Saturday, May 26, 2018

Best Actress, 1987

On Twitter, the great Nick Davis, a man who has seen every performance nominated for the Best Actress Oscar from 1927 through to the present, named 1987 as among the greatest lineups in the category's history.  From my limited exposure, I may have to agree. Each nominee is a gay-gasp icon, every performance perfectly realized, and here's the fun part: there are more Best Picture nominees here than in Best Actor, a rarity. And I just love that we get to say "Academy Award-winning actress Cher."

More, after the jump...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Writing Awards, 1987

The Writing Awards! It's late, we're doing eight films in two categories, there's much to get into, let's just do the Oscars clip...

And start with Best Adapted Screenplay after the jump....

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Best Director, 1987

For the first time in its history, the Best Director lineup at the Academy Awards had no room for Americans! That was the controversy at the time, at least, and became the subject of many an article about the nominations. It's perhaps a wee overstated: this isn't exactly a group of Hollywood outsiders, and even the ones that were wouldn't remain so for very long.

Canada's Norman Jewison already had five Oscar nominations at this point, while Britain's John Boorman was previously up as producer-director of Deliverance; his fellow countryman Adrian Lyne gave the world Flashdance and 9 1/2 Weeks. Sweden's Lasse Hallström was a newcomer, but he adapted very well to Hollywood life: two Best Picture nominees (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat), two Nicholas Sparks flicks (Dear John, Safe Heaven), and two more "dog" pictures (Hachi, A Dog's Purpose). Italy's Bernardo Bertolucci, though nominated for The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, always did his own thing, more of an outsider. But not on this Oscar night...

Deserved? Let's talk after the jump...

Monday, May 21, 2018

Best Actor, 1987

Very late, but family was in town, so I have no regrets. Besides, why not start the week with five legendary leading men?

Let's get into them, after the jump.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Best Original Score, 1987

There are two kinds of movies usually guaranteed a spot in this category: historical epics, and anything scored by John Williams. For the former, the obvious representatives are The Last Emperor, the almost three-hour bio of the last representative of empirical rule in China, Pu Yi, and Empire of the Sun, Steven Spielberg's three-hour narrative of a young English boy's experiences in a Japanese POW camp in China; for the latter, look no further than the sexy supernatural fantasy-comedy The Witches of Eastwick...and also Empire of the Sun. Double-dipping! We may be tempted to include Cry Freedom in the historical epic category, but good Lord, no. Which just leaves The Untouchables, a 1920s-set gangster thriller, scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone.

I find Cong Su's remarks, as translated by David Byrne, about wishing for more interest in the arts of China especially poignant, given that, as the only Chinese composer on the film, his work is relegated to but one track - "Lunch" between Peter O'Toole's Reginald Johnston and Wu Tao's young Pu Yi.

Anyway. Let's listen to the music, shall we? After the jump....

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Best Original Song, 1987

I love Best Original Song. It's such a kooky category for the Academy to stubbornly cling to, all while neglecting stunt performers, casting directors, and more options for hair and makeup. The 1980s were the heyday for this category, giving us TOP 40 hits and karaoke classics like "Fame", "Take My Breath Away", "Flashdance...What a Feeling", "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - and of course, this year's winner.

Honestly, I think the latter half of the 2010s is proving to be one of the stronger periods, as well, but take a look at the full slate of 1987's nominees and tell me this isn't a formidable lineup. Well, mostly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Best Supporting Actor, 1987

This has got to be the first time this happened in Academy Awards history: the studio made the right call...but the voters committed category fraud! Two of the nominees for Best Supporting Actor - Broadcast News' Albert Brooks and Cry Freedom's Denzel Washington - were being pushed for Lead by their respective campaigns. Washington even received a Golden Globe nomination in that category. Yet when the nominations were announced, both men found themselves here.

Another arguably leading man taking up a spot was Street Smart's Morgan Freeman. Though already named Best Supporting Actor by NSFC, the LA Film Critics Association, and Independent Spirit Awards, Freeman's Bill the Butcher to Christopher Reeve's Amsterdam Vallon. Also: this was the first time in history two black men were nominated in the same acting category.

Then there's former James Bond Sean Connery, with his first and only nomination, and not just a sentimental favorite but a worthy choice, for The Untouchables. And Vincent Gardenia, previously nominated for Bang the Drum Slowly, was up for Moonstruck, which took the Academy by storm, as first evidenced yesterday. So who took home the gold?

(It is so odd to me that in both Supporting categories, the presenters were two co-stars of a nominee who really didn't have a shot at winning.)

This is one of the strongest lineups in the category's history, I think. Let me tell you why...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Best Supporting Actress, 1987

1987's Best Supporting Actress lineup was all first-timers, which wouldn't happen again until 1995. But these weren't new names on the block, by any means. Anne Archer, the youngest, was Miss Golden Globe 1971, while 59-year-old Anne Ramsey was the newest kid on the block - and she'd been in movies since...well, since Anne Archer was Miss Golden Globe. The other nominees were first lady of the Argentine theatre and star of 1985's Foreign Language Film Winner The Official Story Norma Aleandro; Broadway vet and New York character actress Olympia Dukakis; and Golden Age stalwart, Maisie star, and pioneering four-time Emmy nominee Ann Sothern, in what would be her final role (she retired, deciding the nomination was the right high note to go out on).

