It's easy to award the transformation of John Hurt into John Merrick for The Elephant Man. So I will!
In second place, intense forearms, unflattering hair buns, and other recreations of cartoon icons in Popeye. In third, blood, broken noses, and 15 years in Raging Bull. In fourth, primitive man and a mass of God knows what in Altered States. In fifth, blood, ghost-white faces, and salt-and-pepper doublng in Kagemusha.
Best Original Song, Best Actress, Best Picture, and more...after the jump.
The first day of the 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards. I have ordered the categories the same way they came in the original Oscar telecast of March 31, 1981. Just nine categories for today, starting with Best Ensemble (not an Oscar category, but...look, just read on).
Howard Feuer / Jeremy Ritzer, casting directors
2. The Blues Brothers; 3. Raging Bull; 4. Airplane; 5. Breaker Morant
What other film could win this category but Fame? I knew I would nominate it when I saw the students, by turns friendly and vicious, with unexpected chemistry and vulnerability in star-making roles (Barry Miller, hello!). But then came the teachers, each fully realized, demanding but not heartless, with their own backstories (Anne Meara, hello!). But what gives it the win - the equal attention in the development of the parents, some pushy, some distant, some not understanding why their kid wants to perform but backing them 100 percent anyway (Eddie Barth, hello!).
In second place, the comic geniuses and genuine music legends of The Blues Brothers. In third, the family and "the Family" crossing paths, and each other, in Raging Bull. In fourth, the mix of comic talents and seasoned dramatic actors to harness Airplane!'s absurdity. In fifth, the three accused, their attorney, and the powers closing in around them in Breaker Morant.
Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and more after the jump....
A total number of 65 films were screened for the 1980 retrospective - including 22 Oscar nominees, eleven Razzie nominees and five Oscar-Razzie nominees (overlap is not uncommon). And so the moment has come: the nominees for the 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards.
I present the 18 categories in the order in which I figured out my lineup:
After 65 films, 10 Oscar categories, and five re-castings, I am ready to divvy out the awards for 1980....in due time. The nominees tomorrow, the awards later on in the week.
Until then, my personal top ten of the year. The complete list of films screened follows at the end. How many have you seen?
Dir/Scr: Paul Schrader
Cin: John Bailey
Neon noir with a special hatred for Beverly Hills, a place where the wealthy surround themselves with beauty, until it becomes inconvenient. The clothes, the sets, the attitude, all influenced how we see this decade. Genuine suspense, and a strong and sexy performance from Richard Gere at its center.
Best Music - Original Score, Philippe Sarde
Best Cinematography, Geoffrey Unsworth/Ghislain Cloquet - WON
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Pierre Guffroy/Jack Stephens - WON
Best Costume Design, Anthony Powell - WON
It's the last day of Casting Coup Week! Starting Monday, we start wrapping up 1980 with a Top Ten, Retro Hollmann Awards Nominations, then two days of the awards proper.
Before we get into all that, though, let's talk about Tess, baby. It's only the third cinematic adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, the previous two going back to the silent era. Even TV versions are scarce - one in 1960 for ITV (with Geraldine McEwan!), one in 1998 for LWT (with Justine Waddell!), and one in 2008 for BBC (with Gemma Arterton!).
Perhaps it's the subject matter: Hardy's story takes to task the rich for exploiting the poor, religious institutions for their hypocrisy, patriarchal society for its subjugation of women, and the justice system for its treatment of domestic abuse and rape victims. Now that I've written it all out, I'm surprised there isn't a new version of Tess in the works right now - it is, unfortunately, timeless.
And if they were to make a new version right now - who might they hire to fill the many roles? I have a few suggestions....
Best Actor, Robert De Niro - WON
Best Supporting Actor, Joe Pesci
Best Supporting Actress, Cathy Moriarty
Best Cinematography, Michael Chapman
Best Film Editing, Thelma Schoonmaker - WON
Best Sound, Donald O. Mitchell/Bill Nicholson/David J. Kimball/Les Lazarowitz
I trust I do not need to go into my love of Raging Bull again - after all, of the ten categories we covered for the 1980 Oscars flashback, I voted for it in allfive categoriesitwasup for. Scorsese has always been concerned with the practiced peacocking of American masculinity and virility; what could be better than a sports drama set in the world of boxing, where fighting prowess makes you a winner?
