The blogathon masters Paula, Kellee, 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.
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.
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
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
So, 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
Gandhi 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
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
Ben 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
Sidney 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
If 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
Let’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
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.