And of course, only one could win, though it wasn't exactly a shock. Only one of these five actresses had been previously named Best Supporting Actress by the Golden Globes, LA Film Critics Association and National Board of Review, in addition to being nominated by the New York Film Critics Circle. It was the same actress whose own cousin Michael was also in the running for a nomination - that of President of the United States.

Not a surprise...but that doesn't make it any less wonderful! Let's talk more about each nominee, after the jump...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Oscar '87 Prelude: God I Hope I Get It

We're taking a look at the 60th Academy Awards for the next two weeks. Don't you think we owe it to ourselves to watch the opening number from that year?

The year is 1988. The host is Chevy Chase. And when you tune your TV to ABC, this is what you see:

The best part is obviously the dancing Oscars around 5:22, a genuinely thrilling effect. The second best part is the cut to the unamused actors at 6:34. "Ugh, please don't involve me," Michael Douglas wants to scream. Meryl looks mildly amused until she realizes she's on. Albert Brooks is actively hiding!

Tomorrow, we dig into Best Supporting Actress. Do join us...

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Reviews of '87: Monsters-A-Go-Go

Each of these film involves something that isn't human...sometimes not of this world...monsters - but not necessarily monstrous.

Harry and the Hendersons
dir: William Dear
scr: William Dear and Bill Martin & Ezra D. Rappaport
Oscar Winner: Best Makeup

Family finds sasquatch and takes him home. Works in its own wacky family-friendly comedy way. Brilliant casting: John Lithgow in Lithgow mode, of course; Melinda Dillon as a deadpan-irked but also devoted wife and mom, duh; but a pre-Poirot David Suchet as a French bigfoot hunter?! GENIUS! Impressive makeup effects aid in Kevin Peter Hall's sweet execution of the titular Harry. I love a movie that knows what it is and embraces it.

The Lost Boys, Prince of Darkness, and more - after the jump.....

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reviews of '87: Read a Book, Read a Book....

These were all based on books.

The Princess Bride
dir: Rob Reiner
scr: William Goldman, based on his novel
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("Storybook Love")

Terrific fun. Large cast of heavy-hitters delivers the goods: Mandy Patinkin stands out, but Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Billy Crystal...all great! Bad electronica orchestration of an otherwise good score; wish Robin Wright had more to do.

Full Metal Jacket, The Living Daylights, and more, after the jump....

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reviews of '87: Keep It Brief

The following films should be easy to remember - they are, after all, only one word apiece!

dir: Paul Verhoeven
scr: Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner
Oscar Winner: Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing
Oscar Nominee: Best Film Editing, Best Sound

Near future cop becomes law-and-order cyborg. Fierce critique of commodification of public services increasingly relevant; glorification of violence also biting (RoboCop is a good guy with a gun!). Not a detail missed: the ads, the cheery news reports, murder as minor setback at work. Peter Weller's performance a ballet of understatement. Lean, mean, sharp. Dare I say...perfect?

Ten more, including Predator and Mannequin, after the jump...

Monday, May 7, 2018

Reviews of '87: Everything But...

The following films were all nominated for Academy Awards - and won nothing. HOWEVER! They did win other awards, like a BAFTA or a critics' award, and I have noted those wins in each entry.

Empire of the Sun
dir: Steven Spielberg
scr: Tom Stoppard, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard
Oscar Nominee: Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound
Award Winner: BAFTA Award for Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Sound; National Board of Review for Best Film, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Outstanding Juvenile Performance (Christian Bale)

Experiences of an English boy in China during Japanese occupation. Stands alongside the great epics. Large-scale evacuation of Shanghai, playful run through the POW camp, dreamlike tour of the abandoned stadium, wrenching "I can save everyone!" moment among Spielberg's greatest achievements.

Eleven more, after the jump...

Friday, May 4, 2018

1987: Woody Allen Double Feature

The last year we went without a Woody Allen movie was 1981. Maybe that's why Allen felt he needed to fit two into 1987. 

By the time Hannah and Her Sisters was winning Oscars, filming was already underway on Radio Days, a fact Dianne Wiest alluded to in her acceptance speech. Radio Days was already out by the time September was in reshoots - this according to Thierry de Navacelle's Woody Allen On Location. A year later, one would be up for Academy Awards, while the other would be tossed aside, doomed to become an "oh yeah" title in the writer-director's filmography.

Let's discuss!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

1987: Robert Altman Double Dips

Robert Altman is my favorite filmmaker.

I've seen 22 of his films (just a small dent in his filmography, but why blow through everything before I'm 30? Let me keep finding the gems!), and really only have a problem with two or three of them. He released an average of one film a year over a period of 40 years, making him one of the most prolific filmmakers in modern history. And wouldn't you know? He released two movies in 1987! Let's talk about them!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Hello May, Hello 1987

A new month, a new retrospective: for the next five weeks, the Silver Screening Room is dedicated to the films of 1987, from the Oscars to the also-rans! I'm talking The Last Emperor and The Lost Boys; The Princess Bride and Prince of Darkness; Broadcast News and House II: The Second Story!

Of the 71 movies screened, 66 will be reviewed by next Friday; the remaining five are Oscar's Best Picture nominees - Broadcast News, Fatal AttractionHope and Glory, The Last Emperor, Moonstruck - which we'll discuss at the end of the two-week Oscar retrospective; and we'll close out the month with the Top Ten, Nominees, and two-part "ceremony" for the 1987 Hollmann Awards.

