The Academy Awards, special effects makeup and the horror genre.

As a child, I was subjected to dozens of gala television events. Think: Jerry Lewis’ MDA Telethons, Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts and, of course, The Academy Awards. I didn’t care for such shows – I’d rather have been watching reruns of The Twilight Zone – but in those days my mother had absolute authority over which of the five possible channels would play on the one television we owned. Not only did she enjoy these specials, she wanted to share them with me. Being an obedient mama’s girl, I watched with her for many years, despite my disinterest. I found the Oscars particularly boring; I had never heard of these nominees my mother seemed to care so much about. (Before the age of 15, I went to precisely ONE movie in a theater.)

Years passed. More televisions, and more channels, came into my life. Some of the star-studded specials of my youth stopped production, others switched to obscure channels. When the still-thriving Oscars aired (or one of those early ’80s prime-time soap operas unfolded on the screen) my mother inevitably invited me to join her, but I was old enough, by then, to claim I had homework. While she was busy with her colorful glitz and glamor in the living room, I was free to watch all the science fiction and thriller programs I could find, on the black and white set in the bedroom.

Over time, a funny thing happened. Thanks to those Twilight Zone episodes I so adored, I was exposed to a host of fantastic actors – many of whose names I had heard on celebrity showcases while sitting alongside my mother. (Those TZ guests included: Jack Klugman, Lee Marvin, William Shatner, Burgess Meredith, Robert Redford, Mickey Rooney, Charles Bronson, Dennis Hopper, Buster Keaton, and Robert Duvall.) Watching old horror / thriller movies, on that little rabbit-earred set, introduced me to some additional classic film stars like Vincent Price, Kim Hunter, Jimmy Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Ruth Gordon and Anthony Hopkins. Ironically, by the time I became enamoured of such performers, the Academy had moved on to presenting awards to a new generation of actors I didn’t know, for work in films I didn’t care about. It seemed Oscar and I were destined to be out of sync.

In my early twenties, I started dating the man who would become my husband. Though neither of us realized it at the time, he was a film buff in the making. About 95% of our dates consisted of dinner and a movie. One of the films we saw together – The Silence of the Lambs – blew both of us away. Not long after we saw it, it was nominated for best picture. Suddenly I cared about the upcoming Academy Awards.

The movie – one of MY kind of movies – swept all five major categories. I was hooked.

Now I see more movies in six months than my mother has seen in her lifetime. My husband’s early tendencies flourished, and he became an passionate cinephile … which makes me an associate cinephile, I guess. We spend the whole year theorizing about which films will be nominated, so that we will have seen them all before we settle in on Oscar night, with a snack-food feast, Oscar-bingo cards and our prediction lists. It’s been fun, but I have noticed a distinct lack of nominations for my favorite genre in the years since glorious 1991.

I’m not really offended. I mean, I loved Hugo, The Artist, Warhorse, The Tree of Life … actually all of 2011’s nominees. I wouldn’t dream of putting something horrible, like The Human Centipede II, anywhere near such quality work. Even the best horror of 2011 – Insidious; Apollo 18; and The Rite (with Anthony Hopkins) – had too many flaws to compete, though their plot-lines were novel, and each had its moments. The truth is, most horror is simply not good enough to be nominated. Which is a shame. Because it can be done.

On the 84th Academy Awards last night, in a brief segment, I learned one of my idols – the special effects makeup god, Dick Smith – received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 Governors Awards (which is now a separate gala event.)

Cover of my Disk Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook

He really is one of my idols. He started me on the path to my hobby of doing special effects makeup. I've owned this handbook since about 1986. Yes, I will post some sample pics of my work one of these days.

His award got me thinking about the Academy’s treatment of the horror genre. I capped off my Oscar evening by doing a bit of research.

(I already posted one tidbit I came across on my Facebook page ~  Rick Baker’s work, in An American Werewolf in London, inspired the inclusion of a new award category in 1982: Best Achievement in Makeup. If you have an interest in special effect makeup, or film making in general, this clip – in which Rick Baker presents the award to his mentor Dick Smith – is a must see.)

UPDATE: And this tribute, by J.J. Abrams is touching, fascinating and funny:

Allow me to share what else I discovered:

List of Oscar’s Favorite Horror Films (1931 – 2011): 

Read the rest of this entry »

WriMoProg & a brand-new-life status update.

I am completely embroiled in this agony known as preparing to move, so I’ll just take a second to catch you up.

News of the two remaining cats: one is spoken for and the final one – the 9 year old cat my son grew up with – will be coming with us. (When it came right down to it we realized we were too attached to let him go – despite my hatred of tending a litter pan.)

Thanks to a kind comment from Teresa at Mom Grooves, I remembered that I needed to open a new Linky for February’s Writer’s Monthly Progress Challenge. (Yes, it is open now, as of Feb. 7.) Having just conceded (temporary) defeat over at my daily bit ‘o creepiness on Facebook page, I was feeling kinda down about my situation – especially in relation to how it’s affecting my ability to even think about writing/blogging. Setting up the Linky, though, reminded me that I’m only giving up a few weeks to a very big transition. I will have two weeks to work with once I get into the new apartment. I’ve set a goal of 42 total hours for the month of February, most of which will be done between 16th and 29th.

Confession: I deleted all the notifications of your new blog posts, which have been building up in my email box. With luck, I’ll be able to jump back in and start conversing with you again reasonably smoothly. Please know I do miss that time of night when I’d curl up with a cup of tea and read your words. If you think there’s something in particular that I would want to see, would you drop a link in the  comments here? I’ll start there on the 16th 🙂

WriMoProg: 1 + 1 = 2/42