A difficult top ten to make, but here we finally are! In alphabetical order, here were my favorites of the 71 films I screened for the 1987 retrospective.
dir/scr: Luis Valdez
pr: Bill Borden, Taylor Hackford
cin: Adam Greenberg
A biopic of the short-lived teenage singer Ritchie Valens, La Bamba surprises with the equal weight and focus it puts on his whole family: Esai Morales as ne'er-do-well brother Bob, Rosanna De Soto as loving and shrewd momager Connie, and Elizabeth Peña as Bob's baby-momma Rosie. I love the way the film handles cultural identity - Ritchie doesn't speak Spanish and has never been south of the border, but he's still classified as a Mexican...even though his label has him change his name from Valenzuela to something more mass-palatable! Mind, that's just one part as experienced by Ritchie; it's through Bob's experiences that we see the vicious cycle that both keeps Mexican-Americans down and vilifies them for not "trying harder". A keenly-observed, intelligent film, politically and musically. And if you don't fall in crush with Lou Diamond Phillips here, I don't understand you, and I'm not sure I want to.
Now we come to it - the Best Picture nominees of 1987. Broadcast News, up for seven Academy Awards, named Best Film by the New York Film Critics' Circle. Fatal Attraction, up for six Academy Awards, named Best Dramatic Film by the People's Choice Awards. Hope and Glory, up for five Academy Awards, Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Comedy or Musical, named Best Picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The Last Emperor, up for nine Academy Awards, Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama, named Best Film by British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Moonstruck, up for six Academy Awards.
The winner was...
The nominees - ranked, from lowest- to highest-scored, after the jump....
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."
For the first time in its history, the Best Director lineup at the Academy Awards had noroom 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...
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....
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.
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.
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...
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...
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.....
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....
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...
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.
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.
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!
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 Attraction, Hope 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
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Beverly Hills Cop II
Empire of the Sun
Flowers in the Attic
Full Metal Jacket
Gaby: A True Story
Good Morning, Vietnam
Harry and the Hendersons
Hope and Glory
House II: The Second Story
The Last Emperor
The Living Daylights
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
The Lost Boys
Masters of the Universe
The Monster Squad
My Life as a Dog
O.C. and Stiggs
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Prick Up Your Ears
Prince of Darkness
The Princess Bride
Surf Nazis Must Die
Three Men and a Baby
Throw Momma from the Train
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...