The films screened:

84 Charing Cross Road
Adventures in Babysitting
Angel Heart
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Baby Boom
La Bamba
The Believers
Beverly Hills Cop II
Beyond Therapy
Blood Diner
Broadcast News
Cry Freedom
The Dead
Dirty Dancing 
Empire of the Sun
Fatal Attraction
Flowers in the Attic
Full Metal Jacket
The Funeral
Gaby: A True Story
Good Morning, Vietnam
Harry and the Hendersons
The Hidden
Hollywood Shuffle
Hope and Glory
House II: The Second Story
The Last Emperor
Lethal Weapon
The Living Daylights
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
The Lost Boys 


Masters of the Universe
The Monster Squad
My Life as a Dog
Near Dark
O.C. and Stiggs
Ping Pong
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Prick Up Your Ears
Prince of Darkness
The Princess Bride
Radio Days
Raising Arizona
River's Edge
Street Smart
Surf Nazis Must Die
Three Men and a Baby
Throw Momma from the Train
The Untouchables
Wall Street
The Whales of August
Who's That Girl?
The Witches of Eastwick
Withnail & I

We begin properly tomorrow, with a look at the films of Robert Altman, who double-dipped with O.C. and Stiggs and Beyond Therapy - and not on purpose...

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Yes, Now: Early Oscar Predictions

Over at The Film Experience, Nathaniel Rogers has begun his annual April Foolish Oscar predictions, which means the race can finally begin again! Here's what I think may be nominated next February at the 91st Academy Awards, keeping in mind that none of these films have screened, no one knows anything, and I am spotty with my advance predictions.

Previous editions: 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

Best Picture

If Beale Street Could Talk
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
On the Basis of Sex

These first five are my "most likely". I know, I know: three biopics? In a post-Shape of Water world? What is this, 2005? But hear me out.

Adam McKay returns with his first film since The Big Short, finding political filmmaking to his liking with the Dick Cheney biopic Backseat. If it doesn't leave too bad a taste in people's mouths - it could go either way between "Boy, we thought we had it bad then" and "And that's why we're in this mess now" - this could be the frontrunner.

I also have the creative teams behind Moonlight and La La Land facing off once again with, respectively, If Beale Street Could Talk (an adaptation of a novel by James Baldwin) and First Man (an adaptation of a biography of Neal Armstrong). And let me say this,: if Backseat isn't the frontrunner, expect First Man to step in, as both a look back at a time you could be proud to be an American and an apology for La La Land not actually winning.

It'd be crazy not to have a woman-led film in the conversation, so expect Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex to hit big. And for my fifth slot, after some hemming and hawing, I went with another woman-led crowdpleaser Mary Poppins Returns. Because right now, anything is possible!

As for the rest of the lineup, here's what I expect, in order of likelihood:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Gays and Gamers

What have I seen lately in the cinemas?

Love, Simon
dir: Greg Berlanti
scr: Elizabeth Berger & Isaac Aptaker, based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
seen: Regal LA Live

Very sweet high school dramedy about a teen's coming-out struggles. Imperfect, but does a nice job of portraying flawed people honestly trying, sometimes coming up short, sometimes giving way too much credit, but always striving. Phenomenal supporting cast, satisfying ending. Accurately portrays drunkenly practicing Cabaret choreography your senior year.

More, including Ready Player One, after the jump.

Friday, March 16, 2018

And Now The Screening Starts...

I have not seen very many new releases so far this year - just ten in three months! Here are a few thoughts on what I have seen...

dir/scr: Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer
seen: Pacific's The Grove Stadium 14

All the tweets I saw about how "mind-blowing" this movie is, could not prepare me for how often I dropped my jaw and silent-screamed at the screen. I don't know what to say because half the experience is the surprise and realization of what this kooky little flick is doing, and the less you know, the better. Just see it so we can bond over the dreamy climax, a sequence that had my brain at a meditative level that felt almost religious, spiritual. Annihilation, man. Wow.

More after the jump, including Fifty Shades FreedBlack Panther, and even a friend's film!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Super Last-Minute Oscar Predictions

Best Picture
It's the most up-in-the-air category this season, making for one of the most exciting Best Picture races in history. Best Picture is decided by a preferential ballot system that I am not going to explain but recommend you look up, which for many means that the least divisive nominee with the most fans wins - thus, The Shape of Water, which few dislike and which won the big prize at the PGA Awards and DGA Awards. But each Oscar year tends to follow a pattern, meaning your Best Picture winner is most likely whoever's won the most going in - thus, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, which triumphed at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards. But also, the past four winners first triumphed in the Best Film category at the Independent Spirit Awards - thus, Get Out, which just became the latest to win that honor on the eve of the Academy Awards.

(twists and turns, after the jump....)

Friday, March 2, 2018

The 1982 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Two

Yesterday, Victor/Victoria and Poltergeist led the pack with two wins each out of the nine categories. Today, we conclude our trip back to 1982. Again, check out the 1982 Retro Hollmann Awards Nominations and Top Ten for more context.

Now - on with the show!

Best Editing

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
David Bretherton / Nicholas Eliopoulos / Walt Hannemann / Pembroke J. Herring / Jack Hofstra

2. Tootsie; 3. The Road Warrior; 4. The Long Good Friday; 5. Edo Porn

Everything hits at the right time in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: every dance step, musical sting, double entendre. It takes its time for "Hard Candy Christmas" and the date night between Mona and Ed Earl, then ramps up the energy for "The Aggie Song", "Little Bitty Pissant Country Place" and the encounter between Ed Earl and Melvin P. Thorpe. Not a wasted moment.

