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The Oscars could use a little more horror

Lupita Nyong’o as Red in a scene from Jordan Peele’s “Us.”
Lupita Nyong’o as Red in a scene from Jordan Peele’s “Us.”
(Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures)

Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar snub Monday morning proved that, in addition to its glaring diversity problem (just one person of color, Cynthia Erivo, was nominated for an acting trophy), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has another blind spot when it comes to horror movies. Despite the genre’s evolution from its B-movie roots to the newly “elevated” reputation it enjoys today, horror remains consistently overlooked outside of the technical categories.

The Oscar-winning Nyong’o has struggled all awards season to secure nominations for her turn in Jordan Peele’s “Us” — scoring only a SAG nomination after being snubbed by the Golden Globes and BAFTA nominating committees — despite her critically acclaimed dual performances and early awards buzz. And she’s not the only horror actor the academy and other prestigious awards ceremonies have failed to recognize.

In the Oscars’ history, fewer than two dozen actors have been nominated for horror roles and only six have won: Fredric March (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 1931), Ruth Gordon (“Rosemary’s Baby,” 1968), Kathy Bates (“Misery,” 1990), Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster (“The Silence of the Lambs,” 1991) and Natalie Portman (“Black Swan,” 2010).

And the odds of a horror movie earning a best picture nod are even slimmer. Just six horror movies have ever competed for the top honor: “The Exorcist” (1974), “Jaws” (1976), “The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Black Swan” and “Get Out” (2017). The sole winner, “The Silence of the Lambs,” doesn’t even qualify as a horror in the traditional sense. It’s a psychological crime thriller, or more apt, a serial killer character drama with horror elements.

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In 2018, Peele’s feature filmmaking debut “Get Out” scored an impressive four nominations and earned him an original screenplay award, making him the first black person to win in the category.

“It’s the wildest dream that has become a reality,” he told The Times then. “There were so many stigmas around this movie that I assumed would keep it from being nominated — the horror stigma, the stigma about movies earlier in the season and the stigma around some of the imagery in this movie.”

It appears that those same elements would be enough to dash the awards hopes for his sophomore outing.

Similarly, Ari Aster’s “Midsommar,” another critically and commercially successful horror movie, was also passed over for nominations from any of the prestigious awards this year. It joins recent films such as Aster’s debut “Hereditary” and genre classics Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” and John Carpenter’s “Halloween” that failed to attract attention from the academy.

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Perhaps the Oscars could steady its fluctuating ratings if its voting members were more cognizant of their blind spots. Until then, movie fans can find out which drama takes home the best picture statue when the 92nd Academy Awards air live from the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 9.


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