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Oscar Horrors: Kathy Bates in Misery 

Boo! It's time for "Oscar Horrors"

by Jason Adams

There are a lot of images that probably flash across one's mind when one thinks of Kathy Bates' Oscar-winning performance in Rob Reiner's film Misery. Images as great and big and terrifying as those mountain peaks that line Annie Wilkes' farmland like prison-bars. Maybe you hear words like "cockadoodie car" call out, or maybe you see Annie swinging that sledgehammer with tears of love tipping her eyelashes and a swell in her heart - I certainly wouldn't blame you; that's a shock that leaves a mark, on Paul Sheldon and the audience both.

But when I think of Misery I immediately think of one scene, every time, and it's the quietest (and for that maybe the most terrifying) moment in the film...

Paul's been pounding out his new Misery Chastain manuscript (under some duress!) when the rain comes.

"Sometimes it gives me the blues," Annie says, her hair tousled and her bathrobe limp - only at this moment do we really see that, modest though it may be, she's been putting on her best front for him all this time; we've never seen her so disheveled in his presence.

"When you first came here I only loved the writer part of 'Paul Sheldon.' But now I know I love the rest of him too." Annie pauses and looks at him. "I know you don't love me. Don't say you do. You're beautiful. Brilliant. Famous man of the world. And I'm... not a movie-star type. You'll never know the fear of losing someone like you, if you're someone like me."

This scene became the rallying cry for not just Bates' triumphant march to the Oscar stage that year, but for her blessed career thereafter - she's never been "the movie-star type," thank goodness, and thank goodness we've made room for her. There's a fantastic interview with Kathy in the 1991 issue of Interview Magazine that I highly recommend where she talks about this...

"When I first went to interview for Misery, they were saying things like, 'You're not Michelle Pfeiffer, you know.' And I just don't get the relevance of that remark. I'm not Elizabeth Taylor, either. I'm not Sean Connery."

She is Kathy Bates damn it, and that's plenty! Heck if we had such distinctions here in the U.S. she'd be Dame Kathy Bates. It's tough to say here, 25 years on with 25 years worth of great performances behind her, that it was a singular match, Kathy & Annie coming together like two taxi cabs on Broadway (to borrow a turn of phrase from another character actress for the ages) - Kathy has had so much more to give us, and we've lapped up every drop with a smile on our face.

But I do know I can say, with far more sincerity in my heart than Paul Sheldon could muster, that I'm happy I got trapped in that cabin in the woods with her all those years ago. You'll never lose me, Kathy Bates. I'm not going anywhere!

Season 3 Oscar Horrors is a Wrap
The Bad Seed - Supporting Actress 
Bram Stoker's Dracula - Makeup
Dr Jekyll & Mr Mouse -Animated Short
Flatliners - Sound Editing
Fatal Attraction - Film Editing
Kwaidan - Foreign Film
Pan's Labyrinth - Production Design
The Sixth Sense - Picture  
Sleepy Hollow - Production Design 
Sweeney Todd - Best Actor
The Uninvited - Cinematography
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? - Cinematography

Season 2
Season 1

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Reader Comments (30)

Nice speech

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

The vulnerable scene never felt as convincing as everything else. It's the weakest set piece in her performance.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I think of Green Eggs and Ham. Horrible, unwatchable performance. LA Film Crix with Anjelica Huston and NY Film Crix for Joanne Woodward.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

A miracle of a performance, and a miracle of an Oscar win.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Love me some Kathy Bates, but Anjelica and Joanne got robbed.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Huston had the shortest amount of screen time and was the most recent Oscar winner of the nominees.

October 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I see some have started with the Kathy bashing and Anjelica should have won stuff.

I like all the nominees that year it is a strong one,Roberts in full on "Here I am" and she isn't the best but she deserved that nom just for the laugh and red dress,Streep stepping away from accents,Huston being the Big Bad Momma and worrying about a bag of fruit,Woodward slowly falling apart and Bates being a unique screen prescence and that what was needed an unkown certainly not Midler the original choice.

I would have given the award to the non nominated Sarandon in White Palace.

Great write up,more horror performance reviews.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

It has become one of my favorite Oscars. Reason? It gave a career to a marvelous actress.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy thinks for reminding me she's literally the only contemporary example of an Oscar win launching a career.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful


October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I think of Green Eggs and Ham. Horrible, unwatchable performance. LA Film Crix with Anjelica Huston and NY Film Crix for Joanne Woodward.