In second, the laughs and confusion of Tootsie. In third, the high-speed action of The Road Warrior. In fourth, the violence of The Long Good Friday. In fifth, the erotic exuberance of Edo Porn.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The 1982 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part One

It's the 1982 Retro Hollmann Awards, celebrating the best in cinema 35 years ago!

For full context, remember to check out the Top Ten, which includes a complete list of the film screened. Also, take a look at the Retro Hollmann Awards Nominations, for a complete list of the nominees.

With the exception of Best Ensemble, which doesn't exist at the Oscars, the categories are presented in the same order as they were at the original 55th Academy Awards on April 11, 1983. Shall we begin?

Best Ensemble
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Scott Bushnell

2. Fast Times at Ridgemont High; 3. Eating Raoul; 4. Tootsie; 5. Best Friends

If you want an effective cast, have them do the play first! It worked for Fences, and it worked for Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which transfers the entire cast from the original Broadway production to the big screen. Smart move for a story about women who've known each other 20 years; there's a real sense that everyone not only knows one another but has for decades. An easy, unmistakable familiarity.

In second, the students and faculty of Ridgemont High. In third, the offbeat assemblage of personalities in Eating Raoul. In fourth, Tootsie's New York showbiz types. In fifth, the families at the center of Best Friends.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The 1982 Hollmann Award Nominees

The 90th Academy Awards are just five days away, but here at the Silver Screening Room, it's still 1982. You've taken a look at my Top Ten of that year - now I present the complete best-ofs: the nominees for the 1982 Retro Hollmann Awards. Order of categories was decided by random drawing. So let's begin with...

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Larry L. King & Peter Masterson and Colin Higgins
based on the musical play by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson

Edo Porn
Kaneto Shindô
based on the play Hokusai Manga by Seiichi Yashiro

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Cameron Crowe
based on his book

The Thing
Bill Lancaster
based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. (alias Don A. Stuart)

Blake Edwards
based on the 1933 film written by Reinhold Schünzel

The rest of the nominees, starting with Best Actor, after the jump....

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Top Ten of 1982

After two months, I am ready to unveil my Top Ten of 1982. Before I do, I'd be remiss not to name some honorable mentions... Blade Runner and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


Blade Runner's groundbreaking future-noir aesthetics. Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean's incredible ensemble of women. Fast Times at Ridgemont High's poignant sense of humor. Their absence from the Top Ten is greatly felt, and is in no way a reflection of their quality. I wish I had room in my Top Ten for thirteen titles, but that's not how numbers work. As it stands now, these will do. The Top Ten of 1982, in alphabetical order, after the jump...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

It Might Be You: Best Picture, 1982

We make a big deal of "precursors" in today's awards landscape, with a full nine awards ceremonies to go before we get to the Oscars: the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, LAFCA, NYFCC, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), Critics' Choice Awards, SAG Awards, PGA Awards....and that's just if you're following Best Picture! To try to predict how this year's Oscars may turn out, those of us obsessed with awards look to these nine bodies to help us see which way the wind is blowing. In a year like 2017, that's proving especially difficult.

Here, let's look at the nine films currently nominated for Best Picture, and see which ones have already won a Best Film prize:

Call Me By Your Name: LAFCA
Darkest Hour 
Get Out
Lady Bird: Golden Globes (Musical/Comedy)NSFC, NYFCC
Phantom Thread
The Post: National Board of Review
The Shape of Water: Critics' Choice Awards, PGA Awards
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes (Drama), SAG Awards (Ensemble, which many consider the Best Picture equivalent at SAG)

It's a much bigger spread than usual. Compare that to 1982. Back then, there were only six awards besides the Oscars competing for attention - no PGA, no SAG, no Critics' Choice - but they all still played before the Academy Awards. No one dare compete outright with The Big One. Here's how things went then:

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Golden Globes (Drama), LAFCA
Gandhi: BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes (Foreign Film - they used to put the Brits in this category and it's bonkers), National Board of Review, NYFCC
Tootsie: Golden Globes (Musical/Comedy), NSFC
The Verdict

It also looks fairly spread out, but Gandhi has the edge, having won over the British Film Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press, the National Board of Review, and the New York Critics. And of course, what wound up happening Oscar Night?

A different time, but now, as then, people like to make a statement with their vote. Obviously you have to like the film, but as Attenborough and Kingsley averred in their speeches, a vote for Gandhi is a vote for world peace. What is the equivalent in 2017? What film not only represents the best in filmmaking, but the best of intentions? And will that combination result in an Oscar win?

We'll find out March 4th. Until then, let's look at the Best Picture lineup of 1982. After the jump...

Friday, February 23, 2018

All the Lies I Have Told: Actress, 1982

Meryl Streep famously won her second Academy Award for Sophie's Choice:

It's not hard to see why. The movie saw her speaking three languages, all in a Polish accent, while also physically transforming into both a starving concentration camp inmate and the heartbreakingly beautiful object of lust for the main character, called Stingo (the movie is, frankly, ridiculous). It's de-glam and sexy - something for everyone!

If there is an equivalent today, I have to believe it's Margot Robbie. For I, Tonya, the native Australian beauty affects an American accent, wears braces, dons a variety of wigs for unflattering frizz, and goes from ice princess to female boxer, with some age de-glam thrown in. It's a transformation, and Oscar loves that.