The cast assembled for Raging Bull was raw. Flawlessly so. No one is ever going to match that. So I'm not even gonna try - the best I can do is offer the best people for the job now. And here they are. I think.
Best Supporting Actor, Timothy Hutton - WON
Best Adapted Screenplay, Alvin Sargent - WON
So, when I first started this project, I was still working, and when I announced I was going to watch Ordinary People one night, the reactions were decidedly split. My mentor and friend - let's call him Slim Daddy - was thoroughly in the pro camp, a man who believed every actor in the movie should have been nominated, and who was the right age for identifying with Conrad when it came out. He loved Mary Tyler Moore's performance.
Another camp was formed by the Kanye Fan - my generation, the one that grew up with the internet and could major in film studies. He didn't think Ordinary People was a bad movie, just not very cinematic, said if they made it today, it would be a Lifetime movie. It's fine. It doesn't go deep. It's melodrama.
Glory be, I may be a Raging Bull voter, but Ordinary People has stood the test of time because it skirts melodrama, it goes deep, it's better than fine. It's a story of the privileged, yes, but that's only in social class - there's no privilege in the way these people process death and grief. These are characters any actor kill to play - the mother both monstrous and mourning, the father stepping on eggshells, the son racked with guilt over both his actions and inactions. And those are just the leads!
It's a wonderful film - but could the magic ever be recaptured? Maybe if they had the right cast...
Best Actor, John Hurt
Best Adapted Screenplay, Christopher De Vore/Eric Bergren/David Lynch
Best Music - Original Score, John Morris
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Stuart Craig/Robert Cartwright/Hugh Scaife
Best Film Editing, Anne V. Coates
Best Costume Design, Patricia Norris
The Elephant Man is inspired by the true story of Joseph Merrick (called John in Treves' memoir), a curiosity of Victorian London who went from the sideshow to stardom when eminent surgeon Frederick Treves took an interest in his unique case and moved him into London Hospital. It is a life that has inspired books, television specials, social studies (Ashley Montagu's, for example), even primetime animation.
And, of course, it has inspired dramatists. Bernard Pomerance's Broadway play debuted in 1979, won three Tony Awards including Best Play, was adapted for a 1982 ABC TV movie, and has been revived on the stage twice more. On stage, the role has been played by David Bowie, Bruce Davison, Mark Hamill, Billy Crudup, and Bradley Cooper, the latter two getting Tony nominations for their efforts. Pomerance was famously peeved about the film The Elephant Man, which had no relation at all to his play and probably hurt the film sales for it. And worse yet, if anyone were to finally adapt Pomerance's Elephant Man for cinemas, you know it would be reported as a remake of this version.
Of course, we today are not imagining a cinematic adaptation of Pomerance's work, but a remake of David Lynch's Oscar-nominated classic. Still. There's precedent for multiple versions of the story. Here's ours.
Best Adapted Screenplay, Thomas Rickman
Best Cinematography, Ralf D. Bode
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, John W. Corso/John M. Dwyer
Best Film Editing, Arthur Schmidt
Best Sound, Richard Portman/Roger Heman Jr./James R. Alexander
At the heart of Coal Miner's Daughter is a love story. Loretta Webb was only 15 (she claimed even younger) when she married 21-year-old Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn - she was only 16 when he whisked her away from her family and hometown of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, to Custer, Washington, where they knew absolutely nobody. All throughout their marriage, which lasted until his death in 1996, Doo was an alcoholic, a womanizer, sometimes violent. But he also bought Loretta her first guitar, booked her first gigs, drove her all over the United States to get her music on the radio.
The marriage of Loretta and Doo is the main attraction of Coal Miner's Daughter, beautifully acted by native Texans Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. It just doesn't work without that particular chemistry. The rest of the film is anchored in their alternating affection and tension - the friendship of Loretta and Patsy Cline isn't just of mutual respect between two artists, but two successful women who know from men problems (Patsy's ex-husband tried to quell her singing career). And of course, stepping out with an older man would certainly effect the relationship a 15-year-old has with her parents, to say nothing of actually moving clear across the country.
Casting director Michael Chinich (who also did The Blues Brothers and Melvin and Howard the same year), director Michael Apted, and Loretta Lynn herself assembled a fine ensemble to embody this unique conflict/blessing. But if they were to do this film today, what might that group look like? I know who I'd gather...