Chicago Film Critics went to Bates and the Golden Globe. The women Weinstein were at a disadvantage since both are previous winners. Huston, the most recent winner, had the least amount of screen time. Woodward's nomination came at the very end of the elderly character Best Actress winner craze that started with Hepburn, sandwiched between with Page, and finished off with Tandy.

Streep isn't winning a 3rd that soon in her career for a dramedy. Julia Roberts' nomination was greeted with jeers and snickers. Bates' movie was a critical and commercial success that lived and died off her performance. The Oscar goes to Kathy Bates in Misery.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

She has such poise and class. While watching her speech it also struck me what a striking, beautiful woman she is.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

Not her biggest fan, in general and in this movie, but I think it's a bit ludricous to insist it's a dreadful performance and embarrassing win. Certainly there have been worse wins and bates goes far more into exploring the character than either the script and the director. Huston aside, none of the other women are doing career best work and all had/ would have Oscars for superior performances. So the bates vitriol is unnecessary, as is the Roberts vitriol. Contrary to the comment above, Roberts was seen by many as being bates' most serious threat. I love Huston in the grifters but people go out on their way to re-write history and argue that the performance was taken seriously as a potential winner when no one actually was saying that on 1990.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Peter, if I recall correctly, there was no odds-on favorite for Best Actress in 1990, but Anjelica Huston was considered to have a very good shot. She was the only nominee whose films scored nominations in other major categories, her reviews were ecstatic, and she was at the peak of her career. I wouldn't be surprised if she finished a semi-close second to Bates.

Interestingly, Huston was offered Misery but turned it down to do The Grifters.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike

This is a very powerful performance and it is iconic. The less cannot be said about any of the other performances in the category. Not even Roberts (somehow the movie aged well for a good decade and then disappeared as it should be).That alone makes me happy she won.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

Video evidence for Peter about the public response to Roberts' nomination.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Bates was nothing special in Misery ... and has been less effective as the years go by ... I hope she escape the freaks she has had to play i AHS>

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

No such thing as nothing special if you're iconic to the consensus Rick.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful


Sorry, but Pretty Woman has actually stayed relevant in Hollywood that it was even news when it hit its' 25th anniversary last year. 99% reason for that is Julia Roberts' iconic movie star performance.

Far from the best film of that year, it has aged far better than films from that time period.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel

We are so lucky to have Kathy Bates. I love this performance and Oscar win.

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Pretty Woman is, still, iconic. (Truth be told, it probably will be the most widely, most fondly remembered of Julia Roberts' career.) And while the best performance by an actress in 1990 wasn't even nominated -- Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita -- Kathy Bates' was no slouch and definitely an arresting choice. (I would've ranked hers behind Anjelica Huston's and Meryl Streep's though.)

October 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Bates was the best choice of the nominees. But the best performance by an American actress in 1990 is Debra Winger in The Sheltering Sky.

October 23, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

My vote that year would have gone to Huston or Streep in a great category. But Bates's win was and remains quite enjoyable for its atypical qualities. and Misery is a fun movie, too.

LAURA DERN in Wild at Heart and MIA FARROW in Alice both deserved nominations but there can be only five

October 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

/3rtful: Agreed! I think Bertolucci's direction should have been nominated too.

Mike: That's my recollection too. Best Actress was very hard to predict, because, with the exception of Streep, all the nominees had a legitimate shot. And I think you may be right - Huston could have come second.

October 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I love Bate's win. Just LOVE it.
Her "I'm your number one fan." and of course the scene with the hammer always get me chills. It's such great watch over and over again.

October 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I love how beyond being terrifying and terrifyingly sad she is in this, she also has so much dark humor. Her "I love you" after the hobbling is so post-orgasmic and embodies all three of those traits in such stomach turning ways - a genius line reading in a performance full of them

October 23, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

I loved Bates in Misery and I doubt she would have had as good of a career without that Oscar so I have no problem with her win.

October 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

I love Kathy Bates! And she's still "killing it" on American Horror Story!!

October 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermtmslg

I never need the consensus to form my ow n opinion /3rtful. I

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Yet you Stan for Streep which is literally a zombie thing to do.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

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