How scary, really, is the 2018 movie Hereditary?

I’m only here today to answer two questions about the film Hereditary (2018).

They are:
1) How scary is it?
2) Is it any good?

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a full review of Hereditary which will include spoilers, but for now, you can safely read on.

1) IT’S SCARY, BUT NOT TOO SCARY

Hereditary is being billed as a game-changer movie, (one that is “pants-wettingly scary,” according to Tasha Robinson, over at The Verge.) Here’s a selection of phrases critics are using:

[A] terrifying thriller that pins you to the back of your chair and leaves you paralyzed in fear.
(Detroit News, Andrew Graham)

Are you ready for the year’s scariest movie? I don’t think you are, not at all.
(Mpls. Star Tribune, Colin Covert)

Creepy beyond belief.
(RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz)

So terrifying that I wanted to hide under a blankie during the screening.
(Us Weekly, Mara Reinstein)

And this:
It’s pure emotional terrorism, gripping you with real horror, the unspeakable kind, and then imbuing the supernatural stuff with those feelings. It didn’t play me like a fiddle. It slammed on my insides like a grand piano.
(AV Club, A.A. Dowd)

(These review snippets were mostly gathered at Rotten Tomatoes.)

The buzz about Hereditary was so loud and insistent that I considered waiting until it came out on DVD to watch it. (In a theater, I can’t pause a machine while I get my nerves under control. Also, I’m more likely to view the high tension scenes through a screen of my own fingers, which means I can miss a lot.) My Ogre, however, surprised me with pre-purchased tickets, so, on Saturday afternoon, we went to the theater.

Our front-row seats boded a particularly intense experience, and I was prepared for the worst.

I’m here to tell you, It wasn’t that bad.

Now, maybe that’s a consequence of me being me. I have seen a lot of  deeply unsettling and frightening movies. Even so, I’m pretty sure that a more casual thriller or horror fan will be fine. The requisite bloody scenes (because this is horror after all) are few and manageable. The jump scares are better than most, and there aren’t too many. The tension and dread, however, do begin early and continue throughout the film.

(In my opinion, that gives way to a sense of confusion about the plot in the last third or so of the movie, but I’ll write more about that on the 13th.)

When it comes to pure “scariness” I’d say that Hereditary is easier to watch than The Conjuring.

2) IT’S A REALLY GOOD FILM (MOSTLY)

… and well worth seeing on the big screen.

Hereditary will be going onto one of my best horror movies lists, though I’m not yet sure which one(s).

It could fit on:

13 unsettling movies – for psychological horror fans
or
the 13+ most haunting films, for ghost story lovers

but it really probably belongs on an entirely new list.

Hereditary may actually inspire me to get off my butt and finally write up that demonic / possession collection I’ve been threatening to do for years.

Overall Hereditary has some problems, but it also has some genuinely amazing moments. The look and feel of the environment, and the camera work used to highlight it, is top notch. The acting is superb. And, when it comes to the motivations and the reactions of the characters, this film breaks new ground.

My final thought (for now)? Don’t be scared to go see it.

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Top 10 Weird Weather Wonders

To my regular readers: 

I’ve been promising to raise The Paranormalist blog from the dead  —
by regularly posting something-anything on Mondays,
and by publishing at least one on-topic, “paranormal” post on the 13 of every month,
— for some time now.

Today — with the publishing of this article —
 on April’s Friday the 13th
it (finally) lives!

Now I’m going to go drink wine on that patio with my Ogre. See you on Monday!

~~*~~

Weird weather and strange atmospheric phenomena have fascinated me since I read the book It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes in 1992. In the years since then, I’ve sought out and “collected” as many unusual, rare, and wondrous meteorological occurrences as I can find.

I’ve even been lucky enough to personally experience the occasional odd event. (As detailed below.)

Basically, I turned weird weather watching into a hobby, and I’ve been indulging in that hobby for decades.

Just lately, though, weather has been even more on my mind than usual. (What with the west coast catching fire, and the east coast getting battered by multiple hurricanes, and the middle ground getting clobbered by historic snowstorms in April.) My anxious soul can’t help but note the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather worldwide. For the record, I believe we are experiencing the consequences of climate change. I also believe that human activity is causing, intensifying, or accelerating this change.

BUT.

This post is not about our new normal of intensifying extreme weather. This post is about mysterious little anomalies that have been puzzling witnesses for a long time, even — in some cases — for centuries.

I guess I just thought it was time to remind myself that weather watching can be fun.

TOP 10 11 WEIRD WEATHER WONDERS
(an incomplete list, in no particular order)

  • heat bursts
  • thundersnow
  • apocalyptic clouds
  • rains of dead birds / rains of animals
  • brinicles
  • ball lightning
  • megacryometeors
  • red rain / blood rain & watermelon snow
  • frost quakes & other mystery booms
  • star jelly
  • luminous tornadoes

~ HEAT BURSTS (INCLUDING “SATAN’S STORM”) ~

A heat burst is characterized by a dramatic, almost instantaneous, rise in temperature and fall in dew point temperature. Most, but not all, heat bursts are also accompanied by a drop in surface pressure, little to no precipitation, and gusty, rapidly shifting winds. [Interjected note: Most descriptions I’ve read indicate that these winds are caused by a powerful downdraft that descends through a dry, disintegrating thunderstorm. When the downdraft hits the ground, it spreads out like a drop of water, causing high speed winds in all directions.]  Heat bursts are typically a late spring and summer, as well as a late evening and nighttime, phenomenon. … Most heat bursts are detected in the Plains states, but heat bursts have also been recorded overseas, including the United Kingdom and Yemen. Reference for definition: NOAA.GOV

I have not personally experienced a heat burst, but the phenomenon came to my attention when some of my westerly neighbors in MN did.