The moment has come - I present to you, the Best Picture nominees of 1980:
Coal Miner's Daughter
A conventional biopic - rise, semi-fall, recovery, immortality - though well-written and -acted enough that we forgive the familiarities. Sissy Spacek deserved her Oscar, but most notable, to me: the design! I'm talking the sets, costumes, sound, the hair! Detailed and authentic. Entertaining overall.
In The Elephant Man, John Hurt is John Merrick, a real-life Victorian-era personality whose unique deformity made him into a celebrity. This was Hurt's second and final nomination.
In The Great Santini, Robert Duvall is Bull Meechum, a fighter pilot between wars who makes his home a new battlefield, pushing his oldest son to "man up". This was Duvall's third nomination, still three years away from his first (and so far only) win.
In Raging Bull, Robert De Niro is Jake La Motta, the championship boxer whose life hit a unique series of highs and lows, including a long time as an uber-plus-size club owner and comic. This was his fourth nomination - and resulted in his second win:
In The Stunt Man, Peter O'Toole is Eli Cross, a megalomaniacal director whose on-set tactics and off-set personality make him appear dangerously mad. But is it all just one big joke? O'Toole famously never won, despite eight nominations; this was his sixth.
In Tribute, Jack Lemmon is Scottie Templeton, a Broadway press agent who tries to repair his relationship with his son when he learns he may be dying. This was the seventh of eight nominations for Lemmon, who had already won twice before.
Though I pride myself on being a reader, I'm reminded of how little I know, how little I've read, every time I look at the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay. And what's fascinating about this lineup is how many options each nominee offers!
For instance, Breaker Morant. The true story of three Australian lieutenants in the Boer War, courtmartialed for executing prisoners - and murdering a civilian. The film itself is mainly adapted from a hit 1978 stage play by Kenneth G. Ross, but also tips a hat to the non-fiction book The Breaker by Kit Denton - even though Ross and the production had just won a lawsuit against Denton for claiming to be the film's source. Why two credits, then? Girl, I don't know.
The Elephant Man, another true story, is likewise adapted from multiple sources. Following the true story of famously deformed Victorian personality Joseph "John" Merrick, the film's main inspiration is the memoir by Merrick's physician, Dr. Frederick Treves - yet it also takes from the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, the man appointed by UNESCO to investigate The Race Question. It bears no relation to the stage play of the same name, which was contemporaneously running on Broadway, a fact that stuck in the craw of the show's producers.
Ordinary People is straightforward, based as it is on Judith Guest's debut novel about a family dealing with the aftermath the death of one son and attempted suicide of the other. No confusion there, especially as it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. But I do want to point out: it was later adapted into a stage play by Nancy Gilsenan. Mind, that was after the film won its Oscars - including this one.
Coal Miner's Daughter comes from the same-titled autobiography by Loretta Lynn (co-authored with George Vecsey), following the life and sometimes tribulations of the First Lady of Country Music. Loretta remained very hands-on, hand-picking Sissy Spacek to play her - and it doesn't end there! Last year, it was announced that Coal Miner's Daughter was heading to Broadway, and once again Ms. Lynn picked the new her: Zooey Deschanel.
The Stunt Man is the only nominee to stay away from the stage - for now. Based on Paul Brodeur's novel, the film follows a fugitive who hides out on a movie set, only to discover the director may be a greater threat to his physical and mental well-being than any cop. Don't expect to see this on 42nd Street any time soon - the flick is pure cinema.
And do those screenplays do their sources justice? Read on...
It's the first-timers club, an entire category full of nominees who have never before had the honor - and, even more strange, would never be so honored again!
The winner was Mary Steenburgen, as the supportive-then-frustrated housewife in Melvin and Howard. Surprisingly, this is her only nomination so far, though I for one think she should have been up for Cross Creek three years later.
You might think Eva Le Gallienne, 81 years old, is the overdue one - but her film work was minimal. Her medium was The Theatre, and she did it all: acting, directing, even translating the works of Chekhov and Ibsen. Her sage grandmother in Resurrection earned her her first and only Oscar nod.
More overdue: Eileen Brennan. Her ball-busting sergeant in Private Benjamin was her first and only nomination, though she won an Emmy reprising the role for the television series. She previously appeared in Best Picture winner The Sting and Best Picture nominee The Last Picture Show.
Not so overdue: Cathy Moriarty. Girl was just starting out - 20 years old, making her film debut as Jake La Motta's child bride in Raging Bull. Apparently, Joe Pesci had seen her picture on the wall of a bar, where she had won a beauty contest. This was Moriarty's first, and so far only, nomination.
