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'Paranormal Activity': best picture-worthy?

December 2, 2009 |  4:57 pm

ParanormalActivity3Story Cinematical has hosted yet another intriguing movie award debate, this time over the supernatural blockbuster "Paranormal Activity" and its best first feature nomination by the Independent Spirit Awards. Author Erik Davis raises the point that although it's most definitely worthy of this debut nomination, shouldn't it be in contention for best picture at the Spirits? Or has the stigma of its genre, in combination with its overwhelming popularity, excluded it from that particular race? Davis goes so far as to question why "Activity," which has been featured on numerous top-10 lists this year, wasn't it in consideration for an Oscar.

His query is answered by responses that either hew toward "it's a good movie, but not Oscar worthy" or "Dude, you must be joking," and my two cents are evenly split between them. "Activity" is a terrific piece of scare machinery, and most definitely worthy of its box-office windfall and the best first feature nomination, but an Oscar nod, let alone inclusion in the best picture category, is a playing field it's not entirely equipped for. Let director Oren Peli get his stride with his next picture, the much-discussed "Area 51," or the ones after it, and then we might be able to discuss his date with the academy.

And while we're on the subject of "Paranormal Activity," Moviemaker has a roundup of the most memorable hand-held camera movies that came before Micah and Katie's adventures in home video production. It's a solid collection, though composed of all the usual suspects -- "Blair Witch Project," "District 9," "[REC]" and its remake, "Quarantine," and of course, "Cloverfield." But it fails to include Patrick Duncan's Vietnam War drama "84 Charlie MoPic," or even Ruggero Deodato's harrowing "Cannibal Holocaust," which set the tone for POV horror back in 1980. And if the focus is first-person frights, shouldn't Michael Powell's still-unsettling "Peeping Tom" (1960) be on the list as well? 

-- Paul Gaita

Photo: "Paranormal Activity" stars Katie Featherston and
Micah Sloat. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

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