Thirty-five years later, Meryl Streep is back. Today she's a veteran whose Best Actress nomination is, increasingly, more reliable than tomorrow's sunrise. This year, fortunately, she got some of the best reviews of her career for The Post. I'm not sure who is the 1982 equivalent, but I think Sissy Spacek comes closest. Though Missing is only her third Oscar nomination, she was coming off a win for Coal Miner's Daughter and dominated the 1980s. There's a reason this is the fourth retrospective in a year to feature Spacek: girl was prolific.

Another veteran, and one very likely to take the prize this year, is Frances McDormand in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. A friend of mine explained the appeal of the performance this way: "Frances McDormand was an avatar for the cauterizing power of rage." Ok! I have to think that was part of the appeal of Jessica Lange's performance in Frances, too - beyond "just" being a biopic, Lange gives us fire and fury as a woman who doesn't behave as prescribed, and gets branded as crazy because of it. Do not underestimate a fearsome female.

Nor a romantic one. The high school comedy and the romantic drama are not the most respected of genres, regarded as being more "slight" (read: female-driven) than others. But sometimes there comes a movie, and a performance, that's so perfect, its worthiness is undeniable. This year, Saoirse Ronan helped lead Lady Bird to five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture; in 1982, Debra Winger helped make An Officer and a Gentleman into the third highest-grossing movie of the year (even Richard Gere admits she stole the show!).

Where does that leave The Shape of Water's Sally Hawkins and Victor/Victoria's Julie Andrews? These ladies landed their nods thanks to physicality, expressiveness, and their voice - or lack thereof. Hawkins plays a mute janitor, but you don't need subtitles to know what she's thinking; it's there on her face, in her posture. Andrews is anything but mute, but the way she adjusts the timbre of her voice and body language to appear more masculine, the way she fights and dances, make for an impressive showcase. These ladies are limber!

Enough of now, let's talk then. The 1982 nominees, after the jump....

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Love Lifts Us Up: Original Song, 1982

Lord, I just want to take a break from writing for a short time. Fortunately, we can take a music break, as this is Best Original Song!

Culture critic Joe Reid calls the 1980s the greatest decade for this category. He may be right: from "Fame" in 1980 to "Under the Sea" in 1989, with some karaoke standbys and Bond themes in between, the 80s are rife with riches in the Original Song category. 1982 is no exception, with lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman taking up three slots, and the standards "Up Where We Belong" and "Eye of the Tiger" among the nominees. The eagles did fly, right into a win:

(This is just a bizarre video, from the dead silence greeting Yes, Giorgio to the uncomfortable PDA between Nitzsche and Saint-Marie)

Oddly missing is Victor/Victoria, which boasts several original songs and won for Best Adapted and/or Song Score. Where is "Le Jazz Hot"? Whither "Crazy World"?

Anyway, the nominated songs after the jump - and while we're at it, you'll also get the songs nominated for the 2017 Oscars! So have a listen, won't you?:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Steers and Queers: Supporting Actor, 1982

Louis Gossett, Jr., made history at the 1982 Oscars by becoming both only the second African-American man to win an Academy Award (Sidney Poitier was first) and the first to do so for Best Supporting Actor.

(Ok, can I just point out: no, Susan Sarandon, two of those roles could not have been played by women. Preston does one scene at the end of his film in a dress. Fun "drag race" joke, though.)

Supporting Actors come in many forms and flavors. Here are a few of them, taking into account not just 1982's crop, but also the current batch of nominees for the 2017 film year.

The Movie Thief: Though his on-screen time is relatively brief compared to the rest of the cast, his character is unforgettable, the one you leave thinking about. It also helps if he has a big scene, like a monologue or a musical number. For the latter, take Charles Durning's sidestepping guv'nor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; for the former, Woody Harrelson's sheriff in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The Tough Love Father Figure: He's not fighting the protagonist, he's making him/her/them a better person - but he's gonna do it with discipline. When his eyes brim with tears at movie's end, that's the cue for the audience to lose its mind. Take Louis Gossett, Jr.'s, drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman or Willem Dafoe's motel manager in The Florida Project.

The Best Friend: There for the protagonist to connect with the way he/she can't with a romantic partner; also there to help hatch and execute any harebrained schemes alongside the hero/ine. Take John Lithgow's trans bestie to Robin Williams in The World According to Garp or Richard Jenkins' gay bestie to Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water.

The Guy You Can't Trust: A worthy adversary, he's not just the charmer - he's the snake as well. Take James Mason's high-powered defense attorney in The Verdict or Christopher Plummer's megalomaniacal billionaire in All the Money in the World.

The Co-Lead: Well, almost - I mean, you can make the argument. He gets just as juicy an arc - and almost as much screentime - as the supposed protagonist. Hell, the movie ends with him! Take Robert Preston's nightclub singer/manager in Victor/Victoria or Sam Rockwell's dim-witted cop in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The 1982 contenders, after the jump....

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

True Story: Adapted Screenplay, 1982

I used to have an Oscar Season Reading List, made up of books whose upcoming adaptations had some buzz surrounding them. This was during college, 2007 - 2010, and it forced me to jump ship from my usual pulps and whodunnits and explore other genres, forms, and writers. Nominated titles included Atonement, No Country for Old Men, Oil! (There Will Be Blood), "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" (Away from Her), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Push (Precious), Up in the Air, The Accidental Billionaires (The Social Network), True Grit, Winter's Bone and The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Hugo). Unnominated titles included Public Enemies and Revolutionary Road.