And then there's Diana Scarwid, a woman among men as the waitress in Inside Moves. A busy year for her, as she was also in Honeysuckle Rose and the Emmy-winning TV movie Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (not to be confused with the exploitation fictionalization, Guyana: Cult of the Damned).
Supporting Actress has always been one of my favorite categories, and I will always tip my cap to StinkyLulu's Brian Herrera for helping to fuel that - indeed, he weighed in on this very lineup at The Film Experience, where Nathaniel Rogers has revived the Supporting Actress Smackdowns! Take a look at that. I did not participate at the time, of course, as I'd seen absolutely none of these movies until a month ago. If I had...here's what I might have said......
Our first week of the 1980 Oscars endeth here, with the nominees for Best Director. And here started a new trend, too: bankable pretty boy actors finally winning an Oscar for hiding their looks...behind the camera.
Robert Redford wasn't the first actor-director to win this category, but you wouldn't exactly lump Woody Allen in with him, Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson, would you? It is still Redford's only competitive Oscar win, though he'd later be nominated as director and producer for Quiz Show - can you believe his acting has only gotten him one nod?
David Lynch was the unexpected choice for The Elephant Man, a decision made by executive producer Mel Brooks (!) after seeing his only other feature, 1977's Eraserhead. Some tsk-tsked at Lynch going mainstream, but boy is that a loose definition for what he gave us. Lynch would later be nominated twice more, for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr.
Roman Polanski was back with his first film since fleeing the United States following sexual assault charges. Tess, and adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, was a project he originally envisioned for his wife, Sharon Tate, before she was brutally murdered by the Manson Family. The film is dedicated to her. Polanski was previously nominated for Chinatown and would later win for The Pianist.
Martin Scorsese had already given the world Taxi Driver, yet Raging Bull marks his first Oscar nomination. It wouldn't be the last: seven more Best Director nods would follow over the years, with only one them resulting in a win: The Departed. He should have been up for Silence this year, but who am I?
Two years after it was shot, The Stunt Man finally came to cinemas; seven years before that, director Richard Rush started the ball rolling. More on that when we get to Adapted Screenplay, but for his troubles, Rush got two Oscar nods, critical raves, and cult cinema status.
But what did he get from me? That's after the jump.
What an unusual and varied slate this Best Actress lineup is!
In Coal Miner's Daughter, previous nominee Sissy Spacek plays country star Loretta Lynn in a biopic that charts the singer-songwriter's life from her humble beginnings in Kentucky to eventual fame, fortune, exhaustion, and recovery. That was good enough for a win!
In Gloria, previous nominee Gena Rowlands plays a former gun moll trying to smuggle a mouthy six-year-old to safety after his family is murdered - by the very men she used to hang around with.
In Ordinary People, Mary Tyler Moore plays a wife and mother grieving the death of her firstborn, favorite son - by ignoring it and shutting out the people around her.
In Private Benjamin, previous winner Goldie Hawn plays a spoiled rich girl who enlists in the army following a surprise widowhood - and winds up discovering who she really is along the way.
And in Resurrection, previous winner and frequentnominee Ellen Burstyn plays a young woman who returns to her childhood hometown following a tragic accident that awoke within her a miraculous gift - she can heal with the touch of her hand.
Those are the roles - but how were the performances? Let's talk, after the jump.
Yesterday, we started our journey through 1980 with the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Today, the nominees for Best Original Screenplay: three fictional, two true-ish. Let's meet the writers, shall we?
The Film: Brubaker The Plot: The new warden of a small prison farm in Arkansas tries to clean it up of corruption after initially posing as an inmate. The Writers: W.D. Richter, who later worked on Big Trouble in Little China and Home for the Holidays. Story by Richter and Arthur A. Ross, who wrote Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Great Race. First and only nominations for both men.
The Film: Fame The Plot: A chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts. The Writer: Christopher Gore, a playwright known for back-to-back musical flops (and now cult status, of course) Via Galactica and Nefertiti. It is his only film credit, but he was later Emmy-nominated for the animated short Faeries - and, of course, Fame became a six-season series. The Film: Melvin and Howard The Plot: The story of hard-luck Melvin E. Dummar, who claimed to have received a will naming him an heir to the fortune of Howard Hughes. The Writer: Bo Goldman, a previous winner in Best Adapted Screenplay for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; he would later be nominated in that same category for Scent of a Woman. A total of three nominations, with this one resulting in his second Oscar.