To understand this event fully, you may want to have the following reference points fresh in your mind:
On July 17th, 2006, at 10:15 p.m., the temperature in Canby, MN was 90° F. The dewpoint was 70° F. In general, it was a warm, sultry night in the wake of thunderstorms.

By 11:15 p.m., that same night, the temperature had risen to 100° F.  Ten degrees is a pretty perceptible spike, particularly when it happens in the middle of the night. The truly amazing thing, though, is that — in the same timeframe — the dewpoint fell to 30° F. In essence, all the sticky humidity was sucked out of the air within the space of one hour.  This change was accompanied by hot gusts of winds measuring up to 63 mph.

Several other western Minnesota town experienced heat bursts that same evening. (To see the details of those events, read the report from the National Weather Service here.)

Another dramatic heat burst occurred at the Kansas City airport in June of 2011: At 12.22 a.m., the temperature was 85° F. At 12.44 a.m., the temperature spiked to 102° F. (That’s 17 degrees in 22 minutes.) Again, hot winds of 60+ mph occurred.

For the granddaddy of all heat bursts, though, we have to go back to June 15th, 1960, to an event the townspeople of Kopperl, TX would dub ‘Satan’s Storm’.

Residents of Kopperl — having gone to bed when the outdoor temperature was about 70° F. — awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of howling winds. (These winds were reported to be up to 75 mph. A store lost its roof. Trees were blown down.) It was suddenly so hot that some folks thought their homes were on fire. Outside, the temperature had risen to over 100° F.* Those who fled their houses found the outdoor air difficult to breath. (Due to its extreme dryness.) When daylight came, farmers reported that corn which had been green and growing the day before now stood brown and dead in the fields.

*There are reports that suggest the temperature actually peaked much higher than 100 degrees, a least for a brief time. Evidence offered to support this includes: cotton plants in the fields that were burnt black; a thermometer (calibrated to read up to 140° F.) that exploded; radiators on parked cars that  boiled over; and paint on houses that blistered.

In 1960, the heat burst phenomenon was as yet unknown to science.

No wonder Kopperl’s citizens called it Satan’s Storm.

~THUNDERSNOW~

While relatively rare anywhere, thundersnow is more common with lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes area of the United States and Canada, the midwestern United States, and the Great Salt Lake. Thundersnow produces heavy snowfall rates in the range of 2-4 inches per hour. There is a greater likelihood that thundersnow lightning will have a positive polarity which has greater destructive potential than negatively charged (typical) lightning. — Reference for definition: wikipedia.org

As a former Minnesotan, this is one phenomena that I have experienced on multiple occasions. (Perhaps four or five times in the 4+ decades that I lived there.) Don’t think, though, that the experience of such a relatively common event isn’t awe-inspiring.

Especially at night, heavily falling snow is so peaceful, and insulated, and cozy, that it’s otherworldly. There is luminosity to the night, because the snow reflects and magnifies every bit of available light, but it’s a soft glow. When lightning flashes as the snow comes down around you, however, it suddenly seems as if you are somehow inside a strobe light.

The sound of snow thunder is striking too.  A snowstorm is a normally a very hushed beast. (Unless there’s howling wind, but that’s a blizzard, not a snowstorm.) In a seasonally appropriate electrical storm, the sound of thunder can be heard for many miles. In a thunder-snowstorm, sound is muffled by the falling flakes and absorbed by the snowpack that already blankets the world. Under these conditions, thunder can only be heard in a 2–3-mile radius of the lightning bolt. Hearing it a weirdly personal experience, and magical.

Also, it’s exciting:

~APOCALYPTIC-LOOKING CLOUDS~

This countdown video will give you a nice overview of eighteen unusual or rare cloud formations. Before you watch, though, scroll down to learn a little about the three most foreboding of them.

# 10 — noctilucent — These clouds were first noted in 1885, after the volcano Krakatoa erupted and hurled plumes of volcanic ash miles into the Earth’s atmosphere. Noctilucent clouds develop only in the summer, and they are best viewed during twilight, after the sun has dropped below the horizon. To attempt to spot them, look for luminous blue-white tendrils in the west,  30-60 minutes after sunset, when the sun has dipped 6° to 16° below the horizon. — Reference for definition:  weather.com

# 15 — pyrocumulus — Translation: fire cloud. These form when there is extreme heat rising from the surface of the earth. We see them over volcanic eruptions and wildfires. Also, of course, this is the nuclear “mushroom cloud”. — Reference for definition: me

# 17 — undulatus asperatus (or asperitas)  The World Meteorological Organization recently added undulatus asperitas to the  International Cloud Atlas. They’re the first new addition to the Atlas in over half a century. “Although they appear dark and storm-like, they almost always dissipate without a storm forming. The ominous-looking clouds have been particularly common in the Plains states of the United States, often during the morning or midday hours following convective thunderstorm activity.” — Reference for definition: wikipedia.org

I need to give you an additional video of this one, because the still photographs in the collection doesn’t do it justice. (According to the photographer, there has been time lapse applied to the following video, and a slight tweak to the contrast.)