Eventually I became frustrated with bringing expectations from my readings to the movies, and so I've more or less stopped that. Still, it's worth trying again, especially when it comes to a year like this one - or indeed, a year like 1982. Because you never know just where the inspiration for an awards-worthy screenplay can come from....

Like a novel, preferably a best-seller - after all, if people want to read a story, other people probably want to watch it. In 1982, The Verdict is one of those courtroom thrillers that would sell at any airport; Sophie's Choice is a doorstop of a novel about a post-War love story and secrets of World War II Europe. In 2017, Call Me By Your Name is a gay-themed novel about memory; Mudbound is an epic about the post-war South.

Truth is stranger than fiction - thus, the non-fiction book. Missing, based on The Execution of Charles Horman, relates the story of the disappearance and murder of Charles Horman in Chile, and the implication of our own American government in its subsequent coverup. And if you want to count autobiographical fiction, Das Boot, about the exploits of a German U-boat, is based on a novel written by a war correspondent who went aboard U-96 in 1941. 2017 offers two true tales of its own: The Disaster Artist, about the making of cult hit The Room, and Molly's Game, which is terrible.

They don't even have to come from books - they could be other films! Victor/Victoria is based on the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria; actually, it's the fourth version of that story, following the 1935 British film First a Girl and the 1957 German remake. Logan is inspired by the X-Men comics, yes, but it's mostly our understanding of Hugh Jackman's performance in 8 films over 17 years that informs the film.

In 1982, truth took the prize:

And what will happen in 2017? No idea, we'll talk about that next week. For now, a closer look at the nominees of 1982...

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Unexpected: Director, 1982

"I was certain that not only would E.T. win, but that it should win. It was inventive, powerful, wonderful. I make more mundane movies." Words famously uttered by the very honest Richard Attenborough, reacting not just to Gandhi's win for Best Picture, but to his own triumph in being named Best Director.

I have a great many friends who would agree with Attenborough's self-assessment, but we'll talk more about that later. I do wonder, though, what the late Attenborough would think of this year's Best Director lineup. Who among them is putting out inventive, powerful, wonderful work - and who is more mundane? Who are the Attenborough and Spielberg and etc. of 2017?

I think the Attenborough of 2017 is Dunkirk's Christopher Nolan - and no, it's not because of any mundanity. It's because we have a fixture of the cinema being given his due by playing to his strengths for a passion project 20 years in the making. For Attenborough, his British sensibilities and historical epics experience employed for a biopic of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. For Nolan, his unorthodox approaches to blockbuster storytelling enhance what could have been an otherwise straightforward telling of the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Who is the Sidney Lumet of 2017, the one making films for grownups? I should think that's obvious: Paul Thomas Anderson, whose Phantom Thread manages to be much larger than its intimate focus on a complex relationship would suggest. Inversely, Lumet takes a big underdog-vs.-Archdiocese courtroom thriller like The Verdict and never loses sight of the fact that, at heart, it's an intimate recovery drama. These are men who can focus on the macro and the micro in a single shot.

Whither the Wolfgang Petersen, rarely misstepping despite the unique challenges of his film, with an ear for surprising humor and a real sense of claustrophobia? Specific, yes! And also - that man is Jordan Peele, who makes social satire within a horror framework look as easy as a sprawling epic set within a submarine. You laugh, but you also can't escape a sense of dread, thanks chiefly to the sound design: Get Out with its spoon hitting the teacup, Das Boot with its propellers churning overhead.

How about a Sydney Pollack, so good with actors, maybe not offering the most visual pizzazz, but showing that directing is more than flash and dollies and whatnot, that performances and chemistry and a consistent handle on a tricky tone are just as important. Duh, Greta Gerwig; Lady Bird, like Tootsie, is hilarious and emotional and realistic, with a looseness belying its sturdy structure.

Which means the Spielberg equivalent is Guillermo del Toro, who also made a fantasy drama unapologetic in its sweetness, one that not only wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve, but recreates indelible moments from those films to further its sense of wonder.

Whew! The nominees of 1982, after the jump....

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ben and the Other Four Gentlemen: Actor, 1982

And now we come to Best Actor.

The Biopic: This man existed, and this actor nailed it. Ben Kingsley as Gandhi in Gandhi, Gary Oldman as Churchill in Darkest Hour.

The Breakdown: His performance is a slow burn as he realizes the shit he's got into - and it's satisfying to him lash out near the end. Jack Lemmon in Missing, Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out.

The Transformation: Trust me when I say you've never seen him like this. Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The Legend: Whether he wins or loses, he's a respected thesp who gets nominated often. Peter O'Toole in My Favorite Year, Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread.

The Guy Who Only Needs a Single, Uninterrupted Take of Something to Make Critics and Audiences Fall All Over Themselves in Exultation: Paul Newman giving good speech in The Verdict, Timothée Chalamet staring at a fireplace in Call Me By Your Name.

And it looks like this year, as in 1982, the Biopic will reign triumphant. But who knows? We'll find out soon enough - until then, let's take a look at the 1982 performances after the jump!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Old Dogs, New Blood: Original Score, 1982

The music branch of the Academy seems to be the most insular, exclusive group. Like every category, there's usually one newcomer a year, but the rest of the nominees tend to have an unusually high tally of previous nods. The record for most Academy Award nominations is held by a composer, and soon it will become clear who (as if you didn't already know!).

