Oscar nominations day is often one devoted to eking column inches out of a list of achingly predictable shortlists, featuring very similar movies. There’s only so much discussion that can be generated from acting heavyweights portraying historical figures or well-written dramas about people chattering in rooms. This year, however, the Oscars 2018 revealed the new world of awards season is a more macabre, spiky one, with a fascination for what lurks under the bed.
It’s obvious that 2017 was a banner year for horror cinema. Get Out was as much a financial success as it was a critical darling and the new take on It became the highest grossing scary movie of all time, without adjustment for inflation. It was a year in which movies that would once have sat at the fringes of cinema proudly strode, blinking, into the blinding multiplex spotlight for all to enjoy.
Today’s Oscar nominations feel like a final vindication for horror’s coming-out year. Leading the field with a stunning 13 nominations is The Shape of Water, which is a romantic monster movie of masterful proportions by creature feature maestro Guillermo del Toro. As with many of the Mexican auteur’s movies, Shape isn’t necessarily a straightforward horror film, but it basks and luxuriates in the iconography of the macabre and the horrific. To see a film as outright unusual as a murk-hued human-fish romance at the summit of the awards season mountain is something truly bananas.
The other big horror success story of the day is the aforementioned Get Out. Jordan Peele‘s acid-tongued racial satire, which we named our favourite film of 2017 earlier this month, is a true genre masterpiece. Peele has now been recognised for that work, with noms for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, while the film appears on the Best Picture shortlist and Daniel Kaluuya has snagged a surprise Best Actor nod.
— Mike McGranaghan (@AisleSeat) January 23, 2018
This runs entirely at odds with the perception of the Academy as stuffy old white men with unconditional love for traditional dramas like Darkest Hour. Indeed, the unprecedented swell of support for Phantom Thread suggests there’s still a degree to which that is true. However, the Oscars 2018 suggest that the Academy’s recent moves towards diversity have created a softening of the antipathy towards genre movies.
This year’s Oscar nominations were, in general, a more diverse and unusual crop than usual. Four of the nine Best Picture nominees have a female lead and Greta Gerwig has become the first female director to net a nomination since 2010. Meanwhile, there were four people of colour nominated in the acting categories and the director shortlist includes both a black man and a Mexican. There’s a real sense that the Academy needle might be shifting and it seems like diverse people on the shortlists is also leading to a more diverse selection of movies. Who’d have thought it?
It seems likely that the genre domination of the Oscars will only extend as far as the night itself. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the clear Best Picture frontrunner as it stands and there are equally obvious winners in many of the acting categories. However, the genre contingent will be out in support of its greatest hope, with Guillermo del Toro currently a tentative frontrunner for the Best Director award.
That would be fitting recognition for a man who has always loved monsters, but is only now seeing the Academy grow to love them too.
What do you think of this year’s Oscar nominations? Will you be watching on awards night? Which films will you be rooting for? Let me know in the comments section.