Saturday, February 24, 2018

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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...

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Kathleen Kennedy / Steven Spielberg, producers

Despite some undercooked side elements, the movie nails the major ones. The music? Transporting. The kid? Incredible. Suspenseful, touching, sincere in the way all great movies should be. It's not perfect as a whole, but parts of it are. And if you're not sobbing at the end, well...I just don't know what to do with that!

Richard Attenborough, producer

Sophisticated, respectable filmmaking on an epic scale. The times when it has characters actually questioning the Mahatma are riveting, thought-provoking; that it quickly bats these encounters down is disappointing. It's a film so at peace and in awe, it fears complexity. In scale, awe-inspiring; in content, fine!

Edward Lewis / Mildred Lewis, producers

An admirable feat of filmmaking, angry, moral, political - in all the right ways! But, while I was very into it at the time I saw it and the week following, it hasn't had much staying power, and is consistently the nominee I keep forgetting (I almost say Victor/Victoria every time!). Yet I can't really think of any flaws on its part. It's well-made, it's's just not memorable.

Sydney Pollack / Dick Richards, producers

Its heart is in the right place; it at least makes the attempt to reform chauvinist men into becoming more understanding and respectful of women. That's sincere, and well done for the most part. Just as importantly - maybe more so, given the genre - it's screamingly funny, smart, surprisingly romantic. It's pure entertainment, but intelligently so.

The Verdict
David Brown / Richard D. Zanuck, producers

It could have been perfectly silly - the script certainly reads as such. But it's not. It's an adult drama populated by very real people, with real conversations about justice, liability, and redemption. It's about the myth of the greater good; it's about fighting for what's right, and making sure that you're not mistaking it for ego. It doesn't preach, but it gets its point across.


Gandhi won, but goodness, I have to join the modern chorus of people who disagree with that pick! My personal vote - and this surprised me, because going into this I was sure I'd be a Gandhi or a Missing fan - goes to.....

produced by

(And as for the 2017 nominees...
Lady Bird - *****
Phantom Thread - *****
The Post - ****
The Shape of Water - ****
Darkest Hour - ***
Get Out - ***
Call Me By Your Name - **
Dunkirk - **
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri - *)

Next week, my own personal picks for the best of 1982, starting with my Top Ten of 1982 on Monday.

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