I break the nominees up like so:

Welcome to the Club - My goodness, they actually let some "new" blood in, and look who it is: Ravi Shankar and George Fenton sharing a nom in 1982 (Fenton would return), Jonny Greenwood in 2017 (and I should mention, Shankar and Greenwood are both best-known around the world as popular music figures)

Old Friend - Prolific, but not in the double-digits yet, and a winner who keeps doing great work: Marvin Hamlisch in 1982 (he had two wins in one year) and Alexandre Desplat in 2017 (recently won for The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Prolific Bridesmaid - It feels like he's always here, yet despite his reputation, he's actually only won once before, if at all: Jerry Goldsmith in 1982 (12th nomination for scoring, previous winner for The Omen) and Hans Zimmer in 2017 (11th nomination, previous winner for The Lion King)

Second Time's the Charm - Just when you thought he was a one and done, he comes roaring back: Jack Nitzsche in 1982 (previously nominated for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, also up for Best Original Song this year) and Carter Burwell in 2017 (previously nominated for Carol)

John Williams - You can't get rid of him! Fifty-one nominations total, 46 in scoring alone, most recently 2017's The Last Jedi! 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial got him his fourth Oscar (he has five).

Let our ears feast upon their work, after the jump......

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Women on the Side: Supporting Actress, 1982

When trying to name nominees for a given year off the top of my head, Supporting Actress comes easiest to me. It's consistently the most interesting lineup, even in a dizzy year like 1980, a place to honor mothers, lovers, veteran character actresses, even singers making their acting breakthrough. It's also, famously, a place to award leading ladies who probably wouldn't have even been nominated in Best Actress, but for some reason, Supporting is seen as slumming it, so here we are. 2017 has no such controversy this year; 1982 did, with many taking exception to Jessica Lange's nomination and eventual win for playing the romantic interest in Tootsie (she's borderline enough, in my eyes, to belong here, but then I felt the same way about Viola Davis in Fences). The more things change, etc.

Well, now we've brought it up: what has changed? What does it take now to get the Oscar nomination compared to then? As always, the Academy seems attracted to certain types, but one has to stretch a bit to draw direct parallels between the past and present.

One type that's always been a sure thing: the Monster Momma. She's hateful, she's crass, she's the chief antagonist in her daughter's life. Kim Stanley, previously nominated in Lead for Seance on a Wet Afternoon, took the Monster Momma slot in 1982; in 2017, it's Allison Janney for I, Tonya - unlike Stanley, she's the favorite the win.

Then there's the character who's almost a second lead, the emotional core of the entire movie. The aforementioned Jessica Lange takes on this role in Tootsie, as the woman who teaches Dustin Hoffman how to be a better man as a woman, while Laurie Metcalf has the honor in Lady Bird, as the exhausted mom whose tough love and concern come from genuine worry and love.

There's the character you miss whenever she's off-screen, whether it's Teri Garr filling Tootsie with her comic brilliance or Lesley Manville deepening our understanding of Phantom Thread's world. On the other hand, there are also enjoyable characters who don't draw so much focus but are still warmly received whenever they appear, like Lesley Ann Warren in Victor/Victoria or Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water.

Then there's the fun narrative of The Established Performer Breaking Through in Films. Glenn Close was already a respected, eight-year Broadway veteran and Tony Award nominee when she made her film debut in The World According to Garp, netting wins from LAFCA and the National Board of Review and nominations from the National Society of Film Critics, NYFCC, and the Academy. Meanwhile, Mary J. Blige, a music legend with nine Grammy Awards, is no stranger to film and television, but her previous performances have capitalized on her reputation as a singer, and hile Mudbound may include an original song by her in the credits, her work in the film hinges on delivering serious thesping. And, like Close, she's been a frequent face at precursors, with
Critics' Choice Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.

That's the legacy, now on to the legends - the nominees of 1982, after the jump...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Weaknesses We All Possess: Original Screenplay, 1982

I promised I'd be making fairly loose connections between the films of 1982 and the films of 2017, and for the most part, Original Screenplay writes itself.

Diner, for instance, is classic autobiographical filmmaking, with Barry Levinson borrowing elements from his own youth to tell a highly personal yet universal story about maturity. Obviously, it's the Lady Bird of 1982, right down to the writer taking the reins of director.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial frequently nods to classic cinema within its surprisingly human story of the relationship that develops between a somewhat isolated boy and the lost alien creature who just wants to go home. Be prepared for this comparison to come up a lot, because, duh, The Shape of Water.

An Officer and a Gentleman unexpectedly makes for a great double feature with The Big Sick. Both depict a romance that comes during a young man's pursuit of a career, as well as the relationship he develops with parental/authority figures who aren't his family.

Tootsie is the comedy with a lot more on its mind - namely, society's treatment of women - whose perfect construction reaps huge rewards on subsequent viewings. See also: Get Out, the satire of race relations whose every scene, comic or otherwise, goes for insight and dread.

That leaves Gandhi and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both find fascinating ways to address white power structures and the literal explosiveness of blind rage, each with its own bald man preaching love and calm over hate.

These are the stories, themes, genres that fascinate filmmakers past, present, and, I'm certain of this, future. So what do we make of the ones that came before? After the jump, we take a closer look at the Original Screenplay nominees of 1982...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lastly: 1982, Part Seven

This is it: the last batch of films watched for 1982. Did I skip one or two "classics", did I miss out on movies I wanted to see? Yes. But that happens.

