David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future opened to general audiences this weekend without a real box office shine, which no one was expecting.
Cronenberg’s filmography was one that garnered unadulterated respect from cinephiles, yet lacked the populist appeal to break into huge commercial translations or garner attention. While it’s never too late to become an Oscar darling (i.e. Christopher Plummer snags his three career Oscar nominations and wins after turning 80), unless the King of Body Horror gets a drastic style and… make a genre change. it would be criminal for him not to have industry recognition as a prolific auteur filmmaker. The honorary Oscar is the perfect instrument for such an award.
Although “Crimes of the Future” tells an ambitious allegory of art, autism, global warming, awards season, relationships and maybe a dozen others to single out on multiple viewings, it’s far too cerebral to garner mainstream attention draw.
When the prequel season begins later this year, it will come as no surprise to see groups like the Toronto Film Critics giving the film names or victories for its actors, most notably Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux. Even original scripts or Kristen Stewart could show up. When it comes to the guilds, there could be two crafting categories for nouns at play – production design and makeup and hairstyling, depending on how loud the fall circus gets.
At 79, Cronenberg has never been nominated for an Oscar, but his contribution to the cinematic medium is undeniable. He doesn’t become less subtle with his stories as he gains experience and insists on continuing to push cinema as far as possible.
With a filmography that spans The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988) and eXistenZ (1999), you’ll find the blueprint for many of today’s emerging filmmakers within the confines of his earlier classics. An honorary Oscar rewards such an effect.
Violence and horror were the pillars of its appeal and it’s too easy to say that the Academy just doesn’t like the genre. Some styles are simply ahead of their time. While members make progressive moves toward a range of different films and styles (e.g., “Get Out,” the original screenplay wins), Cronenberg’s 22 feature films have never resembled a major Oscar film in history.
He came closest to his greatest Oscar glory with A History of Violence (2005), a film about a small-town restaurant owner who comes face-to-face with his past after becoming a local hero.
Released in the same year as Ang Lee’s cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain and Steven Spielberg’s dark gut instinct Munich, A History of Violence has aged like a fine wine and is considered my personal favorite of his career.
The Academy reached out to have the film nominated for two Oscars – adapted screenplay (Josh Olson) and supporting actor (for the recently deceased William Hurt). However, Viggo Mortensen’s low-key dealings with Tom Stall and Maria Bello’s career-best performance as Edie, Tom’s cheerleading dress-up girl, went unnoticed.
Four years before the Academy expanded to include the 10 Best Picture nominees, the film found it nearly impossible to crack a five-person cast that also included a look at a tortured author (“Capote”) and a news organization’s battle against politicians (“Good night and good luck”).
It was a struggling year, with journalists and audiences challenging the academy to look beyond the conventional choices they would normally make, leading to Jack Nicholson’s shocker and reading of Crash. Cronenberg’s unbridled drama was steeped in too much bloodshed to break through. Since then, we thought the Oscars’ toe-dip into the world of Cronenberg would open up more opportunities for a statuette, but that didn’t pay off.
Mortensen received his first Oscar nomination with the duo’s follow-up film Eastern Promises (2007), which was the only nomination for the film. After that, it was an absolute doom for his next three films – A Dangerous Method (2011), Cosmopolis (2012) and Maps to the Stars (2014), all of which debuted at prestigious festivals such as Cannes and Venice.
In December 2020, I made nominations for worthy honorary Oscar winners named Jamie Lee Curtis, Loretta Devine, Brad Dourif, Danny Glover, and Harrison Ford. Glover was announced last April, the weekend of the 94th Academy Awards, along with others honored as Elaine May and Samuel L. Jackson. While the neon flick might not be his best work, Cronenberg’s signature beats and attention-grabbing visuals still display the skills of a director who stands as one of our greatest writers.
As consumers and industry experts continue to advocate for more representation of the horror genre, one of his fathered children, David Cronenberg, would be an excellent candidate to be honored.
Crimes of the Future is now showing in select theaters.