Saturday, October 4, 2014

Another 31 Days of Halloween: Top 10 Oscar-Worthy Performances in Horror Films

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Another 31 Days Of Halloween. This will be my first post today to make up for what I missed Thursday and for not doing a second post yesterday. My apologies. Anyways, on this post, I will do a special list. They always talk about how the Oscars never recognize comedies or fanboy fare. But, there is yet another genre that doesn't seem to get along with the Academy: Horror. But for this list, I will discuss ten performances that I thought were worthy of Oscar recognition. Here we go:

10. Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000): Before Christian Bale became Batman, he became a psychotic yuppie named Patrick Bateman. Bale brilliantly portrays this complex and charming madman who slowly becomes unsure of his own urges. Fortunately, Bale would still go on to win an Oscar for The Fighter and he has his fare of green thanks to his part in the Batman franchise. So, things would still turn out fine for Bale even though this is one performance that I thought got sadly overlooked.

9. Sergi Lopez in Pan's Labyrinth (2006): While Pan's Labyrinth managed to nab 3 Oscars (Makeup, Cinematography, Art Direction), one performance from that film that I thought was worthy of recognition was Sergi Lopez as the stepfather from hell Captain Vidal. Whenever he is on screen, he leaves you shaking without trying to. It is a rather refined yet powerful villainous role and definitely would've made my Best Supporting Actor lineup from the year it came out.

8. Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist (2007): From one villainous role to another, Marcia Gay Harden is just a tour-de-force in this. Harden is so amazing in her role as religious zealot Mrs. Carmody, that every time she is on screen, you just want to punch her in the face. Not to mention, this is a complete 180 from her Oscar-nominated turn as the confused housewife Celeste Boyle in Mystic River. Harden is very much an actor's actor and even though she didn't get much Oscar love for this performance, she still managed to nab a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her troubles.

7. Vera Farmiga in Orphan (2009): Now I am getting into more heroic territory. The first protagonist on my list is Vera Farmiga for her rather complex work in Orphan. Isabelle Fuhrman may have had people talking after they saw the film for her portrayal the titular orphan, but I thought Farmiga also really shines as the troubled adoptive mother trying to recover from alcoholism. Even though her character is very troubled, Farmiga manages to make us sympathetically watch her character arc.

6. Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960): The next villainous role on this list, Anthony Perkins really shines as the seemingly harmless boy-next-door in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho. Perkins showcases his boyish charm while fuming with a small volcanic rage, hinting that he may not be what he appears to be. Psycho may have landed nominations for Best Director (Hitchcock), Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Cinematography, and Art Direction, but why not recognize the Psycho himself, right?

5. Charlotte Gainsbourg/Willem Dafoe in Antichrist (2009): The only pair on this list, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are the only actors in the film and are a dynamic pair that plays off each other. So, I feel that to recognize one is to recognize the other. Gainsbourg is brilliant as the woman She and consistently blurs the line between victim and aggressor while demonstrating her character's own self-loathing. Dafoe equally shines as the husband who tries to make sense of his wife's decline while still making the audience unsure of his intentions. The film itself is hard to watch, but the brilliance of these performances cannot be denied, in my opinion. While Gainsbourg and Dafoe may not have nabbed Oscar nominations, Gainsbourg still managed to win Best Actress at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, so her performance went far from unnoticed.

4. Angela Bettis in May (2002): Next on my list is Angela Bettis as the titular character in the underrated gem May. Bettis brilliantly portrays an isolated woman who is just yearning to be accepted while being unsure of why she herself is having trouble making friends. She is not an outcast in the vein of Carrie White, who is just more withdrawn. They both succumb to homicidal urges but May's slow descent involves a silent arc. It is a subtle yet strong performance. If you haven't seen this film, I would say try and find it. It is a small gem.

3. Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion (1965): While I watched Repulsion for the first time, the first thing that stayed in my mind after it ended was the brilliance of Catherine Deneuve. Most of her performance comes from the use of her eyes and I feel that she did more acting with her eyes than what plenty of actors can do with their faces. It is the kind of performance that you have to let come to you, but definitely an amazing one at that.

2. Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980): One of the more iconic performances on this list, Jack Nicholson is quite incredible as Jack Torrance, the loving family man who undergoes a slow descent into madness in the Overlook Hotel. What I like about this performance is just how Nicholson undergoes a subtle transformation while still showcasing his typical Nicholson quirks (cackle, sudden bursts of anger, etc.). It is a performance within a performance that is a blend of both mainstream and artistic credibility.

1. Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968): Mia Farrow is the one performance on this list that has gotten the closest to Oscar gold, with a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination, yet was left empty-handed on Nomination Day, sadly. I loved that her co-star Ruth Gordon won Best Supporting Actress that year, it just would've been nice for them to recognize the person Gordon was supporting, in my opinion. But onto the performance. Like how Jack Nicholson's performance was a blend of mainstream and artistic cred, Farrow's is a blend of both physically and internally becoming the character. Farrow's performance involved plenty of weight loss yet she still emotionally became Rosemary. I think if any actor wants to learn how to tackle a role that is physically demanding while still emotionally becoming their character, they could easily take notes from Farrow's iconic portrayal in this.

Now onto a few honorable mentions that almost made this list:

Neve Campbell in Scream: A "final girl" that is given more depth and grows emotionally as the film progresses.

Barbara Hershey in Black Swan: A "monster mommy" role that Hershey plays brilliantly, as she is chilling without trying to be.

Nicole Kidman in The Others: A brilliant performance of a mother trying to protect her children yet is still shrouded in mystery.

Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs: Even though Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar, Levine is equally astounding as the more unhinged psychotic killer Buffalo Bill.

Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula: Another example of an actor becoming the character in body and in mind.

So, that was my list of the Top 10 Most Oscar-Worthy Performances in Horror Films. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!