprehend why in 1980 Ridley Scott's ALIEN scooped the Oscar for former but not the latter. Trust me, I love Bob Fosse's ALL THAT JAZZ (Roy Scheider kills it in that movie), but there's no possible way it featured better Art Direction than what Les Dilley and Roger Christian were laying down in ALIEN. Seriously. Some things are subjective, this one is hardly. At least the Academy got it right two years later when the duo were given the gold for work on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Still, the intricate set-pieces seen aboard the Nostromo in ALIEN hold up incredibly well to this day. Of course, such efforts are collaborative, so props to H.R. Giger (Alien designer) and Michael Seymour (production designer) are in order as well.


Michael Caine, I love you, but we all know your second Oscar should have come in '02 for THE QUIET AMERICAN, not in '99 for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. It's true the Supporting Acting Oscars largely seem symbolic of a lifetime of work in cinema, but I do believe the Academy should have paid tribute to a tyro with his entire acting career in front of him. Yes, I'm making the case that Haley Joel Osment should have won the Oscar for his seasoned performance in THE SIXTH SENSE. Am I saying Osment is a better actor than Caine? Of course not. But would THE SIXTH SENSE have been anywhere near as effective had the kid been miscast? Doubt it. Osment's role is far more vital to his movie than Caine's is to his...and the fact it was his first real acting gig pretty much cements the case.
Tags: Hollywood

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