Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 2012 Zombie Academy Awards

The Academy Awards will be handed out tonight. A pet peeve of mine probably not worth mentioning is when people call them The Oscars. That's the name of the trophy, not the award. I haven't seen any of the movie nominated tonight, and I won't be paying attention, but I will be handing out some awards of my own. Welcome to the First Annual Brainies, the award show for zombie movies. I'm going to cheat because I don't watch new zombies and make the Brainies a lifetime achievement award spanning the entire spectrum of every zombie movie ever made. Much like the actual Academy Awards, none of this will have much to do with the actual quality of the movies or performances, rather my whims and temporal predilections. Feel free to correct my imprecisions, omissions and (forgive me here) Brainy snubs. Let's get at it. Here's tonight's host... Bub the Zombie.

"Hey, how you all doing out there tonight? (silence). What a dead audience. (groan). I would have been here earlier but I got trapped in a flash mob of zombies on the El Dorado. Zombies, am I right, am I right? They were all the over the place munching on brains it was like old people at the Golden Coral Buffet. Hey-o. let's get right into it. Tonight's first award is for best lighting in a zombie feature. And the Brainy goes to...

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

No budget, no crew, inexperienced actors, no problem. Director Bob Clark's set and the lighting all take place at night. The movie used to be dismissed as just a campy, low budget schlockfest that attained a cult following, but it's amazing how things that have substance and are well done prevail in the end. This movie is a text book on how to work with a limited budget and make a movie that will be remembered a hundred years later. Pay attention to the violet and green hues that are obtained here, plus the ambiance that is created on what is essentially an outside sound stage. Make fun of the wardrobe all you want, but this movie is a study in color and lighting choices. With a really good electronic score by Carl Zittrer.

Let's Get right into our first of the five major categories, best supporting actress in a Zombie feature. Pretending to be scared out of your mind by a zombie extra you saw five minutes before eating a jelly donut and playing with a Slinky is no easy task, but throughout the history of zombie cinema lots of actresses have pretended to be deathly afraid of schlubs that probably would never allow within ten feet of them in real life. It requires more than just a willingness to scream at the top of your lungs and show your boobs to be a supporting actress in a zombie movie. Not a whole helluva lot more, as our winner has shown over and over (ba-bump), but without any further do whacka do , the Brainy for supporting actress in a zombie feature goes to...

Linnea Quigley as Trash in Return of the Living Dead. For her willingness to be groped  and crawled over by a legion of old bums in the mud and pretty much not even bother to come to the set dressed, Linnea Quigley is the best zombie supporting actress of all times.

Hoe. Is everyone as stiff as me right now? Oh, ya, I'm always this stiff. But if there were an extra measure of stiff I could be I assure you this would be the case. Linnea Quigley, ladies and gentlemen. Great scream, great scream. Just ask her accountant. Our next Brainy goes out to the best supporting performance by a male in a zombie feature. And the Brainy goes to...

Joe Pilato as Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead. One of the most comically manic dickhead performances of all time. if Pilato wasn't on coke for this entire shoot he's even a better actor than I think. Captain Rhodes wants you to know he's in charge of this monkey farm now, and he wants to know just the what the fuck you're doing with his time. This performance is actually rather good because in my estimation the movie is about entropy in civility and communication and Rhodes is just a screaming, blathering, oblivious example of rudeness, anger, and complete lack of concern for others. Well played, sir.

Playing the male lead in a zombie feature requires a great range of skills. One has to lead, to be able to fly a helicopter, be proficient with a wide array of weapons options, kick some serious hand to hand ass and never look flustered. Tonight's winner of best male performance in a zombie feature did all of this while delivering one of the most quoted lines in zombie movie history. The award for best performance by a male in a zombie feature goes to...

Ken Foree as Peter in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. When there's no more room in Hell, virtually everyone on Earth will return to write and direct a very bad zombie movie. Peter saw the future of zombiedom coming. he shot Wooly, and he delivered a line I will now quote to you. "We're thieves and we're bad guys, that's exactly what we are." In response to Fly Boy rationalizing that they are justified in stealing the helicopter and commandeering whatever they see fit. I think it's another example of Romero really getting it right and foreshadowing a societal change where everyone feels absolutely justified in doing whatever they have to do to get what they want. Just win, baby. Dawn of the Dead is mostly a commentary about blind consumerism in most peoples' estimations, but Romero is adept at addressing multiple cultural issues simultaneously. Dawn of the Dead is considered by most critics to be the best zombie movie of all time and following Roger Ebert's lead is considered a masterpiece of biting social commentary. Rightly so.

Tonight's penultimate award is for female lead actress in a zombie feature. Nothing is more scarce than well-written lead roles for women in zombie movies. In any movie, really. One of the many reasons George Romero is the master of this genre is that he writes real characters. The primary reason the first three Romero zombie movies are film classics is that the viewer can easily believe this is happening, and a large part of that believability is that the actors seem real. Almost none of the actors Romero used in his movies were experienced actors or went on to long acting careers. Many never appeared in another movie at all. Tonight's recipient of the best female lead in a zombie feature goes to an actress who's performance embodies strength in the face of chaos....

Lori Cardille in Day of the Dead. I chose this photo because it's from a nightmare sequence. It demonstrates how her character feels about her surroundings. Terrified, like everyone else, she  never cracks under the pressure. In the midst of a bellowing maniac commanding officer who threatens her and her fellow scientists, hordes of zombies that want to use her head for an ashtray, and a civilian support team that doesn't seem to be concerned about anything but themselves, Cardille steps up and becomes the voice of reason, the last real hope for humanity. It's a great performance and a shame she didn't work more after this. 

I'd eat Lori Cardille's brains any time. Ha cha cha. But seriously, folks, before we get to the award for best zombie movie of all time, we have one special award. An award for greatest zombie of all time. The nominees are Thomas L. Vaultonburg for Kept and some guy named Bub is a little known movie nobody has ever heard of. And the winner is...

Not Thomas L. Vaultonburg. Are you fucking nuts? Despite maybe the second greatest performance in zombie history, all of which with a can of beer in his overall pocket the whole time, there can be only one. The greatest zombie of all time is...

Me, bitches. Duh. For being the only zombie of all time you'd actually like to have a beer and shoot pool with, the Brainy for best zombie of all time goes to... Bub. And now, the reason you're all here. The award for greatest zombie movie of all time. The nominees are: Cemetery Man, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Dawn of the Dead. And the Brainy for best zombie movie of all time goes to...

Roger Ebert's review of Dawn of the Dead rightfully places the movie is its place as one of the great horror movies of all time, and a brilliant piece of biting social commentary. It's the best of all the zombie movies because it combines adventure, horror, social commentary, and even dark humor into a portrait of a world gone mad that is truly frightening. 

There you have it, boys and ghouls, the first annual Zombie Academy Awards. Feel free to move to the lobby and make your own suggestions and nominate your own favorites. 

March 4, 2013 update: I knew I forgot something. The 
2013 Zombie Academy Awards. Maybe next year. 

And while you're still here why not read a Zombie Haiku

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