Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 80s

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The blogathon masters PaulaKellee, and Aurora are at it again. They’ve come up with the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Their goal is for bloggers to write or dish upon things Oscar-related. The following is my meager contribution to the festivities.

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We’re now closer to the big night than when I started this The Academy Awards arc. Oscar will award you-know-what to you-know-who. And many will totally agree with the result. Yet there’s always that element of sheer folly in the proceedings. When it raises its head, jaws hit the floor after someone announces,

And the Oscar goes to…

Sadly, history has borne this out. It’s only human. A species known to hold an opinion… and a grudge.

the-oscars-and-social-media-by-the-numbers-630dfbfb1c

Following that sentiment, this is the next part in my series for the run-up to Oscar Night. What I’d happily (maybe that should read triumphantly?) overturn, given half a chance, within each of the decades I’ve been watching movies. The Academy missteps that resulted in mis-awards. Today it’s the 80s’ turn. Drum roll, please:

1980 Best Picture

raging-bull-1

My Northern California colleague Jeff, of the Stuff Running ‘Round My Head blog, and I agree on a number of things regarding music and movies. That’s saying something since the upper and lower halves of this state rarely do. Witness the sports rivalry of his San Francisco’s Giants and 49ers and my L.A. Dodgers and… oh, never mind. We also part company when it comes to one film in particular. Robert Redford did very good work with Ordinary People. We agree on that. However when movie fans look back nowadays at Martin Scorsese’s filmography, it is Raging Bull that sticks out like a sore thumb. Only winning a pair of Academy Awards, in acting (Robert De Niro) and editing (Thelma Schoonmaker). Two. Wrong then, even more so now, in my opinion. Sorry, Jeff. Plus, the notorious slip set up another make up call by Oscar.

1980 Best Director

Marty and BobSo, it follows Martin Scorsese merited the selection for direction that year for his respective motion picture, rather than Redford. No slight intended toward the actor-turned-director. Redford delivered a solid drama, along with very good performances by the cast in Ordinary People. All the same, Raging Bull was better (in range and scope), with more extraordinary actor performances. Marty deserved some of the credit. Besides, we could have avoided conferring The Departed statuettes years later (but we’ll get to that next week).

1982 Best Picture

et_the_extra-terrestrial_1Gandhi was the kind of sprawling factual epic The Academy loves to honor. They eat these up. And, Gandhi the man was a real and noteworthy historical figure. No question whatsoever. However film-wise, E.T. – The Extraterrestrial had an affecting impact that reached beyond audience’s imagination. Spanning generations, in fact. Asking adults or children about E.T. garners similar deep-rooted responses when it came to the film. Heartwarming and magical in the way Gandhi, the movie, a quite stirring biopic, was not. Spielberg’s film was an unforgettable, fantastical adventure only a genre like science-fiction could deliver on. Registering cerebrally and on a gut-level, and enjoyed by more viewers. It was the better cinematic experience.

1982 Best Director

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Spielberg will likely win for Lincoln this year. The Academy all but guaranteeing that since they left off Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck (who’d be my pick) for its Director award.

Following the argument above, rather than Attenborough’s very good effort, Steven Spielberg really should have received his first Best Director award for E.T. right here. Sorry, Richard.

1982 Best Actor

Paul-Newman1Ben Kingsley was very good in the title role for Gandhi. Indeed. But in my opinion, Paul Newman, via The Verdict, was overlooked (once again) that year when he shouldn’t have been. His Frank Galvin may not have been a real life, world-recognized political and spiritual leader, but in Newman’s capable hands, he was the very real, flawed person up on that screen fighting for redemption. A pinnacle performance more than equal of some extraordinary roles by Newman that stretched back to 1961 and The Hustler. No surprise he was even better here than in The Color of Money. Some forget this performance in Sidney Lumet’s film because Scorsese’s finally delivered him Best Actor. Don’t get me wrong, I think that 1986 film worthy, but some still believe it a make up call for ’82.

1985 Best Director

tumblr_m0fitfg0AM1qd3lbbo1_1280Sidney Pollack was an excellent director, there’s no disputing that. His achievements with They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), and Three Days of the Condor (1975) bear that out. The problem was all of those were better than Out of Africa. Compare that to Akira Kurosawa’s accomplishment with what was arguably his last masterpiece, in an already legendary 50-year career, Ran. It’s not even close. His translation of Shakespeare’s King Lear to feudal Japan was nothing short of astounding. They gave this to the wrong person that year.

1985 Best Picture

imagesIf Ran had been nominated for this category, I would have picked it here without hesitation. So what does that leave us? Fear not. I’d go with Peter Weir’s film, Witness, then. An excellent film in its own right, and still way better than that year’s pick. The overrated Out of Africa. While Pollack’s film had the benefit of another splendid original score by the great John Barry, and one more mannered, accent-laden Meryl Streep performance, that’s it. Sorry, but I don’t think much of that film. Which was about the same assessment I gave Robert Redford’s British brogue. And just don’t get me started on the rear-projection effects used. Streep and Redford flying around, holding hands in a biplane, on some Hollywood stage with Africa cast in the background. Please.

