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Entries in Oscar Horrors (38)

Thursday
Nov012012

It's a Wrap. October Highlights

We're doing this month's look back a bit differently. Though we wish all readers were year-round TFE maniacs, traffic always spikes during Oscar season so we welcome our fairweather friends back to us as we all link arms and beginning following that yellow brick red carpet road to the Wonderful Word of Oscars. In October we've been busy with plentiful limited series posts so here were some highlights from those batches.

NYFF
My single favorite moment of the NYFF is documented above. Shortly before The Paperboy screening for critics (with Nicole Kidman on hand afterwords to answer questions) the promo reel for the 50th anniversary of the festival froze on this image and stayed that way for minutes. I wasn't complaining. I like to look at her. As for the movies themselves, I was knocked out by three of the Best Foreign Language Films competing for Oscar: Austria's Amour, Chile's No and Bwakaw from the Philippines. Michael was dazzled by Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha with career best work from Greta Gerwig, and Denzel Washington's soon to be Oscar nominated performance in Flight. Meanwhile everyone was talking about Lincoln's Secret Debut "Secret" Debut including Team Experience on the Podcast.

007 Lists for 007 
Deborah has been getting us celebrating the 50th anniversary of the longest running film franchise with James Bond centric lists. Like her 007 favorite films or the *only* 007 femme fatales. And we're asking all of you to vote on your 007 favorites... LAST CHANCE. Voting ends tomorrow, November 1st.

Oscar Horrors
Team Experience was asked to choose from a list of every Oscar nomination bequeathed to the horror genre or thereabouts and write about it -- just one Oscar nomination per post. Pan's Labyrinth got you talking, Addams Family Values got us laughing again (I even watched it again because of the post), and we reminisced about creepy actressing in Hush Hush Sweet CharlotteRebecca, The Spiral Staircase and Fatal Attraction to name just a handful of entries.

5 Random Favorite Posts
Which is Yummier?, "Lousy Lay", Guilt Trip Poster, Into the Woods reading and Monty meets Bernie

Happy November Everyone. Here's to the great (we hope) penultimate month of 2012 

Wednesday
Oct312012

Was Oscar Horrors Your "Frieeeeeeend"?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN !

Here Lies... bits and pieces of thieves and murderers all stitched together to form the Robert DeNiro version of Frankenstein's Monster. 

Yes, we close this year's season of "Oscar Horrors" by celebrating the gruesome Oscar-nominated makeup in...(deep breath)... Columbia Tri-Star Picture's Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) . So many possessives! And the film, if I remember it correctly, is possessed. Kenneth Branagh has never been a wallflower as a director and his version of Frankenstein has the exuberant gonzo abandon (i.e. shameless confidence) that also characterized his far more artistically successful reincarnation noir Dead Again (1991).

The makeup designs by Daniel ParkerPaul Engelen and Carol Hemming won Oscar's attention but the team lost to a black and white celebration of a more infamous gonzo director, Ed Wood

Now. You might be asking "why, Nathaniel, are we looking at shirtless (briefly) buff Kenneth Branagh and his Bride of Frankenstein instead of the Frankenstein Monster?" I may answer. "Have you seen this Frankenstein Monster? He is DIS-GUST-ING. I don't want to look at him anymore." To the make-up teams credit he really does look like bits of thieves and murderers stiched together the skin being different textures, different elasticities, different stages of decay. The stitches look painful and threaded by unsterile instruments. The makeup effects err on the side of gruesome realism. He looks nothing like the traditional Frankenstein monster with a caesar haircut, green skin and bolts in his neck and Branagh even brings him to life in his birthday suit so the makeup team designed borrowed man parts, too; this monster has nuts but no bolts. 

P.S. I also went with Kenneth & Helena photos because other than the Frankenstein experiment (slimy, nude, mad, clumsy -- an original take from Branagh) the only thing I ever remember about this movie is that it marked the end of that most awesome early 90s film couple Kenneth Branagh & Emma Thompson as he threw her over for Helena Bonham-Carter before Helena then left him for Tim Burton... or something like that. Consider this film Helena's "Bridge to Burton". Here in one film she's yanked from her then familiar Victorian doll iconography and lands painfully into the now familiar decayed gothic doll aesthetic.

