Nominated for Nothing: How could the Academy not see the awards-worthy qualities of The Invisible Man?
They're destined to score zero Academy Awards, but they won our attention throughout a year (and awards season) like no other. Ahead of the 93rd Oscars ceremony on April 25, EW is breaking down the year's best movies, performances, and directorial achievements that were nominated for nothing.
The film: If the hopes of Universal Pictures executives circa 2015 had come to pass then we would currently be in the era of the Dark Universe. This series of inter-linked big budget films was supposed to feature such Universal classic monsters as The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man, who was set to be played by Johnny Depp. Following the negative reaction which greeted the Dark Universe's initial entry, 2017's Tom Cruise-starring The Mummy, Universal abandoned its plans and the studio placed the its iconic monsters back on the shelf — but, in the case of the Invisible Man, not for long.
In January 2019, it was announced that Leigh Whannell (writer of the original Saw and Insidious movies and writer-director of 2018's Upgrade) was onboard to write and direct a new take on The Invisible Man, James Whale's 1933 horror film, which starred Claude Rains in the titular role. The result turned out to be far removed from anything resembling a potential Depp vehicle — and not just because the film was produced by the famously parsimonious Blumhouse Productions.
The Invisible Man stars Elisabeth Moss as a woman named Cecilia Kass who, in the middle of the night, runs away from the overly possessive clutches of her optics entrepeneur boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) with the assistance of Cecilia's sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). The frightened Cecilia hides from Adrian, staying at the home of Emily's cop boyfriend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Two weeks after her escape, Cecilia learns that Adrian has died by suicide. But has he? As Cecilia's attempts to put her life back together are mysteriously thwarted, she comes to believe that Adrian is not only alive but has discovered a way to make himself invisible and is determined to have her return to him. What ensures is a nerve-rending game of mouse and invisible cat as Cecilia's life is torn apart via a series of terrifying, Whannell-orchestrated set-pieces.
Released on Feb. 28, 2020, the film earned positive reviews and an impressive $70 million at the domestic box office before the pandemic curtailed its theatrical run. At the time of this writing, it is the still the last film many people will have seen on the big screen.
"So many people have told me it was the last film they watched in theaters before theaters shut down," Whannell told EW last year. "I was thinking, god, if theaters never open again, it will always be this footnote in history. The last film! That's not a mantle I want to carry."
Why it wasn't nominated: The Academy rarely rewards horror. Certainly, The Invisible Man is not alone in going unrecognized by the Academy despite being hailed as an instant modern horror classic by genre fans, as the makers of The Babadook, Hereditary, 28 Days Later…, The Witch, The Descent, and It Follows will tell you. Yes, both Jordan Peele's Get Out and Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water were both winners at the 2018 ceremony, with the latter scoring four golden men, including one for Best Picture. But such acclamation remains rare.
The film's release date also didn't help. Thanks to the unique nature of the 2020-2021 Oscar season a full year had passed since the film's premiere in cinemas by the time Academy members began voting. Given the nature of those traumatic 12 months, the movie might as well have been released in 1991, the last year a horror film (Silence of the Lambs) won Best Picture prior to Shape of Water's success.
Despite all this, it is easy to imagine a world not that different from ours in which Moss received a nomination for her performance as the ever-more-desperate Cecilia. The part required Moss to not just summon up a character but often that character's persecutor as well, given the number of scenes where Cecilia suspects that Adrian is in the vicinity. A possible bar to her being nominated? Playing a persecuted character is familiar territory for Moss. Academy members love to reward actors who show they are capable of doing something different and voters may have looked at Moss' performance as just another day at the office for the Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale actress. Is that fair? No. But as Peggy Olson would tell you, life rarely is.
Why history will remember it better than the Academy did: It is easy to think of Oscar-winning films whose reputations seem to have started degrading by the morning after the ceremony. Horror movies, on the other hand, just seem to get better regarded over time with today's blood-drenched programmer becoming tomorrow's acclaimed subject of academic study. This even applies in the case of remakes, or at least in the case of remakes which are regarded as improvements on the original. Just look at David Cronenberg's The Fly, a bona fide movie classic which won the Best Makeup category but wasn't even nominated for anything else. In short, anyone who bets big against history remembering The Invisible Man better than the Academy should be afraid. Very afraid.
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