Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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Best Picture, 1987

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....

5. Fatal Attraction
Stanley R. Jaffe / Sherry Lansing, producers

A solid thriller, but I'm surprised at how little it's stayed with me. Perhaps its effectiveness has been dampened by numerous imitators over the years? Maybe it's that ending, which does feel like a betrayal to a movie that, while ratcheting up the crazy, hasn't completely dismissed Alex's characterization of Dan Gallagher as an opportunist who thinks he can make life-altering decisions without consequence. And yes, infidelity is life-altering, even if it's not with a psycho: it reveals what and who you value, what you think you can get away with, what you think you deserve to get away with. Alex Forrest is absolutely the entitled male's worst nightmare and his just desserts. That audiences couldn't see this, and the studio opted to change the ending accordingly, says a lot about our values, damningly so. Anyway, I guess I'm saying that I like it, but I don't love it.

4. Moonstruck
Norman Jewison / Patrick J. Palmer, producers

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore - and the central conceit of Moonstruck, wherein love and romance blossom with the presence of a big-ass Supermoon. It's a nice movie! I'm not surprised it's such a crowdpleaser: the movie pleasantly meanders along, soaking in its environment, its ensemble. Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia are understated, so exhausted and familiar that you feel the decades of marriage, and the present unhappiness. Cher and Nicolas Cage have an odder relationship to navigate, and while I'm still not sure I get why Loretta falls in love with Ronny, I definitely believe it. That's this movie's special gift: as odd as it gets, as lightweight as it seems, there's truth in this story, in these people and their lives. You never doubt the reality of what you're seeing. It may be operating on its own unique wavelength - one inspired by classical opera - but it pulls you in effortlessly. That's amore.

3. Hope and Glory
John Boorman, producer

Movie-as-memoir was quite the popular genre this year, with Louis Malle, Woody Allen, and Jûzô Itami all offering semi-autobiographies. John Boorman's effort, however, feels the most honest, not least because he readily owns up to how much is fact rather than fiction. His older sister's indiscretions with a Canadian soldier? Fact, and not just the courtship, apparently, but their canoodling in the remains of bombed-out houses. His mother's mutual-yet-unrequited love for her husband's best friend? Fact, and dramatized with the blessing of his real mum, who figured it didn't matter since everyone else involved was long dead. The Blitz as architect of an exciting playground rather than a grey devastation? Fact, as long as you're a child whose family survives, and that's a paradox that Boorman effectively explores more than once, without exploiting or minimizing the dangers or their effects.

2. The Last Emperor
Jeremy Thomas, producer

There's often a temptation to dismiss a Best Picture-winning historical epic based on that description alone: doesn't it just sound like a cough medicine movie? Friends, it is not! Obviously, it's a visual stunner on every level: the depth of feeling evoked by the cinematography, the minute details captured in the production design, the sensuous textures of the costumes, the face of Joan Chen and the body of John Lone. More than that, though, it is perhaps one of the most profound depictions of the manipulation of history, every scene a conflict between accepted reality and actual reality, whether it's an argument over an adolescent emperor being allowed to wear spectacles or the measurement of a Communist rehabilitator's own loyalty to the revolution. This is high-stakes, large-scale Cinema, yet it's as intimate as a quiet conversation in the corner. I was devastated by the end of this film. It is a masterpiece.

And my personal pick of the nominees...

1. Broadcast News
James L. Brooks, producer

Producer Jane Craig starts every morning in tears. Of stress? Gratitude? Doubt? Whatever the reason, she gets it all out of the way first thing in the morning, even unplugging the phone to make sure she's undisturbed. My own mornings as producer of a daily live television show started similarly; when my EP found out, he smiled sympathetically and said, "It never goes away." I'm saying Broadcast News is a documentary about dedicated people in an exhausting, thankless job who would rather die in the middle of a workday than live doing anything else. And the movie doesn't condemn this - doesn't exactly applaud it, either - but understands. Even the love triangle at the center of the film is completely job-centric: the men are attracted to Jane because of her abilities in the newsroom, inseparable from who she is; Tom compares the energy of a live broadcast to great sex; even the screenplay notes the breathless rhythms of the edit bay, the shouting and screaming to get each other to a satisfactory climax, is orgasmic. And you know what? It is sexy. And hilarious! And human! It's...the best...

But that's Oscar's Top Five. My personal Top Ten comes out later today - the nominees for the Retro Hollmann Awards tomorrow - and the awards themselves Thursday and Friday. Tune in!

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