~RAINING DEAD BIRDS / RAINING ANIMALS~

Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals fall from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis is that tornadic waterspouts sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles. However, this aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed by scientists. Reference for definition:  wikipedia

My first exposure to this horrifying possibility was in the It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes book I mentioned above. I remember thinking at the time (with quite some relief) that the examples cited in the text were so old, and from such exotic locations, that their veracity was questionable.

Then, in 2011, dead birds started falling out of the sky in Arkansas.

(Yes, I realize the above definition of “raining animals” suggests only flightless animals count, but it seems close enough to me.)

Note, the following video shows dead birds. They do not have any gruesome injuries. I felt it was important to show the video because without it, it’s difficult to understand the scale of the event.

Several months after this Hitchcockian episode, a meteorologist found the likeliest explanation for the catastrophe. He was able to confirm that there was an intense temperature inversion in the atmosphere, which probably amplified the sounds of a New Year’s Eve fireworks show. His theory is that the exceptionally loud noises from the town that night caused the birds to panic, sending the huge, densely roosting flock aloft all at once, where a fraction of them collided with one another and/or crashed into stationary objects, resulting in blunt force trauma and death. National Geographic reported, in early 2011, that ornithologists are not surprised by mass bird falls, and attribute nearly all of them to blunt force trauma caused by collisions with man-made objects or by being buffeted by storms.

I was not able to find any recent well-documented cases of rains of flightless animals, unless you count ballooning spiders. Most historical instances of this phenomenon involve fish and amphibians, which is an argument in favor of the theory that tornadic waterspouts are the cause. (A normal water spout is not capable of lifting even small animals; only a tornadic water spout — one that forms over land then passes over water — could do it.) It is noteworthy that most anecdotal accounts of other animals falls have been based on sightings of a unusually large number of out-of-place animals that are already on the ground, not actually falling from the sky.

~BRINACLES~

When sea ice forms in polar regions, salt is forced out of it, and saline-saturated streams of water make their way down through cracks in the ice. This briny solution is denser than the seawater around it and consequently it has a lower freezing point. The transformed, ultra-cold sea water cannot freeze and begins to sink. As it descends, it freezes the warmer water it passes through, creating a tube of ice. This tube is the brinicle. Once the brinicle reaches the seafloor, it spreads out, where it can freeze slow-moving animals like starfish and sea urchins. Reference for definition: Me, after reading a lot of jargon and deciding to spare you.

Now that I’ve tried to condense the science for you, allow me to share the hypnotic video that caught my attention when it made the rounds on social media a few years ago.

~BALL LIGHTNING~

If you have even a passing interest is weird weather, you already know about ball lightning. For weather watchers, this is probably the holy grail of atmospheric phenomena.

Anecdotally,  this phenomenon has been described (for hundreds of years) as a floating ball of  light, ranging from pea-sized to room-filling (or even larger). The ball lingers much longer than a lightning bolt, and moves relatively slowly along a straight, curved, or erratic path, sometimes bouncing or zig zagging, and sometimes appearing to roll along surfaces. Some reports suggest that it can pass through walls; that it pops or explodes as it disappears; and/or that it leaves the smell of sulfur or burning electricity in its wake. — Reference for definition: me again, after combing through dozens of sources.

Until recently no one had ever captured scientific proof of the existence of ball lightning, even though there have been many credible  modern sightings. In January of 2014, however, scientists from Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, China, changed that by publishing a recording which documents ball lightning. The recording was made in 2012, when the scientists were studying ordinary cloud – ground lightning on the Tibetan Plateau.

From a distance of 900 meters (more than half a mile) the researchers witnessed naturally occurring ball lightning. They estimated its visible (to-the-naked-eye) glow to be 5 meters (approximately 16. 5 feet) across, though the ball itself was probably much smaller. The glow burned white, then red, for a second, then disappeared. The scientists were able to record the spectrum of light given off by the phenomenon.

Before you get too excited about the following video, please understand that the recording is not as dramatic as you’d hope. In fact, it may be the most visually anticlimactic clip you’ve ever seen. As boring as it looks, though, and as brief as it is, it proves that ball lightning is a real thing. I encourage you to read the article at physics.aps.org which summarizes the scientific findings of the published report. It’s very accessible, and it explains the significance of the video much better than I ever could.

If you’ve ever witnessed ball lightning, PLEASE comment below and tell us everything about it!!

~MEGACRYOMETEORS~

A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice which, despite sharing many textural, hydro-chemical and isotopic features detected in large hailstones, is formed under unusual atmospheric conditions which clearly differ from those of the cumulonimbus cloud scenario (i.e. clear-sky conditions). — Reference for definition: wikipedia

Seeking additional information about this phenomenon turned out to be depressing as hell, because the topic seems to be a lightning rod for arguments between climate change believers and deniers. I got sucked into reading far too many comment threads than is good for my psyche. In the end, I’ve decided to simply share some links to articles about megacryometeors. If you’re wiser than me, you’ll avoid the comments.