The Complete Season 2 of Oscar Horrors  
Psycho -Director 
Carrie - Supporting Actress
The Nightmare Before Christmas - Visual FX
The Spiral Staircase - Supporting Actress
Ed Wood- Supporting Actor

Return to Glennescaul - Short Film
Aliens - Visual FX
Jaws - Editing
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte - Supporting Actress
Phantom of the Paradise -Original Score

Shadow of the Vampire - Supporting Actor
Dogtooth - Foreign Film
Rebecca - Supporting Actress
Monster's Inc - Animated Feature

The Virgin Spring - Foreign Film
Pan's Labyrinth - Art Direction
Them! - Visual Effects
American Werewolf in London -Makeup
Addams Family Values  -Art Direction

Wednesday
Oct312012

Oscar Horrors: Looking into PSYCHO

Here lies… a film no other man could have made – Psycho.

Matt here! Alfred Hitchcock directed Psycho just after he made Vertigo and North by Northwest, two gigantic Technicolor productions for Paramount. Imagine the pitch he made – Shoestring budget, black & white, killing off Janet Leigh after 40 minutes, main character’s a schizophrenic taxidermist motel-owner. He shot it in a few months on the Paramount lot using a television crew, paying for everything himself.

The rest is history. After spending roughly $800,000, it has grossed over $50 million and had enormous cultural impact. Recently, it placed 34th in Sight & Sound’s “Greatest Films of All-Time” critics poll. In 1960, it was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Director. One single bathroom sequence revolutionized expectations for audiences, filmmakers, and censors. What business does a true-blue, low-budget horror flick have in the pantheon of cinematic art?

While Psycho may not be Hitchcock’s greatest film, it is the apex of his directorial control, his auteurist posture. More...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct302012

Oscar Horrors: Margaret White Burns in Hell

Just one more day of Oscar Horrors! On this penultimate day of the series, JA has an incredible take on one of our shared favorites, "Carrie". -Nathaniel

HERE LIES... or rather, HERE BURNS IN HELL... Margaret White, Piper Laurie's Supporting Actress nominated performance in Brian DePalma's 1976 film Carrie.

JA from MNPP here - the only thing more shocking to me than the fact that Piper lost the Oscar for Margaret White is the fact that nobody's covered this performance for this here Oscar Horrors series yet. You could just sit back and quote her lines and be done with it - "I can see you dirty pillows." "Pimples are the Lord's way of chastising you." "I liked it. I liked it!" What a grand time it'd be! It would be like any given evening in my house, really. But give me an excuse to watch Carrie for the 50th time, and I will bite.

Piper lost the Oscar to Beatrice Straight's very brief role in Network; I won't diss Straight because I like her and I like that performance (and I like her a few years later in Poltergiest even more)... but come on. 

Rewatching the film today I was reminded what a note-perfect line Laurie walks. Dances, really. In sensible witch shoes. Her Margaret White should be what you see when you look up "Jesus Freak" in the dictionary.

But while she's often criticized for being over the top (and it's not as if director Brian DePalma backs off that angle -- when Carrie tells her mother she's going to the prom, Piper repeats the word aghast - "Prom?" - which DePalma then gooses with some ever-so-subtle lightning and thunder) what I noticed today is it's Margaret's smallness and fear that reveals themselves between the hysterics, and become disturbingly palpable. She is in a battle with herself, the beleaguered Christian, trying to be all the God Warrior she can be, but her beaten-down daughter, meekness personified (Sissy Spacek giving one of the finest performances ever put on screen, if you ask me), begins to beat her back at every turn and she's entirely befuddled by it. You can sense she's felt this before - when her husband, the one with the stinking roadhouse whiskey on his breath, also driven nuts by her zealousness, up and took off. It must be the Devil! You can see the parts clicking into place in Laurie's performance as her confusion turns into its own sense - this is what she is here for. Calmness washes over her; she has found her life's meaning. And it's a serenity that's terrifying.

And that's the thing with this performance and why it continually rings true to me - in the twenty minutes or so of screen-time that Laurie has, she simultaneously charts not just a broad portrait of religious fervor driven way off the deep end, but the pinpoint center wherein stands a very small very frightened woman, deranged by her own terror of abandonment. Once was enough, twice is too many, and she will drag her daughter straight to Hell before she ever lets go.