The final seven are:

Gregory's Girl
dir/scr: Bill Forsyth

High schooler Gregory experiences love, lust, other hijinks. Somewhat amusing, honest portrayal of confusing, fickle teenage emotions. Slight story stretched by non-sequitur, sitcom-level "bits"; oddly cavalier about teacher-student fucking.

The rest, after the jump.....

Friday, February 9, 2018

True Stories and Other Stories: 1982, Part Six

It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, which is probably why so much fiction is founded in fact: biopics, roman à clefs, historical epics, etc. With that in mind, this batch of films, with one or two exceptions, is dedicated to cinema that finds fantasy in reality.

dir: James Ivory (A Room with a ViewHowards EndThe Remains of the Day)
scr: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the (semi-autobiographical) novel by Jean Rhys

Young woman falls in with dysfunctional married couple. Fine performances mostly, though motivations remain murky and at least one curious casting decision undermines the whole film. It certainly looks nice, and Maggie Smith is, as always, superb.

Gandhi, Fitzcarraldo, and more after the jump...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Directors: 1982, Part Five

Back before the Academy expanded its field, it was common for at least one Best Director nominee to deviate from the Best Picture lineup. In 1982, Missing's Costa-Gavras missed out on a nod; instead, the slot went to Wolfgang Petersen, director of the World War II u-boat epic Das Boot. You'll find a capsule review of Das Boot below, along with nine other films helmed by Oscar-nominated directors.

Yes, Giorgio 
dir: Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton - won)
scr: Norman Steinberg, based on the novel by Anne Piper
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("If We Were In Love")

Intolerable married opera tenor courts hot blonde throat specialist over an interminable two-week period. A charmless movie with nothing to offer. Bleached look, stale gags, unbelievable romance.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Familiar Faces: 1982, Part Four

The 1982 train continues - with sequels! Mostly! Only seven films reviewed herein instead of the regular 10...

Rocky III (#4 at the box office)
dir/scr: Sylvester Stallone
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("Eye of the Tiger")
Sequel to: Rocky, Rocky II

Rocky's newfound success makes him an easy target for hungry up-and-comer Clubber Lang. Light on character, big on montages! Manages to raise the stakes and numb you to them. Carl Weathers walks off with the movie.

Sequels to Halloween, Star Trek, Grease, and more, after the jump...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sweet Fantasy, Baby: 1982, Part Three

The trip down 1982 lane continues. We've talked movies others have recommended to me; we've talked movies I revisited. This next batch shares a common element: these are all fantasy films.

Conan the Barbarian
dir: John Milius
scr: John Milius and Oliver Stone, based on the character created by Robert E. Howard

Titular barbarian seeks vengeance against cult leader. Milius gives it the epic treatment, complete with rousing score, gorgeous cinematography, and fantastic sets and costumes. James Earl Jones great as the villain. Interminable, but I can't dismiss it.

TRON, E.T., and more after the jump.

Monday, February 5, 2018

We've Met: 1982, Part Two

Continuing our look back at 1982. Yesterday, we talked movies that I finally caught up with after years of waiting. Today, ten films I needed to re-watch.

Blade Runner
dir: Ridley Scott
scr: Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Oscar Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Visual Effects
Previously seen: The 1992 Director's Cut in high school; this screening, I caught the original theatrical cut

In the future, a specialized cop hunts down rebellious human replicants long past their due date. Clunky voice-over aside, it's a deservedly iconic and jaw-dropping feat of filmmaking, lusciously photographed and meticulously designed. A melancholy, stunning sci-fi noir.

Poltergeist, Tootsie, and more, after the jump....

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Highly Recommended: 1982, Part One

Welcome to the 80s! Starting today, I'll post ten daily capsule reviews of the movies I saw for my journey through 1982: the Oscar nominees, the box office behemoths, the cult legends, and many more.

Naturally, all these retrospectives are my catching up with cinema that I've missed in my 20-odd years on the planet. What makes this first batch of movies special is that I can remember exactly when the titles became must-see selections, even if, in some cases, it took me decades to follow through.

To put it another way: besides the Oscar parallels, these are the reason I chose 1982.

Night Shift
dir: Ron Howard
scr: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
Recommended by: My dad's best friend and next-door neighbor Steve, who had a VHS copy

Meek morgue attendant is talked into running a brothel out of his workplace. Henry Winkler a winning leading man; he and kooky Michael Keaton get through shaky plotting, miscast Shelley Long, yo-yo progressiveness on gender, sex, and prostitution. Laughs frequent and loud.

The rest after the jump...

Friday, February 2, 2018

February Plans

Starting Sunday, we'll take a look at the cinematic year of 1982: reviews of over 60 films, a retrospective on that year's Oscars, and my personal picks. Why go back 35 years to that specific Oscar ceremony? Because...

The three films with the most nominations were a fantasy drama, a historical epic, and a socially conscious dramedy

Steven Spielberg helmed a Best Picture nominee

Two of the Best Director nominees started as actors

The frontrunner for Best Actor played a major political figure in a British-made biopic

Meryl Streep was up for Best Actress

Blade Runner disappointed at the box office but was nominated for its visuals

The best musical of the year received only one Oscar nomination

It all starts Sunday with a week's worth of capsule reviews, with Oscar talk February 12th.

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