As to my personal opinion about the source of these giant ice balls, I lean toward the theory that dangerously large chunks of ice are forming on the exterior of aircraft, then falling from the sky. For most of the reports, that explanation makes the most sense. I don’t know what to tell you about the 400 pound, fridge sized block of ice that reportedly fell on the Brazilian Mercedes Benz factory … except that I couldn’t find any reference to the event outside of it being cited in all the megacryometeor articles.

~BLOOD RAIN AND WATERMELON SNOW~

BLOOD RAIN or red rain is a phenomenon in which blood is perceived to fall from the sky in the form of rain. Instances of blood rain usually cover small areas. The duration can vary, sometimes lasting only a short time, others several days. … Today, the dominant theories are that the rain is caused by red dust suspended in the water, or by the presence of micro-organisms, such as aerial spores of the micro-algae Trentepohlia annulata. — Reference for definition: wikipedia

Recent incidents of  blood rain attributed to micro-algae have been reported in Western India (2001), Sri Lanka (2012), and Spain (2014). Most blood rain events in Europe (including other rains in Spain) are caused by dust that is lifted from the northern part of Africa and carried northward. According to an article at the website of the American Meteorological Society, there have been at least 510 such events across Europe, since 1900.

“The photograph was taken during our study of the red rain phenomenon in Kerala and is published in our report.” The original uploader was Vsasi at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.5, Link

 

WATERMELON SNOW, (also called pink snow, red snow, or blood snow) is Chlamydomonas nivalis, a species of algae. Unlike most species of fresh-water algae, it is cryophilic (cold-loving) and thrives in freezing water. This type of snow is common during the summer in alpine and coastal polar regions worldwide, such as the Sierra Nevada of California. — Reference for definition:  wikipedia

~FROST QUAKES (AND SINGING LAKES)~

“Frost quakes,” also known as cryoseisms, are a natural phenomenon that occurs when extremely cold temperatures lead to sudden deep freezing of the ground, after it has been saturated with water. The Vermont Geological Survey defines a cryoseism as, “[a] major frost cracking of the top few feet of the ground, occurring during sub-zero cold snaps, which generates localized ground shaking and is often mistaken for an earthquake.” Expansion that results during the process of freezing can lead to the buildup of explosive stress, which may result in fractures within the earth. Small cracks may be visible on the surface near where a cryoseism has occurred, and in some cases, shaking vibrations may also be felt within the vicinity of the frost quake, along with loud booms that sound similar to gunfire. — Reference for definition:  FROSTQUAKE.ORG

The following video is labeled as an example of a frost quake, but it appears to me that the person is actually recording the sounds of lake ice fracturing. There are deep, heavy sounding booms, but I don’t know if this comes close to capturing the intensity of an earth-based boom. (As far as I know, I’ve never experienced a frost quake.)

I can tell you that I have heard lake ice “grumbling” and “singing” as it freezes and as it breaks up. Here are two videos that beautifully exemplify those sounds, if you have the patience to watch and wait. (It’s much easier to do while you’re sitting at a computer than it is when you’re standing out in the frigid air.)

If you’re only a little patient, the second one is more dramatic.

Here’s an extra heads-up: If you watch this next video, help me figure out what the hell happens at the 33 second mark! What am I seeing swimming behind the ice ridge? A dog?
(Edit: the person who posted the video says there is no animal, only a piece of ice breaking away. Hmm.)

~STAR JELLY~

Star jelly (also called astromyxin, astral jelly) is a gelatinous substance sometimes found on grass or even on branches of trees. According to folklore, it is deposited on the Earth during meteor showers. Star jelly is described as a translucent or grayish-white gelatin that tends to evaporate shortly after having “fallen.” Explanations have ranged from the materials being the remains of frogs, toads, or worms, to the byproducts of cyanobacteria, to the paranormal. Reports of the substance date back to the 14th century and have continued to the present day. — Reference for definition: wikipedia

Rana spec. (Star jelly), Buursen, the NetherlandsStar jelly is a relatively common phenomenon, that has been reported world-wild. To be clear, there is not a scientific consensus about the source of star jelly, though it has often been collected and analyzed. Some instances are obviously related to the activities of amphibians, but not all of them, nor even most. Star jelly has been linked in some reports to sightings of will-o-the-wisp type lights and/or UFO sightings. In some areas, where an outdoor location is reputed to be haunted, it has been associated with ghostly activity.

I have to admit that I didn’t realize this was “a thing” when I  saw similar blobs while out prowling the semi-wild woods and swamps of Minnesota. Frankly, I just assumed that it was expectorated by some person or excreted by some animal that had passed by before me. I didn’t look closely, and I didn’t search for additional blobs in the surrounding area. And there’s no way in hell I ever touched it, not even with a stick. In my defense, It didn’t seem particularly striking to me after seeing, then researching, the telial horns of Cedar Apple Rust disease in my own backyard:

Now THAT’S disgusting. But it’s not weather per se.  Read more at backyardnature.net.

~LUMINOUS TORNADOES~

Tornadoes and lightning often go together, but this phenomenon is NOT about lightning bolts illuminating a funnel. Rather, this is about reportage of an otherworldly blue glow emanating from the exterior of  the funnel itself, while its interior–it’s throat–glows with fire-like hues of red and orange. Some accounts say that balls of this fiery internal light can and do appear to emerge from the narrow end of the funnel. (Ball lightning?) This lightshow is only visible in tornadoes occurring at night. — Reference for definition: Me again. It’s what I do: research information then condense and clarify.

