What A Night For Monster Kids

Those of us who grew up with copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland and Universal Monster and Planet of the Apes movies on TV, who pored over the Crestwood Monster books like the Torah, who tried out all the make-ups in Dick Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook – sometimes we call ourselves Monster Kids. We grew up with the weird and the wild, and we took comfort in the outcast and weirdo monsters.

Last night’s Oscars were like a love letter to us.

There’s Guillermo del Toro, King of the Monster Kids, winning Best Director and his monster movie, The Shape of Water, winning Best Picture. I have known Guillermo, and have visited Bleak House, and once had the sublime pleasure of attending Monsterpalooza as part of his entourage, and I must tell you that no one lives the values of Monster Kids like Guillermo.

Then there was Get Out winning Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele. That was historic – Peele is the first black writer to win Original Screenplay – but it was also amazing for those of us who grew up loving horror. Get Out is a horror movie, plain and simple, and here the Academy was recognizing that horror movies could be well written.

But maybe my favorite little Monster Kid moment was the inclusion of Haruo Nakajima in the “In Memoriam” section of the show. Nakajima was the man in the Godzilla suit in the original 1954 Godzilla, and he donned the outfit eleven more times, playing the Big G up through 1972. There used to be a derogatory connotation to the idea of the monsters in these kaiju films being “man in suit” business, but it’s what I always loved about them. Nakajima especially brought a beautiful physical and emotional presence to Godzilla in what I consider some of the greatest films in the franchise.

Lately we have begun noticing the actors behind the monsters – Andy Serkis has become a name actor, and Doug Jones, playing the Fishman in The Shape of Water, is finally getting there – and it’s because of people like Nakajima that we even got this far. It was beautiful to see the original Godzilla highlighted last night among others whose human faces were more easily recognized, but none of whom can match the enormity of the monster Nakajima helped bring to life.