Reeling with Ryan Lattanzio
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Columns
In my utopian fantasy of the Oscars - where I am dictator of the AMPAS obviously - Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers" would be nominated for Best Picture.
Here's a film that is the exact antithesis of everything the Oscars are about, and one that inaugurates a genre all its own: the verite snuff piece. Take the title "Trash Humpers" literally. In this seamy, sick little number shot on VHS, a trio of heedless bandits pillages the streets of a slum town, defiling every inanimate object in sight. They fellate trees, strangle baby dolls and serve up pancakes drizzled with soap. Korine's low-budget provocation writhes in the same bath of nihilist filth as John Waters's "Pink Flamingos." Like that film, "Humpers" warmed the cockles of my heart more than most movies ever will.
The Academy, a mostly family friendly bunch with its eye on Middle America, wouldn't deign to acknowledge such a film's existence. I'm astounded that "Black Swan" garnered as many nominations as it did, including Best Picture. After all, Darren Aronofsky's sleeper thriller - though it looks like "The Nutcracker" next to "Trash Humpers" - is essentially a rompous horror movie. In all the history of the Academy, they rarely go for creepy stuff. Even Alfred Hitchcock got the serial snub, though he was nominated for five Best Director awards. He eventually nabbed a lifetime achievement prize, but that's Academy guilt for you.
When a horror film becomes the movie of the moment - as "Black Swan" did this year, "The Exorcist" did in 1973 and "The Silence of the Lambs" in 1991 - it has a good chance of a nomination. "Silence" won that year, which baffles me and all other genre geeks to this day. "Black Swan" will not win Best Picture, but its place among films such as "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone" - films of cozier genres like drama, comedy and "dramedy" - is something to marvel at.
There were plenty of shining examples last year of great genre flicks the Academy wouldn't go near. Vincenzo Natali's "Splice" - or, as I call it, "Freud Does 'Species'" - remains last year's unsung hero of sick cinema, undoubtedly destined for cult status. In my Academy Awards, Adrien Brody fucking his animal-human-hybrid lovechild is always a prime contender. As is Alexandre Aja's "Piranha," the most outrageous 3D-horror-parody ever, where Jerry O'Connell's penis is consumed by flesh-hungry fish. These are images I'll remember forever. They're not the stuff of "Citizen Kane," of course, but they're still remarkable in and of themselves.
Often, the most transgressive films of the Oscar crop are appointed to the Best Foreign Language Film category because, naturally, the gutsiest movies aren't made in the US. This year's nominee from Greece, Giorgos Lanthimos's whacked-out "Dogtooth," is one such film. On the scale of the cinematically depraved, it lies somewhere between "Black Swan" and "Trash Humpers." Lanthimos adopts the clinical chilliness of Austrian director Michael Haneke - whose work is usually relegated to this same Oscar category - to smash society's dainty picture of child-rearing. At least someone in the Academy has the sense to recognize filmmakers who spit in the face of Good Taste.
Now, back to that hypothetical fantasy of mine, where twisted cinema reigns king of the Oscars and king of the world, presumably: Someday, the evil doppelganger of all these crowd-pleasing Academy darlings will burst forth from Hollywood's factory of feel-goodery, impale Oscar with a shard of glass and proudly pronounce "It's MY turn!" bloodshot eyes and all.
Check out Ryan's bloodshot eyes at [email protected]
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