Most reports of this phenomenon originate from the infamous 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak. (Over the course of approximately eleven hours, on April 11th and 12th, at least 47 serious tornadoes were spawned along a 450 mile stretch of the Midwest; twenty-one of them were deadly.)

In a 1966 article in the journal Science, a witness — recorded only as Mrs. Highiet — is quoted as saying:

“We were shaken up and our trailer along with others was dented badly from hail the size of baseballs. The beautiful electric blue light that was around the tornado was something to see, and balls of orange and lightning came from the cone point of the tornado. The cone or tail of the tornado reminded me of an elephant trunk. It would dip down as if to get food then rise again as if the trunk of an elephant put food in his mouth. My son and I watched the orange balls of fire roll down the Racy Way Park then it lifted and the roof came off one of the horse barns.” (Toledo, OH)

The following photograph was taken by James R. Wyer, near Toledo, OH, on the night of April 11th, 1965. It may show two luminescent funnels.

Photographer: Jim Weyer

This same storm system was known to have birthed at least one other pair of twin tornadoes. The following shot was taken earlier on April 11th, in Dunlap, IN:

WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?

I don’t for a minute think that this post is DONE. But I’ve been hanging onto it — occasionally adding bits  and pieces here and there — for months. It’s time to hit the publish button and let it make its way to the search engines.

If you’re interested in a particular weather-related phenomenon that I haven’t mentioned here, drop a comment below.
I’ll add it to my list of things to research and write about.

In the future, I’ll likely post about one kind of weird weather at a time, and this page will become a sort of index to additional articles.

So, what’s the weirdest weather you’ve ever witnessed? What weather event would you most like to see … or, conversely, which would you prefer to avoid at all costs?


The Sunset’s Light

This week’s weekly photo challenge theme is rise/set. This is a bit troublesome for me.

I’m almost certain I’ve NEVER taken a picture of a sunrise (though I’ve seen a few just after being up all night) and I rarely take photographs of the sunset itself. Oh, I know. A sunset is pretty, but it’s not as compelling for me as the light it casts on the world around me.

Today, (and probably for the rest of the month of April) I need to be in and out of here quickly, because I’m taking another crack at FINISHING the carnival novel before May 1st. (Thank you, Camp NaNoWriMo, for the latitude “NaNoWRiMo” grants me in my personal life.)

With no further nattering on, here are some shots that (almost) capture the sunset’s light:

Ooh, ooh, I found an actual sunset … along with a MOON rise. That counts, right?

Here are some of my favorite ‘RISE/SET‘ responses from others:

(I’ll add more IF I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

a stunning selection of actual sunsetsand another set, in a darker, more somber palette – Invitation to a Haunted Dusksunset boatssunrise mist (On, yeah! I have seen this phenomena, back when I was working the graveyard shift at the Paranormal hotel. Never thought to take a picture though) – Ah! someone else decided to go with the moon too –  gold! by ‘bonegirl’. Love that name.roiling skyOh, cool. Some-brave-one did a black and white sunset.sunset Ferris wheelfrozen ground, fiery skybeachbridge & balloonsgolden harbora spill of lightbland –  more sunrise mist(!) over falls – For Ogre: Grand CanyonNow this is the kind of sunrise mist I remember.

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

 

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


Horror, Thriller, and Dark Fantasy Movies at the Oscars, Part Two.

Last week I shared a list of horror, thriller, and dark fantasy movies that were acknowledged at the Academy Awards prior to 1992. (And the list shows that the academy is not as stingy about honoring “our” genre as water cooler chit-chat might suggest.)

If you’re a dark movie fan, you probably already know the significance of 1992, but if you’ve forgotten, I’ll give you a hint:

Okay. That was a big hint.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was the third film in the history of the awards to win the Big Five: best picture, best director, best actress, best actor, and best screenwriting. (The other two films that accomplished this feat were It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).)

Here are its stats:

1992 The Silence of the Lambs

  • Winner of Best Picture
  • Winner of Best Director
  • Winner of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Winner of Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing

(If you didn’t catch it last week, you ought to take a peek at how well Hitchcock’s Rebecca did in 1941. It actually garnered more nominations than SotL.)

Since The Silence of the Lambs so emphatically broke through the perceived barrier to acclaim, many of our favorite movies have been given a nod. This is what the record looks like:

Horror, Thriller and Dark Fantasy Movies

Honored at The Academy Awards Since Silence of the Lambs

(also in) 1992 The Addams Family

  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

1993 Bram Stoker’s Dracula

  • Winner of Best Costume Design
  • Winner of Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

1994 Addams Family Values

  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

1995 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Makeup

1995 Interview With the Vampire

  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1999 Gods and Monsters

  • Winner of  Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ian McKellen
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Lynn Redgrave
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay, tied with Dark City. See below.)

2000 The Green Mile

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Clarke Duncan
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • (Also nominated for Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2000 The Sixth Sense

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Haley Joel Osment
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Toni Collette
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2000 Sleepy Hollow

  • Winner of Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

2001 The Cell

  • Nominated for Best Makeup
  • (Also nominated for Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2001 Shadow of the Vampire

  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Willem Dafoe
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2007 Pan’s Labyrinth

  • Winner of Best  Cinematography
  • Winner of Best Art Direction
  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Music – Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

2008 Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street

  • Winner of Best Art Direction
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Johnny Dep
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

2011 The Wolfman

  • Winner of Best Makeup

2011 Black Swan

  • Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing

Next week, I’ll share a list of horror and dark fantasy films that Oscar (wrongly?) ignored in the years between 1993 and the present.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m annoyed by some of the exclusions — 2002 and 2015, for example, were painful.

