I did not bother to watch the Oscar telecast last night, because as a lifelong devotee of cinefantastique, I just could not summon up the enthusiasm to care about an awards show that almost totally ignored the great work seen in science-fiction, fantasy, and horror films last year (which I detailed in this post). Barely any genre films were nominated, and of those the only winners were THE GOLDEN COMPASS for visual effects, SWEENEY TODD for art direction, and RATATOUILLE for animated film. Well, at least they gave SWEENEY something - it was only the best film of 2007, after all.
For some reason no one was surprised when Daniel Day Lewis was announced at the winner in the Best Actor category; apparently, he was the odds-on favorite, even though his performance consisted of grumbling for over two hours in a John Huston voice. This is one of those awards that, years from now, will have movie aficionados scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering why Johnny Depp did not take home the gold for playing Sweeney Todd (in the same way we wonder why 1933’s KING KONG was not named Best Picture - when no one even remembers what film won for that year).
It was also amusing to see JUNO (which had one Best Film at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before) take home the statuette for Best Original Screenplay. I’m willing to bet that this is the first time that award went to a film featuring an explicit scene of a woman being brutally gored to death. Okay, so it was only a scene of the characters watching an old gore movie on video, but this is progress of a kind, I suspect, and it’s nice that the film’s dialogue also references Dario Argento approvingly. After the precedent set by AMERICAN BEAUTY (which referenced Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR), perhaps this will start a trend of Oscar-winners that pay homage to the gory glories of exploitation films past.
Finally, a few words about the big winner. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN received awards from the Academy in four categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay(the Coens again), and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem). Though not a horror film, it was as frightening as any official genre entry of 2007. Rather like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it is a thriller that edges onto the borderline of horror, thanks to a cold-blooded killer, who figuratively (if not literally) embodies evil.
I wish I could endorse NO COUNTRY fully and claim its Oscar victories as partial validation for the genre, but the film simply left me unsatisfied. I know the ending makes sense within context of the story, and my preference exposes me as a hopelessly retrograde supporter of conventional cinematic values, but I can’t help it. Obviously, things could have been worse (can you imagine Best Picture going to Oscar-bait like ATONEMENT?), but I simply cannot embrace the Coen Brothers win as much as I would like to. All in all, this was not a very distinguished showing by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.