 

Sunday
Oct282012

Oscar Horrors: Drew's Great Aunt Ethel

Here Lies... "Mrs. Warren" the bedridden matriarch of a Victorian mansion that's haunted by a serial killer.

Hasn't Team Experience been doing a great job with the Oscar Horrors series? I figured, after passing out all these assignments, that it was time I chimed in, so I filled in one of my own Supporting Actress viewing gaps with Ethel Barrymore's Oscar nominated work in The Spiral Staircase (1945). This black and white horror flick, an early member of the neverending serial killer subgenre, is set almost entirely in an old mansion where our mute protagonist Helen (Dorothy McGuire of Gentleman's Agreement fame) works. It's not at all clear what her job is since she's neither nurse nor maid nor cook, those duties being performed with "hey, I'm in this movie, too!" gusto by How Green Was My Valley mama Sara Allgood and the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester.

We first meet "Mrs. Warren" twenty minutes into the picture. Nurse Barker (Allgood) warns Helen that their boss is in a mood...

She's sly, too. Even with her eyes closed she seems to be watching you like an evil spirit."

...but the nurse's warning doubles as an impossibly truthful, succinct and funny description of Ethel Barrymore's entire performance. I half imagined Nurse Barker tweeting it with the hashtag #ItsBarrymoreBitch 

"Do you like scary movies?"

Ethel Barrymore died 17 years before her great niece Drew Barrymore was born but I kept thinking of Drew during the movie. Perhaps it was the through line of Barrymore Girls & Acclaimed Performances in Horror Flicks? Drew Barrymore was, infamously, the first kill in Scream (1996). Tough demanding Mrs. Warren might have rescued poor Casey by insisting she hang up that phone immediately and hide under her bed.

In horror parlance Ethel's "Mrs Warren" is no Victim or Final Girl but something like a cross between Psychic "Tangina" and overbearing monster mom... "Mrs. Norma Bates" ? Barrymore makes excellent use of her eyes and modulation of her voice but it's a very limited role consisting of essentially the same three point scene on repeat: 

 

  1. Sassy Rudeness #ItsBarrymoreBitch
  2. Fade into Ill Health/Sleepiness
  3. Sudden Snap Back to Life for either:
    a) Ominous Pronouncement: "There's been another murder hasn't there? No one told me. I always know everything."
    or...
    b)  Direct Warning: "You're not safe here my dear. Leave this house at once."

 

The Spiral Staircase is something of a predictable dud now since horror movies have been so endlessly dissected, parodied, and Screamed in the last few decades and this is an old school blueprint -- the women here are always doing stupid things like walking into dark basements when they hear noises / feel a draft! --  but it's worth a watch for its quartet of Supporting Actress: domineering Ethel, put-upon fussbudget Sara, drunk funny Elsa and emotional hussy Rhonda Fleming. They all run circles around McGuire, a Damsel in Distress with only her muteness as a defining characteristic, but someone's got to keep your pulse up when you're watching a horror movie. Actresses to the rescue!... in the case of Ethel Barrymore, quite literally.

previously on Oscar horrors

Saturday
Oct272012

Oscar Horrors: Martin Landau in 'Ed Wood'

Oscar Horrors continues was Beau looks at one of his favorite performances of all time.

HERE LIES.. Supporting Actor Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 masterpiece, Ed Wood.

Martin Landau. Holla.

Martin Landau's performance in Ed Wood is a joyous celebration of its time period. The manic energy with which Landau performs as Bela Lugosi mirrors Tim Burton's marvelous pacing and infectious love of the genre in this, his career-best. Bela Lugosi was a legend. He is primarily known today for his signature role, Dracula, but Lugosi was in fact a very ambitious actor. (He has said in several interviews that he always wanted to be the lead of romantic comedy.) His failure to diversify reflects a typecasting and stereotyping in 1950s Hollywood that helped set the foundation for how business is done today. It's not a matter so much of whether or not Lugosi was good enough to try different roles. It's about the compartmentalizing of the personality, boxing it up, shipping it out. Maintaining hold.

