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With the 2018 Oscar nominations announced many, including myself, gave a sigh of relief and a fist-pump at the range of diversity, with Greta Gerwig being (only!) the 5th female director to be nominated and Jordan Peele, director of Get Out also (ONLY!) the 5th African American director to be nominated for the award. But what’s also worth noting is that the academy may be changing in its attitudes towards the types of films that get nominated. Namely genre films, like horror and sci-fi.
It’s well known that the Oscars rarely acknowledge genre films like Sci-fi and Horror outside of the technical categories, but with films like Get Out and Shape of Water being nominated for awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, this could be a sign of changing times. One many film goers would welcome.
This attitude is nothing new, the academy has been shutting out genre films since the awards began, with King-Kong (1930) and Frankenstein (1931) being arguably some of the most influential films ever made, yet never getting nominations. However it’s an attitude that shuts out new voices and talents, in fact some of the most interesting films within the past 5 years have been horror films, The Babadook, The Witch, It Follows. Even this year, there was a snub of a personal favourite of mine, Raw (2017), which should have received a nomination for Best Foreign Language film. But I guess the academy just doesn’t dig cannibal coming of age movies.
When talking about the Oscars and Genre its also worth mentioning that the “Oscar Bait” is a genre in itself. A formula that, until recently, the academy was all too happy to reuse again and again. Is it a character study? Is it historical? Set in Hollywood? Got Meryl Streep? Then it’s likely to get a nomination. Due to the fact that the academy, unlike the Golden Globes, is made up of former actors and “prestigious” industry members rather than critics and the press, this seemed unlikely to change. So a movie like La La Land, which is essentially just a love letter to Hollywood and the “golden age” of cinema is bound to get a lot of nominations.
Nominating a mix of different genre films, especially crowd favourites could even make the awards relevant again. In fact since the 80’s there has been a sharp decline in the box office numbers for Oscar films, with the awards being used as just another way of promoting the films themselves. Hopefully adding a more diverse range of performances and genres, could not only make the Oscars more relevant but also give rising talent the notoriety it deserves.
Genre films allow writers and directors to be creative and show the power of film and the journey it can take an audience on, and if Get Out’s nominations are anything to go by, it looks like the Academy may be starting to feel that way too.