(PS: I already have half of next Monday’s post written, because I got a bit carried away once I started looking at the films that did not get any love from Oscar. I gotta pull the trigger for today though, so I’ve decided to stop here for now, and save the rest of today’s research for next week. I’ll talk more about the Bram Stoker Award for Screenwriting which I mention above — and probably about the SATURN Awards — then.)

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT MOVIEPASS?

Before I go, I want to share something that you can use right now, to see this year’s nominees.

For $9.95 per month, you can see one movie per day, in (almost) any theater, at any time. No film exclusions. No catches. You don’t even have to sign on for a long subscription period. You pay month to month; it’s automatically billed; you can cancel anytime. You need to be able to install an app on your phone, so that you can check-in once you get to the theater. MoviePass then authorizes a transaction. Next, you walk up to the ticketing window and present a MoviePass card which looks like a normal credit card. The theater processes the card like any other, charging the full cost of a single ticket. This card only pays for the ticket, not for concessions.

I know this sounds too good to be true, but it really, truly works. We signed up about a week and a half ago, got our cards in the mail promptly, and used them this last weekend.

Do you have any idea how much money this is going to save our cinephile family?!?

Go here: https://www.moviepass.com/

(I’m still not entirely clear on how this is a sustainable model, but I’m willing to take advantage for as long as it lasts.)

Also remember that many theaters will have special showings and package deals for the nominees. Check AMC, Cinemark, and Regal. There may be others too.

STATUS OF MY PERSONAL QUEST TO SEE ALL THE NOMINEES:

I have now seen ALL the Best Picture nominees for this year’s  Academy Awards.

Of the nine nominees, I hated two, really liked four, and loved two. If you add that up you’ll see I’m missing one. That’s because one film has me veering from love, through WTF, to hate, and back.

You can see all the trailers here:  http://oscar.go.com/nominees

What have you seen so far, and what do you intend to see before March 4th? What’s you love/like/hate tally?

 


We paranormal people* have TWO contenders for Best Picture in 2018.

*By “paranormal people”, I mean people who are:

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”

Norma/ nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”

Also, people who love horror and speculative fiction.

I remember the first time I saw one of *my* movies win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was a wintry evening on March 31st, 1992, and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) swept the big five awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best  Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.

As I watched a movie I LOVED win award after award that night, I grew increasingly giddy. Finally, I thought, my genre was getting some respect after years of being completely ignored.

You see, in the weeks leading up to the broadcast, I had been listening to the “buzz” about how Silence of the Lambs might win. And it was always accompanied by a lot of talk about how it couldn’t REALLY win, because the Academy ALWAYS snubbed genre movies — suspense, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror in particular.

(Rather like the buzz we are hearing right now, as the news of nominations for Get Out and The Shape of Water spread across the internet.)

That night, I didn’t yet know that in 1941, Hitchcock’s Rebecca had not only won Best Picture, it had received enough nominations that it could have (should have, in my opinion) performed as well  The Silence of the Lambs did in 1992. I didn’t yet know that the Academy had actually nominated many horror, sci-fi, and speculative fiction films — right from the beginning of its existence — and that it had handed out several prestigious awards to the best of them.

In 1992, I just didn’t know enough about the history of the Academy Awards.

As a kid in the late 70s and early 80s I watched the Oscars on TV every year with Mother, even though we never went to a movie theater.  I saw a lot of beautiful, elegant, people win that little gold statuette, but I’d never seen a movie that hadn’t been edited for television and interrupted by commercials, let alone any movie that was contemporary enough to be up for an annual award. (This was before videos were available, Children.)

I didn’t start seeing real movies until I began dating in the mid-80s, and those early dates certainly weren’t taking me to see Oscar contenders. That’s not to say I didn’t see some great flicks. I saw The Terminator. Beverly Hills Cop. The Karate Kid.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  All of them on the big screen. Hell, I saw Return of the Jedi in its first run at least three times. 

The blockbusters were fun, but I didn’t become truly infatuated with films until we could afford a VCR in the late 80s. That’s when I started spending all of my “spare” money renting all the film adaptions of my favorite books, and all the classic movies that my favorite authors talked about in their afterwords. (And everything Stephen King recommends in Danse Macabre.)

One thing led to another, and my affection for horror and speculative fiction films, from all eras, became consuming. My friends and I rented everything from Psycho, to Carrie, to Last House On the Left, to Faces of Death. (I regret that last one to this day.) I had found my niche.

By the time 1991 came around, I hadn’t bothered to watch the Academy Awards for years. I wasn’t interested in “that kind” of movie. It was a busy year for me and I wasn’t going out as much. I was still renting movies like crazy, but the only two times I remember going to the theater, I saw The People Under the Stairs and The Silence of the Lambs. I loved both movies, for different reasons, but it didn’t occur to me that the Academy would consider either one for an Oscar.

Then the buzz about Silence of the Lambs began. I gave the Academy another chance, expecting to have my hopes dashed. Instead I was rewarded.