Landau's gruff drug addicted depiction of Lugosi is a treat. My generation is not well acquainted with the works of Ed Wood or b-movies from the 1950s and I'm no exception, so  I couldn't take as much enjoyment from the reenactment of certain moments as I might be able to, in say, the upcoming Hitchcock in terms of Psycho. The central joy of watching these kinds of mimick'ed performances is seeing an actor that you're familiar with side-by-side with a legendary performer -- two contrasting takes -- but it's not the only joy. Landau understands that to successfully play Bela Lugosi is not to simply imitate or mimicking him, but imbibe him. You can get drunk so easily watching Martin Landau drink a case of Bela Lugosi. His Oscar win is one of the best choices the Academy ever made in Best Supporting Actor.

"Look into my eyes"

Tim Burton's direction eerily mirrors and compliments the ferocity with which Wood approached each and every project. The beautiful thing about Ed Wood, is the fact that this man who was completely oblivious to the fact that he had no true talent still managed to let his passion drive him through his life. In a very interesting way his story is not so much a cautionary tale for storytellers, but a map. In the 21st-century with production values taking precedence over narrative structure and any of the foundational building blocks of great films young independent filmmakers are looking to one another to trust in each other to build themselves up. With the advent of video-on-demand, filmmakers are discovering new outlets in order to release their product and story out into the world. You can market it a certain way. You can advertise a certain way. You can sell it with your passion for the project. One could go so far to abel Ed Wood as much of an auteur as Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Hawks. There are distinct notes, unique trademarks and fingerprints that are over every single frame in his films. Andrew Sarris would drop dead reading this, but it's true. Ed Wood is a hero to the American cinema because of his love for it.

Landau's contribution to the film is the spark that reignites Ed Wood's fire. And for that, in a very roundabout way, I am eternally grateful.

 

Oscar (ACTING) Horrors
[S2]
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Angela Lansbury
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte - Agnes Moorehead
Shadow of the Vampire - Willem Dafoe
Rebecca - Judith Anderson
[S1]
Rosemary's Baby - Ruth Gordon
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane - Bette Davis
Carrie - Sissy Spacek
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Fredric March

Friday
Oct262012

Oscar Horrors: An Irish Ghost Story

HERE LIES... Hilton Edwards' short film Return to Glennascaul, mauled by Disney's Bear Country.

Andreas here with another spooky Oscar Horrors case file! This time, it's a ghost story. And who doesn't love a good ghost story? (Other than the Academy, I suppose.) Return to Glennascaul (1953) retells a traditional urban legend, that of the "vanishing hitchhiker," but with so much flair and atmosphere that its overfamiliarity doesn't matter. The set-up is classic: it's late at night, on a winding road outside Dublin, and the narrator stops to pick up a stranded motorist. But aha, a twist: the narrator is in fact Orson Welles, on a break from Othello! What better addition to a ghost story than Orson, that master raconteur, he of the perfect radio voice?

Aother small twist: his passenger isn't a ghost, but instead has his own eerie story of two mysterious women and the old abandoned house he drove them to, a house called Glennascaul. All these framing devices, coupled with Orson Welles playing a wry version of himself, make the short feel like a "friend-of-a-friend" anecdote. Like something built up too plausibly not to be true. And hey, who knows what can or can't happen in the misty Irish countryside? The women themselves (one old, one young) seem harmless enough, if a little kooky, until Orson's new friend contacts the realtor trying to sell Glennascaul... and, of course, learns that they've both been dead for years. (If that's a spoiler, then you should really bone up on your campfire stories.

This is some subtle horror, certainly, but it grows in power as the climax hits—as the gentleman makes the titular return, only to discover a dusty, desolate house with no residents to speak of. Truly haunting. In addition to Orson's baritone, the film's carpeted by a sparse piano and harp score, and it's shot in chiaroscuro black and white; exactly the minimalism that the material calls for. Sometimes, as Return to Glennascaul teaches us, all you need to tell a chilling story is 20 minutes, a little music, and an old house. Oh, and Orson Welles.

It may not have won the Oscar (thanks, Disney) but it will send shivers up your spine.

Recent Oscar Horrors 
Jaws - Best Editing
Aliens - Visual FX
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte - Supporting Actress

All Oscar Horrors