David Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future” opened for general audiences this weekend without exactly lighting up the box office, which no one expected it to do.
The filmography of Cronenberg has been one that has brought unadulterated respect from cinephiles, while never having the populist appeal to breakout into huge commercial translations or awards attention. While it’s never too late to become an Oscar darling (i.e., Christopher Plummer nabbing his three career Oscar noms, and win, after the age of 80), unless the King of Body Horror is going to make a drastic switch in style and genre, it would be criminal for him to have no industry acknowledgment as a prolific auteur. The honorary Oscar is the perfect tool for such a distinction.
Despite telling an ambitious allegory of art, autism, global warming, awards season, relationships and perhaps a dozen others that can be picked out upon multiple viewings, “Crimes of the Future” is far too cerebral for mainstream awards attention.
When the precursor season begins later this year, it won’t be surprising to find groups such as the Toronto Film Critics give the movie noms or wins for its actors, notably Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux. Even original screenplay or Kristen Stewart could pop up. When it comes to the guilds, two artisan categories could be in play for noms — production design and makeup and hairstyling, depending on how loud the fall circuit goes.
At 79, Cronenberg has never been nominated for an Oscar, but his contribution to the cinematic medium is undeniable. As he becomes more seasoned, he’s not getting any less subtle with his stories and he’s insistent to continue to push cinema as far as they can go.
With a filmography that’s included “The Fly” (1986), “Dead Ringers” (1988) and “eXistenZ” (1999), you can find the blueprint of many of today’s up-and-coming filmmakers within the confines of his previous classics. An honorary Oscar rewards such an impact.
Violence and horror have been pillars of his gravitas and it’s too simple to say the Academy just doesn’t dig the genre. Some styles are just ahead of their time. While the membership is making progressive movements towards an array of different movies and styles (i.e., “Get Out” winning original screenplay), Cronenberg’s 22 feature films have never resembled any big Oscar movie in history.
His closest moment to major Oscar glory came with his “A History of Violence” (2005), a film about a small town diner owner who is confronted with his past after becoming a local hero.
Released in the same year that included Ang Lee’s cowboy romance “Brokeback Mountain” and Steven Spielberg’s darkly visceral “Munich,” “A History of Violence” has aged like a fine wine and stands as my personal favorite of his career.
The Academy extended its hand to nominate the film for two Oscars – adapted screenplay (Josh Olson) and supporting actor (for the recently departed William Hurt). However, Viggo Mortensen’s reserved take on Tom Stall and Maria Bello’s career-best turn as Edie, Tom’s cheerleading-dress-up wife, were ignored.
Four years away from the Academy expanding to 10 best picture nominees, it was near impossible for the film to crack a five-allotted lineup that also included a look at a tortured author (“Capote”) and a news organization’s fight against politicians (“Good Night, and Good Luck”).
It was a combative year as journalists and audiences challenged the Academy to look beyond the conventional selections they would typically make, which led to Jack Nicholson’s envelope-opening shocker and reading “Crash.” Cronenberg’s unbridled drama was drenched in too much bloodshed to break through. Since then, we thought the Oscar’s toe-dip into the world of Cronenberg would yield more opportunities at a statuette but that hasn’t panned out.
Mortensen received his first Oscar nom with the duo’s follow-up film “Eastern Promises” (2007), which was the only nom for the movie. Afterward, it’s been a complete shutout for his next three films – “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “Cosmopolis” (2012) and “Maps to the Stars” (2014), all making debuts at prestigious festivals such as Cannes and Venice.
In December 2020, I offered suggestions for worthy honorary Oscar recipients that named Jamie Lee Curtis, Loretta Devine, Brad Dourif, Danny Glover and Harrison Ford. Glover was honored this past April, the weekend of the 94th Oscars ceremony, along with others such as Elaine May and Samuel L. Jackson. While the Neon flick may not be his finest outing, Cronenberg’s signature beats and attention-grabbing visuals still display the ability of a director that stands tall as one of our greatest auteurs.
As consumers and industry professionals continue to advocate for more representation for the horror genre, one of its begotten children David Cronenberg would make a fine candidate to be honored.
“Crimes of the Future” is now in select theaters.
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