Oscars – This award season is like so many others in so many respects. Per usual, there’s a drama from a veteran director that’s getting lots of buzz and reaffirming why certain legendary filmmakers are legends.
There’s an indie that’s come out of nowhere to become more of an award-season juggernaut than anyone expected. But an unfortunate norm of typical award seasons that’s being maintained this year is the lack of recognition for horror movies. Save for the occasional The Silence of the Lambs or Get Out, award shows rarely get passionate about recognizing the virtues of modern horror cinema. Dismissing a genre of storytelling like that is gravely tragic in any context, but considering what a banner year it was for horror cinema in 2022, the dismissal of horror films from the current award-season discourse is downright despicable.
Why Aren’t Horror Films Recognized By the Oscars?
The Academy Awards have a complicated relationship with genre cinema, just like most American award shows save for programs like the Saturn Awards that are dedicated to recognizing genre fare. The Oscars specifically have slipped in some surprising genre fare ranging from disaster movies like Airport to erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction, while a handful of horror movies (namely The Sixth Sense and The Exorcist) also getting into the Best Picture category. Primarily, though, the Academy Awards have aimed to recognize what’s broadly considered “respectable” fare in the Best Picture category. This narrow definition of what constitutes “proper” cinema has ensured that horror films have struggled to ever get into this category at the Oscars.
Worse, other categories at this ceremony and other major award shows also regularly exclude horror movies despite this genre often delivering films that would be perfect for Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, or Best Sound nominations and even wins! This perception of horror as an innately “inferior” form of cinematic storytelling is so bizarre considering how long it’s existed in the medium of film. Director Georges Méliès made a horror movie called The House of the Devil all the way back in 1896, a feat that’s ensured that horror cinema has existed since the dawn of this medium itself.
Alas, the dismissal of horror cinema at major award shows continues into the modern world, thus ensuring that so many great horror films from 2022 stand no chance of scoring Oscar glory.
At least we’ll always have ‘Nope’
The only 2022 horror film that looks to stand even a slim chance of making it into the official 95th Academy Awards nominations is Nope. The shortlists for various technical categories at this event (which are then whittled down to the final five nominees for the official Oscars ceremony) revealed that Nope had made it onto the shortlists for Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects. Neither one feels like a space where Nope could assuredly score some recognition, but Best Visual Effects could be its best option just because of its larger pronounced instances of spectacle.
There’s also an outside chance Hoyte van Hoytema could score a nod in Best Cinematography for Nope while Keke Palmer winning the Best Supporting Actress prize at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for her outstanding work in Nope means she’s at least been in some Oscar consideration over the past few months. It’s a shame Nope seems destined to be ignored in the biggest categories at the 95th Academy Awards (especially after Jordan Peele’s Us was given no recognition by the Academy Awards), but at least there’s a slim chance it could still make it to the Oscars, even if it’s just in one category.
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What 2022 Horror Films Should’ve Been Recognized for Award Season?
At least Nope got shortlisted in two Oscars categories and has developed some buzz for Keke Palmer at other award shows. Most other 2022 horror movies were entirely absent from the 95th Academy Awards shortlist (save for Crimes of the Future sneaking into Best Makeup/Hairstyling) and most other major award shows recognizing the very best of the year’s cinema. The closest exception to that phenomenon has been Pearl, which did score two Film Independent Spirit Award nominees while Mia Goth’s incredible work in that film’s lead role scored a handful of Best Actress nods from local critic award shows. When it came to the biggest awards entities, though, Pearl has been a no-show despite Goth delivering the kind of pronounced performance award shows usually love.
While it’s not like anyone expected any of the big award shows to just recognize horror films exclusively in their respective Best Picture categories, it’s still strange how horror films have been excluded from even less prolific but no less important categories recognizing below-the-line workers. Barbarian, for instance, would’ve been an ideal choice to nominate in Best Sound. The creaking, squelching, clanging, and other subtle details in the sound design of this film are pivotal to making it as scary as it is.
Meanwhile, a slightly more understandable exclusion from mainstream award season discourse is Mad God, a fully animated labor of love from director Phil Tippett. This disturbing, often inexplicable descent into nightmarish chaos was never going to be an Oscar darling. However, it’s still strange that Tippett’s enormous legacy as a stop-motion animator and visual effects trailblazer hasn’t garnered the animated horror title Mad God more accolades in indie award circles. Even if the film isn’t your cup of tea, the chance to recognize a legend like Tippett would seem to be irresistible. Unfortunately, award shows suddenly get squeamish about handing out awards as career recognition prizes when horror films are on the line.
The list goes on and on when it comes to 2022 horror movies that deserved more recognition from major award shows, including Ana Diop’s tremendous performance in Nanny being absent from any Best Actress discourse. It’s been cool to see some unexpected titles break out as major 2022 award season players, namely features like RRR or Aftersun. Unfortunately, the continued exclusion of horror films from so much of the award season landscape discouragingly reflects that this genre still isn’t taken seriously by majorly influential award ceremonies.