1986 Best Actress

aliens_1Let’s be honest. In a role tailor-made for her talents, Marlee Matlin was convincing in the part for Children of a Lesser God. Comparatively, she just wasn’t as momentous as another. Sigourney Weaver was in reality the best actress that year. The fact she got noticed at all, in a genre the Academy historically was loath to pay attention to back then, meant what she accomplished with the role was pretty exceptional. As well, she pulled off the next to impossible by taking on the unheard of physical role action-director James Cameron crafted for her in his enormously exciting and successful film, Aliens. She brought a depth of emotion and involvement that convinced cheering audiences. It was an ahead-of-its-time role for a woman that landed at this instant. With regrets to Marlee, Ripley got ripped off.

1989 Best Picture

Field of dreams

While Driving Miss Daisy was a good film, when was the last time you’ve seen it? Anyone? I know a number of people who saw it theatrically. Same for some who watched in their homes via cable, tape or disc years later. And all of them have seen the picture exactly once. It remains a decent, thoroughly safe work attempting to take on the thorny issue of race in this country. And it became the butt of parody soon thereafter. I’d say the other nominated pictures, Born of the Fourth of July, My Left Foot, and Dead Poets Society, were all better. Yet, none of them are my pick for the best as the decade came to a close. That honor I would award to the ever-growing American classic, Field of Dreams. Perhaps, it just strikes home with those of us with a Y chromosome (as I noted in my review last year). What can I say? Through the years it’s kept a Capraesque caliber few ever attain. Even after multiple showings. A certain lightning-in-a-bottle quality. As usual, the Academy voting block took the guarded, prudent route instead of picking the best film. And Field of Dreams was it, folks.

And Phil Aden Robinson should have received a Director’s nomination for it, too.

Previous: the 70s
On deck: the 90s

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31 Responses to “31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 80s”

  1. ckckred

    I agree with plenty of your picks. While I haven’t seen Ordinary People, I can’t imagine it being better than Raging Bull or The Shining (which wasn’t even nominated). E. T. and Ran should have won in their respective years and it’s blasphemous Do The Right Thing wasn’t even nominated.

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    • le0pard13

      I do recommend screening ‘Ordinary People’. For this year, it’s a must-see. And I agree, years later, leaving off ‘The Shining’ and ‘Do The Right Thing’ from this list is hard to fathom. Thanks very much, ckckred.

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  2. jackdeth72

    Hi, Fogs and company:

    Excellent take on a decade of film!

    ‘Aliens’ has always struck me as the better extension (sequel) of a Lovecraft in outer space tale. Where the Great Old Ones finds us and do what they do.

    ‘Alien’ is a great introduction that owes a lot of its story to the 1950s Sci-Fi gem, ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space’. While ‘Aliens’ is the better, more familiar to me update on the 1950s ‘Red Scare. Us vs. Them’ Sci-Fi Film.

    Would also like to see Jenette Goldstein’s “Corporal Vasquez” get a Best Supporting Actress nod in your dissertation.

    Never understood the hoopla for ‘Out of Africa’ or ‘Gandhi’. While I can appreciate ‘Field of Dreams”s light, gentle touch. And no one does hitting rock bottom and bouncing back better than Paul Newman!

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    • le0pard13

      Great to have your take on this, Kevin. I’m a fan of ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space’ from long time back. Scared the crap out of me a child, in fact. It remains a 50s gem, alright. I agree, Jenette Goldstein’s “Corporal Vasquez” deserved a Best Supporting Actress nod in ‘Aliens’. Outside of Ripley, she always received the audience’s attention in whatever scene she was in. And yeah, “… no one does hitting rock bottom and bouncing back better than Paul Newman!” Thanks so much, my friend.

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  3. Naomi Johnson

    Three cheers for Field of Dreams, absolutely. And I’d have given the Best Supporting Actor award to Burt Lancaster for his role in that film. But I’d have given the Best Director nod to Kenneth Branagh for Henry V. What he accomplished with limited budget and cast astonishes me to this day. And I’d scratch either one of John Williams’ two nominations for Best Score to include Patrick Doyle’s stirring score for Henry V.

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    • le0pard13

      Glad to hear it, Naomi :-). I never tire of ‘Field of Dreams’. Hits me every time, and happily. Y’know, I need to watch ‘Henry V’ again. I’ve only seen it once and I’d like to revisit what you’ve said about it. Thank you very much, Naomi.

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  4. Jeff

    As always, thanks for the shout out. I think you’ve nailed it with both “Witness” and “Field of Dreams” – films that I own, but still manage to watch every time they pop up on cable. Watching “Skyfall” again the other night, I was struck by how much the film owed to “Witness” in the construction of its final act – including the scene of the men with guns as they approach the house, which is almost identical to the scene when the three men approach the farm, guns in hand, in “Witness.”