I’ve watched the Oscars every year since. And I’ve been doing my due diligence in researching the history of the Academy Awards.

The truth of the matter is — with a few notable exceptions — the Academy is generally happy to reward a genre movie … IF it really is the best in a category in any given year.

This week I’m sharing the Oscar highlights of my favorite genre’s movies, prior to 1992. (See list below.) Next week, I’ll share some thoughts about films that followed The Silence of the Lambs. (Hint: It gets even better.)

Right now, I want to encourage you to catch the two films that are in contention for next month’s 90th Annual Academy Awards, while you still can.  Go ahead. Get excited. These movies have a great shot at winning. (But be warned — the field, as usual, is really competitive.)

Get Out

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actor

Get Out is available through Redbox, and will likely go into re-release now that it has nominations.

The Shape Of Water

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actress
  • Nominated for Best Supporting Actor
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Mixing
  • Nominated for Best Production Design
  • Nominated for Best Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

Movies The Academy Acknowledged

Even Before The Silence of the Lambs

1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Frederic March (Tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Adaptation
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography

1936 Bride of Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording

1941 Rebecca

  • Winner of Best Picture
  • Winner of Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading role: Laurence Olivier
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading role: Joan Fontaine
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Judith Anderson (And it’s a crime she didn’t win for her portrayal of Mrs. Danvers.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Nominated for Best Musical Score

1944 The Phantom of the Opera

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Color
  • Winner of Best Art Direction – Interior, Color
  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording
  • Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

1946 The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Angela Lansbury (She won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White

1957 The Bad Seed

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Nancy Kelly
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Eileen Heckart
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patty McCormack
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1961 Psycho

  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting role: Janet Leigh (Leigh won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1963 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

  • Winner of Best Costume Design, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Bette Davis (An ouch for Joan Crawford.)
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Victor Buono
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1964 The Birds

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

1968 Wait Until Dark

Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Audrey Hepburn

1969 Rosemary’s Baby

  • Winner of Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Ruth Gordon (Gordon also won a Golden Globe for this role, and Mia Farrow won a Globe for Best Actress – Drama.)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: Roman Polanski (Polanski won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay.)

1973 Ben

  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ben

1974 The Exorcist

  • Winner of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: William Peter Blatty
  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Picture: William Peter Blatty
  • Nominated for Best Director: William Friedkin
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ellen Bustyn
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jason Miller
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Linda Blair
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Film Editing

1975 Young Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1976 Jaws

  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Winner of Best Film Editing
  • Winner of Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
  • Nominated for Best Picture: Stephen Spielburg
  • NOTE: I do think there were some performances here that should have been nominated, but weren’t.

1977 The Omen

  • Winner of Best Music, Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ave Santini

1977 Carrie

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sissy Spacek
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Piper Laurie

1980 The Amityville Horror

  • Nominated for Best Original Score

1980 Alien

  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Winner of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration

1982 An American Werewolf in London

  • Winner of Best Makeup (Rick Baker)

1983 Poltergeist

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1987 The Fly

  • Winner of Best Makeup

1987 Aliens

  • Winner of Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sigourney Weaver
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1991 Misery

Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role

 

 


Go see The Greatest Showman.

Everything the critics are saying about the movie The Greatest Showman is true.

Kinda.

It isn’t even close to historically accurate. It’s simplistic. It’s squeaky clean. (On the surface.*) There is not a single swear word in the flick.

All true.

But this critical dismissal is also all rather funny, considering one of the themes of the movie itself. (In the film, watch for what the newspaper critic has to say.)

If you’re heavily invested in personifying a sophisticated critical thinker, you will find the movie to be too shallow, too light, too pop-culture-friendly. If, on the other hand, you’re up for letting your guard down so you can be cracked wide open by an explosion of song, color, dance, and, yes, optimism (in a year when it is sorely needed) then you have to go while you can still see it on the big screen. (Find it soon. I caught it near the end of its run, I think.)

I was not prepared for the emotions that hit me as soon as the first musical number began. (Be sure to be in your seat and attentive by the time the last preview is done.) I hadn’t read reviews. I didn’t know anyone who had seen it. In fact, we almost didn’t go, because Ogre and I are on our annual quest to see as many serious Oscar contenders as we can, and this didn’t seem (and still doesn’t seem) like a real candidate. (But if it doesn’t win best original song, I will be annoyed. Listen via the video below.)

I don’t want to set you up for anything less than my going-in-blind experience, so I’ll won’t give a review or a summary of the movie’s plot here. Besides, none of that matters. Either this movie will hit you or it won’t. And whether it does or doesn’t has nothing to do with the flaws film critics are pointing out. I won’t even tell you what I loved and what I have quibbles with.**  At least not here in this post which is encouraging your to go if you haven’t.

Just on the off chance that this movie does make you feel the way it made me feel, risk the investment of time and cash. If you don’t like it, you aren’t out that much. If it thaws you, even half as much as it did me, you’ll be so appreciative you did. (Maybe even appreciative enough to go again. The next day. Dragging someone you love with you.*** )

* I do think it helps to come to this movie knowing the truth of who Barnum was and what he did. I enjoyed spotting the nods to history that are scattered throughout the movie. Don’t research, but be glad if you already know a little about circuses and freak shows … like I know most of you do.

