Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1983-1986

Winner: Terms of Endearment
Director: James L. Brooks
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

I was a little shocked when I saw Brooks' name as the director. Brooks has been the creative force behind such television shows as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Simpsons. Terms of Endearment is a star-studded weepy drama about the relationship between a mother (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter (Debra Winger), mostly dealing with the daughters choice for a husband. Other big names in the cast include Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow, and the voice of Albert Brooks. This movie falls in line with the current fad that the Academy was stuck in: emotional family dramas. I'm looking at you Kramer vs. Kramer and Ordinary People. The film was popular, though, and was critically lauded, along with being toted as the obvious winner of the Oscar that year. The other nominees included: The Big Chill, The Right Stuff, The Dresser, and Tender Mercies. Do you recognize any of those? Maybe just The Right Stuff? I know that's the only one I knew. So, not exactly a banner year in movies. Endearment also won an Oscar for Best Director, Best Actress (MacLaine), Supporting Actor (Nicholson), and Adapted Screenplay.

Winner: Amadeus
Director: Milos Foreman
Distributed by: Orion Pictures/ Warner Bros.

AMADEUS! AMADEUS! Sorry, I have Falco stuck in my head. Amadeus is not only about the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) , but also Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), the composer who probably hated Mozart more than anyone. The whole movie is told from Salieri's point of view, as he is confessing to a priest how he "killed" Mozart. Oh, and Salieri's in an insane asylum. Fun, right? As I've mentioned before, I've seen this movie, but it's been over twelve years so all the finer points are a bit fuzzy. I do remember liking it, though! That, and I remember that Mozart had a really annoying laugh. This was another weak year with a bunch of movies that nobody remembers. Not even Laurence Olivier remembered the other nominees. He walked up to announce the winner for Best Picture and did just that. He just opened the envelope and said, "and the winner of this thing is Amadeus." The Academy had to go up and make sure everything was legit, but the other nominees were mentioned by Amadeus' producer, Saul Zaentz, who thanked Olivier for the honor. Olivier was 78 years old at the time and had been ill for a while. I'm sure it was sort of like Kirk Douglas' awkward presentation a few years back. Amadeus is one of the few films not to crack the weekend top five since it started being recorded in 1982, the others being The English Patient and The Hurt Locker. Amadeus took home the prize for Director, Actor (Abraham), and Adapted Screenplay, among others.

Winner: Out of Africa
Director: Sydney Pollack
Distributed by: Universal Studios

Out of Africa is the story of a Danish noblewoman, Karen Blixen, (Meryl Streep) who moves to Kenya. There, she meets a local big game hunter named Dynes Hatton (Robert Redford), whom she starts to have feelings for. Too bad she's already married to a baron, though it's a marriage of convenience  The movie is based off the book, which is based off of real life events. Blixen lived on a coffee plantation in what was then British East Africa. Taking place near the end of the first World War, it gave a unique glimpse into British colonialism near the end of its life. The movie had all the right elements to win it the Oscar; a sweeping epic, great performances by Redford and Streep, and some pretty good cinematography. It beat out the movie within a movie aspect of Kiss of the Spider Woman, the mob movie, Prizzi's Honor, Spielberg's The Color Purple, and Harrison Ford's Amish movie extravaganza, Witness. I can only see Witness and The Color Purple as good competition, but I guess they couldn't compete with the Redford and Streep duo.

Winner: Platoon
Director: Oliver Stone
Distributed by: Orion Pictures

Stone based the movie off his own experiences in Vietnam and wanted it to be a counter to John Wayne's The Green Berets, which Stone felt glorified the Vietnam War. Charlie Sheen (Yes, you're reading that correctly) plays Chris Taylor, a young volunteer in the Vietnam War, he struggles to deal with the horrors of war. To make matters worse, he finds himself torn in loyalty between his two commanding officers, the level-headed Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), and the ruthless Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger). Other noticeable stars include Forrest Whittaker (Last King of Scotland), Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) , and John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox in Scrubs). Though the movie was a hard one to make, it paid off for Stone, who saw it become a success at the box office and loved by most critics. This was another year where everyone had a pretty good idea who was going to win. It wasn't The Mission, or Children of a Lesser God, or Hannah and her Sisters, or Room with a View. Platoon was more than deserving, and any other winner would have been a major upset.

Winner: The Last Emperor
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

The Last Emperor is the biopic of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. Why the last? Yi ascended to the throne when he was only three, leads for a little bit, but is thrown out after the Communist revolution. The rest of the movie detail his life outside of China and his eventual re-entry as a political prisoner. Tough break, buddy. The movie is unique, not only for the epic story, amazing visuals, and historical quality, but also for it's filming destination: The Forbidden City. The Forbidden City acted as the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty, to the end of the Qing. It had never been opened up for a Western film, so this was a special event. So, all the footage you're seeing is actually there, not in a recreation. Pretty neat, right? The movie even took precedents over Queen Elizabeth II's visit, which meant she wasn't able to visit the famous palace. She's probably gotten over it by now, right? It was a modest hit and was well loved at the time, though it has faded out of public knowledge for the most part. The sweeping epic overtook Cher's Moonstruck, WWII film Hope and Glory, the bunny boiling goodness of Fatal Attraction, and the romantic comedy Broadcast News. If you've learned anything from these posts, it's that the Academy loves epic historical films. That won't change for a very long time.

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