    And I’ll make you a deal – I’ll stop defending “Ordinary People” when L.A. rejoins the NFL (because I really miss the 49ers-LA Rams rivalry).

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    • le0pard13

      Hey, great to have you in on this. And it’s always my pleasure to link to you, Jeff. And now you’ve given me another excuse to re-watch both ‘Witness’ and ‘Skyfall’ with your comment. Great catch.

      And I accept your deal, my friend. We need to restart the pro football rivalry between our towns. The UCLA/Cal games only go so far (of course, my SC alumna spouse might argue otherwise ;-)). Many thanks, Jeff.

      p.s., I will have a little something to say about ‘Skyfall’ in tomorrow’s Oscar post.

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  5. The Gal Herself

    I almost completely agree with your post. Especially because I’m a Pollack/Redford fan and can’t stand Out of Africa. I’m not kidding — I enjoyed every one of their other collaborations (including This Property Is Condemned) more than Out of Africa. And I hate that it may be the film Pollack is remembered by.

    And you are soooooo right about The Verdict. The movie itself might be sentimental, but Newman’s performance is so gritty and real. When he’s on screen, you can practically smell the booze and cigarettes and desperation. I love him in that movie.

    But I have to speak up for Ordinary People here. Just as you pointed out that Newman’s performance is dwarfed by Ben Kingsley’s when it comes to scope, so is OP vs. Raging Bull. But Redford set out to create a real slice of life, small moments of pain and rebirth, and he nailed them. It’s like a snowflake — a complete and perfect small miracle. Of course, the fact that I was, too, a tortured teen with an emotionally constipated WASP family in a suburb of Chicago and I’ve never been a boxer may color my outlook here. 🙂

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    • le0pard13

      Great to have your thoughts on the 80s portion, TGH. And yeah, I think the ‘Out of African’ collaboration is the weakest one for Redford/Pollack. They made such a great actor/director tandem. Everyone I can easily re-watch, except for you-know-what ;-).

      Great to hear someone else thought Newman’s stellar performance in ‘The Verdict’ more than worthy. Love this:

      “When he’s on screen, you can practically smell the booze and cigarettes and desperation.”

      You nailed it.

      It’s quite alright your support of ‘Ordinary People’ like my friend Jeff. I can see Redford’s film could be a very personal one and that people would connect with it. Your thoughts, whether we agree or not, are always welcome here, TGH. Many thanks.

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  6. Paula

    I think I need to rewatch some of these, but I absolutely agree about Sigourney Weaver, very influential role in a very influential film.

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  7. ruth

    Oh man, I LOVE ET! It’s been a while since I saw that. I really need to see Witness one of these days, I just rewatched Top Gun and I remember Kelly McGillis is on that film too. Great post Michael!

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    • le0pard13

      Yes, you gotta see ‘Witness’. Some of the best roles ever for Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford can be found there. Thank you, Ruth.

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  8. Morgan R. Lewis

    Some interesting calls here, and I definitely agree about the hazards of creating a “reason” for the “makeup Oscar”. It’s hard for me to say what should and shouldn’t have won in a lot of cases (which is why I didn’t comment on the 70s one), because I simply haven’t seen enough of the nominees. Sometimes I’ve seen the winner, sometimes the loser, but without seeing both it’s hard to say which is better.

    I do think you’re right about Gandhi, though, even without having seen it myself. Good or bad, that’s something the Oscars were bound to love. It’s why I’ve got Lincoln pegged to win this year even without having seen any of the nominees.

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    • le0pard13

      I appreciate your comments and thoughts, Morgan. And yeah, ‘Lincoln’ does seemed poised for a big night. But, I’d love to see ‘Argo’ upset it ;-). Thanks, my friend.

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  9. mummbles

    I was growing up during the 80’s so most of the early 80’s movies I never saw in theaters. The movie you mention (Raging Bull, E.T., and Field of Dreams) are the ones I own and will rewatch. I guess the academy sometimes doesn’t recognize greatness when it sees it.

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  10. Le

    Again, several mistakes, specifically in 1980. I would add Terms of endearment, that didn’t have strong movies to compete with, but has a too melodramatic story. And James L. Brooks won three Oscars: best picture, director and adapted screenplay for this film!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon!
    Greetings!

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  11. Paul S

    I actually came across Witness on tv this week and it’s lost none of its power in the years since I first watched it. Superb performances from Ford, McGillis and Lukas Haas.

    Thanks for your article, I particularly agree with the choice of Field of Dreams and on the subject of Driving Miss Daisy it still rankles with me that Michelle Pfeiffer lost out to Jessica Tandy in the Best Actress category in ’89.

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    • le0pard13

      Great timing. Love that Peter Weir film, which remains me I need to re-tee it. Yes, absolutely wonderful performances by those you list. Good point re: Michelle Pfeiffer. She was somethin’ in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’. Thanks very much, Paul.

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