** Of course I have quibbles. I’m open to discussing the details in the comment section.

*** I can tell you all three of my hostages loved the show.


Starting off 2018 right.

I’ve got this crazy plan (just don’t call it a resolution) to resume regular blogging in 2018. The plan itself is reasonable enough, I think: one biggish / major article on the 13ths of each month, and shorter, chattier notes once a week, on Mondays. This plan has been in place since –oh — sometime in September.

You’ll note it is currently the 3rd Monday in January. You’ll also note it’s the 15th.

Clearly, it hasn’t gone so well so far.

But:

  • I’ve got an article about weird weather nearly done, so the coming February deadline is all but covered.
  • It’s Monday, and I’m actually here.
  • And I scared the hell out of my upstairs neighbor this weekend, so I’ve got a story to tell.

 

We’ve been having a cold snap since Christmas here in North Carolina. It’s nothing compared to the bomb cyclone that hit the upper east coast at the beginning of the month. And it’s nothing compared to every winter of my life (up until two years ago) in Minnesota. But it’s chilly. And for a day or so, we even had some snow.

One night last week, we were watching the local news for the forecast, when the weather guy flashed one of the cool nature photographs he regularly solicits from viewers. This one broke our hearts. It was of a Rufus hummingbird, looking desperately cold, perched on a snow-dusted nectar feeder. (I’m sorry, but I can’t find the picture on the newscast’s site. They only have the 2017 photo collection available so far.)

My Ogre and I have a long history with hummingbirds back in Minnesota, where we used to feed them faithfully. When we moved here, we tried setting up a feeder, but were outsmarted by the voracious ants that climbed up the support we made on the deck area outside our door. (We live on the second floor of a three-story apartment building with breezeways and individual entrances.) After some trial and error, we reluctantly conceded defeat to the hordes of sugar ants and packed away our hummingbird supplies.

The meteorologist said the snowy photo of the little Rufus had been taken the day before, in a Raleigh neighborhood not far from where we live. This was a shock. It never occurred to us that hummers would actually winter here in NC. According to the weatherman, the population that does stay around is small but persistent. And he noted that they do have a hard time finding food in January and February.

In that moment I realized I had accidentally solved the hummingbird v. ant battle while I was putting up our Christmas decorations this year.

Just as I had done with some pairs of over-sized ornaments, I could suspend two feeders of equal weight, using only fishing line, from the floorboards of the breezeway above us. The combination of the thin fishing line, the long drop from one story to the next, and a good feeder with an ant moat, should theoretically prevent ant-thievery. (In any case, the ants aren’t very active when it’s this cold. I guess we’ll see if it’s a good long-term solution when spring arrives in about a month.)

By the time we had found our feeders, made and cooled nectar, measured out an appropriate length of fishing line, and tied slender hooks on either end of the line with intricate fisherman’s knots (okay, Ogre tied the knots, I watched), it was late. Like two-thirty in the morning late. No matter.

We went out onto the breezeway — Ogre in sweats and me in a long white flannel nightgown — to put up the feeders. I ran upstairs and dropped the line down to him, making sure to arrange it so that it fell between the boards, onto the cross support, so that it couldn’t get caught by the foot of someone walking on the decking. Ogre received the hooks and attached the feeders. It worked. But. After we looked at the arrangement from a few angles, we realized we really wanted them to hang from a point a few boards away from where they were. No problem.

We detached the feeders and attempted to pull the line down. We figured, when it was free, I could just run up and drop it down again, in the correct position. We figured wrong. One hook got caught in a crack. We wiggled and tugged, but our efforts only served to wedge it in more tightly. I was going to have to go back up to the third floor, with something really long and thin that would fit between the boards, to push the hook free. Something like my longest butcher knife.

Do you have the image that greeted my neighbor yet?

In case you don’t, I’ll describe it for you: It’s past three o’clock on a Thursday night. It’s cold. It’s quiet. Everyone in the complex has been asleep for hours. I’m crouched (in my white nightgown, with my long graying hair loose and blowing in a cold, fitful wind) just outside my neighbor’s door. I’ve got a 13″ butcher knife. I’ve just freed the hook and I’m happy, so I’m brandishing my knife, in a kind of ta-dah! way, to celebrate.

Of course that’s when the door opened.

Just to be clear, we didn’t wake him with our bird-feeder project. I don’t know where he was going at that time of night, but he was fully dressed and carrying car keys. I was able to see that much before he slammed the door shut.

To his credit, he was very casual about it all when he came out a few seconds later. He didn’t even wait for me to clear the stairs before he started out for his destination again. Maybe he realized I’m the same woman he chats with when he finds me, during the day, working at my table on the deck. Maybe his curiosity about the activities of the crone on his doorstep got the better of him. Maybe his errand was just very, very important.

I do know that, despite my rushed explanation, he didn’t seem completely reassured until I was able to show him the hummingbird feeders when we reached my floor.

We wished each other a good night. He went on his way. Ogre and I finished hanging the feeders.

I haven’t seen Mr. Bates since, but I’m sure we’ll be past any lingering awkwardness by the time it’s warm enough for me to work outside again.

Right?

PS: Yes. I did just creep up to my neighbor’s doorstep so that I could lay my butcher knife on his welcome mat and snap a pic.

So, anyway. What did you do over the weekend? (Besides watching the Vikings pull off a miracle?)