The Film: Mon oncle d'Amérique The Plot: The intersecting stories of three people who face difficult choices in life-changing situations are used to illustrate the theories espoused by Henri Lebroit about human behavior and the relationship between the self and society. The Writer: Jean Gruault, known for his contributions to the French New Wave: Paris Belongs to Us, Jules & Jim, Les Caribiniers, etc. This marked the first of three collaborations with director Alain Resnais, followed by the musical Life is a Bed of Roses and Love Unto Death. The Film: Private Benjamin The Plot: A sheltered young high society woman joins the United States Army on a whim and finds herself in a more difficult situation than she ever suspected. The Writers: Nancy Meyers, who would later be best-known as the auteur behind comedies like Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated. Charles Shyer, her then-husband, who collaborated with her on a number of film and television projects, including Baby Boom and the Father of the Bride remakes. Harvey Miller (not pictured), making his film debut after years of writing for Gomer Pyle, USMC, Love American Style, and The Odd Couple. All three also produced.
That's the class of 1980. And now...let's talk about the work.
We begin the 1980 Oscars Retrospective the way many an Oscar ceremony has begun: with Best Supporting Actor.
In The Great Santini, Michael O'Keefe makes his film debut as a high school senior who alternately loves and hates his hard-ass marine father - both a result of him just wanting that affection from his father in return. O'Keefe also appears in the comedy classic Caddyshack this year!
(The Golden Globes nominated Scott Wilson for The Ninth Configuration instead of O'Keefe - Wilson is also bordering on co-lead in said film, but Glory Osky, it is a great performance)
In Melvin and Howard, Jason Robards plays a dusty old man who identifies himself as the billionaire Howard Hughes, picked up by noted failure Melvin. Is he lying, crazy, or the real deal? This is Robards' third Oscar nomination in this category - his previous two nods resulted in back-to-back wins.
In Ordinary People, Timothy Hutton makes his film debut as a teenager grieving the loss of his older brother, recovering from his suicide attempt, and exploring a new romance. Judd Hirsch plays his therapist, who refuses to let the patient slide into easy answers or self-pity. Hirsch later won an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Taxi this same year.
In Raging Bull, Joe Pesci is the brother of Jake La Motta, a former boxer trying to maintain his connections in the mob, while being a good brother...and brother-in-law. It's the first of two Pesci nominations, the second resulting in a win.
Those are the men and their characters - buy what of the performances? After the jump...
It's a brand new month, and guess what that means? It's time for another Oscar Retrospective, followed by a new edition of the Retro Hollmann Awards! This time around, the year in question is 1980!
What makes this year unique is that I had never seen any of the Best Picture nominees before. Not a one. Coal Miner's Daughter? Missed it. Raging Bull? Passed me by. Tess? Never met her. Ordinary People? Look, you get the idea. This year was a chance for me to fill in some significant gaps in my movie knowledge.
And fill them I did! Not only did I finally watch The Elephant Man and The Blue Lagoon - I also included non-Oscar'd titles like The Blues Brothers and Popeye and American Gigolo. In the end, I watched 59 titles total - and still have a few more to go, as a VHS of Tribute is on its way, and the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is playing Honeysuckle Rose next Sunday.
The Oscar Retrospective begins Monday, when we look back at the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. If you want to get in on the discussion, here's what's going down:
Best Supporting Actor (The Great Santini, Melvin and Howard, Ordinary People, Raging Bull)
Best Original Screenplay (Brubaker, Fame, Melvin and Howard, Mon oncle d'Amérique, Private Benjamin)
Best Score (Altered States, The Elephant Man, The Empire Strikes Back, Fame, Tess)
Best Actress (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gloria, Ordinary People, Private Benjamin, Resurrection)
Best Director (The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, Raging Bull, The Stunt Man, Tess)
Best Supporting Actress (Inside Moves, Melvin and Howard, Private Benjamin, Raging Bull, Resurrection)
Best Adapted Screenplay ('Breaker' Morant, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, The Stunt Man)
Best Original Song (The Competition, Fame, Honeysuckle Rose, Nine to Five)
Best Actor (The Great Santini, The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, The Stunt Man, Tribute)
Best Picture (Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, Raging Bull, Tess)
Casting Coup Week: Re-Casting the Best Picture Nominees of 1980
Retro Hollmann Awards Nominees
Complete List of Movies Seen
The 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards