Best Production Design
Empire of the Sun
Norman Reynolds, production designer
Charles Bishop, supervising art director
Harry Cordwell / Michael Ford, set decorator
2. La Bamba; 3. The Last Emperor; 4. Tampopo; 5. The Lost Boys
The vast layout of the airfield-adjacent prison camp alone earns Empire of the Sun its place here; doubly so for the details within, from the hierarchy of the American barracks to the lack thereof in the English ones to the scarceness of the hospital. There's also the abandoned stadium, filled with riches confiscated from white man's mansions. The mansions themselves, going from pristine to abandoned to newly-decorated. And the recreation of 1930s Shanghai and its foreign concessions.
In second, La Bamba's rags to riches as expressed through living conditions and performance venues. In third, The Last Emperor's time-sealed Forbidden Kingdom, superficial Manchukuo, and anonymous grey prison. In fourth, Tampopo's ramen houses, hotel rooms, dishes. In fifth, The Lost Boys' vampire cave, cluttered family home.
Just below the jump is my winner for Best Supporting Actress - and long after it, my pick for Best Score. Much more in between, so do continue...
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Baker as Punchy
2. Rosanna DeSoto in La Bamba; 3. Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck; 4. Helena Carroll in The Dead; 5. Kin Sugai in The Funeral
Baker leaves you breathless, whether she's projecting the sexy confidence of her first motel assignation with Christopher Reeve, the stomach-dropping fear of the scissors threat from Fast Black, or the startling mix of both in her appointment with the DA. Opportunist, romantic interest, manipulator, victim, hooker with a heart of gold: Baker shows how Punchy can play any role you want her to...and even some she'd rather not.
In second, DeSoto's clear favoritism, exasperation, wiliness...and that last scene! In third, Dukakis's exhaustion. In fourth, Carroll's Aunt Helen, the perfect hostess, full of memories and almost-happenings no one asks about. In fifth, Sugai's new widow, overwhelmed and polite throughout until she volunteers to give the eulogy in her film's most poignant, heartbreaking, beautiful scene.
Best Visual Effects
Peter Kuran, special photographic effects
Craig Hayes, ED-2000 creator & designer / ED-209 designer
Peter Ronzani, ED-209 creator & designer
Phil Tippett, ED-209 sequences creator
2. Innerspace; 3. Predator; 4. House II: The Second Story; 5. The Hidden
Matte paintings to build a future Detroit. Over-the-top explosions. The giant ED-209 walking through the doors and pumping innocents full of lead. The giant ED-209 taking the stairs. RoboCop's visual readouts flashing across the screen.
In second, the miniature worlds of Innerspace. In third, the camouflage and explosive action of Predator. In fourth, the stop-motion creatures of House II: The Second Story. In fifth, the slug-like alien and extra-terrestrial lasers of The Hidden.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Last Emperor
Feng Guixiang / Fabrizio Sforza / Wanxiang Zhang, makeup artists
Iole Cecchini / Giancarlo De Leonardis, hair designers
2. Hellraiser; 3. Harry and the Hendersons; 4. House II: The Second Story; 5. Near Dark
The Last Emperor looks at a nation in flux; naturally, style is important in telling that story. So take a look at the ornate hairstyles of the women at court in the Forbidden City, contrasted with the western finger-curls of Tientsin and Manchukuo (see it in action above: the Emperor's mother on top, his wife on the bottom). The effects of aging, subtle and believable even when it comes to presenting the shocking toll on the Empress.
In second, the grisly blood and tissue of a body slowly forming in Hellraiser. In third, Harry of Harry and the Hendersons. In fourth, zombie cowboys in House II: The Second Story. In fifth, bloody victims and charred vampires in Near Dark.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James Ivory
based on the novel by E.M. Forster
2. The Dead; 3. The Last Emperor; 4. Roxanne; 5. Prick Up Your Ears
Maurice is typical of Merchant-Ivory's straightforwardness; funnily enough, that's the key to its romanticism, to its heart, to its passion. The dialogue is unfettered, real. Scenes like the pub cruising, the confrontation between Maurice and his sister, Scudder surprising Maurice in London - these are little movies on their own, effective enough on their own but what an impact when put together! Not a lazy or extraneous moment. And so generously empathetic towards the women, equally shuttered by society's expectations of them, doing their best to live up to it, unaware (though not completely?) of the secret world inhabited by their men.
In second, The Dead's devastating humanity. In third, The Last Emperor's playing with point-of-view. In fourth, Roxanne's new take on an old classic. In fifth, Prick Up Your Ears' cheeky, lusty, cautionary take on artists, art, and the people who profit from both.
Michael J. Benavente / James Christopher / Donald Flick / Stephen Flick / Avram D. Gold / John Pospisil / David A. Whittaker, sound editors
Carlos Delarios / Michael J. Kohut / Aaron Rochin, re-recording mixers
2. Predator; 3. Empire of the Sun; 4. Full Metal Jacket; 5. The Untouchables
The sound design of RoboCop is beautiful, every whirr and blast and shuffling of papers specific. The mix? Honey, just look at that scene where RoboCop is beating up on Red from That 70s Show, the symphony that is the Miranda Rights being monotonously recited over a body hurled through shattering glass while Basil Poledouris' score sets the tone!
In second, the other-worldly clicks of Predator. In third, the sounds of migration, imprisonment, and flight of Empire of the Sun. In fourth, the hollow barracks and un-pinpoint-able sniper fire of Full Metal Jacket. In fifth, the executions of The Untouchables.
The Last Emperor
I usually don't like to explain the cinematography pics, preferring the shots to speak for themselves. However, these two stills, both from the same scene, bear some explanation. At the beginning, Pu Yi, installed as a puppet emperor in Japanese-controlled Manchuria (called Manchukuo) is still convinced that he has some sort of power; his wife is pregnant with some other man's child, she says to guarantee her husband an heir (and because he was busier playing at empire than minding his house). He confidently asserts his authority to his Japanese minders. That's where the top picture comes, golden, a royal with authority.
The Japanese inform him they know everything already, even the name of the father, a close member of the emperor's own staff; they even have an order ready to execute him, since Pu Yi would not want such dishonor to survive, surely. With this power play, Pu Yi's minders have shattered all pretense of keeping the Chinese empire alive. By the scene's end, the bottom pic, Pu Yi has given up, slumped over the table; his wife is getting the fuck out of Dodge; Amakasu sermonizes about the divine rights of Japan over the rest of Asia. The colors have rapidly faded to a steely blue: the chill between husband and wife, the colorlessness of death (for Chang), the cold-blooded single-mindedness of Amakasu and his mission.
There are many glorious shots and scenes in The Last Emperor. For all the reasons I describe above, this is my favorite.
2. Empire of the Sun
3. Broadcast News
4. The Funeral
5. Lethal Weapon
Best Film Editing
Gerald B. Greenberg / Bill Pankow
2. RoboCop; 3. Broadcast News; 4. Tampopo; 5. Prince of Darkness
The Untouchables was this-close to making my Top Ten. It's perfectly put together: De Palma, like Peckinpah before him, wants his audience to feel every blast of violence, and the way his editors make sure of it is breathtaking, whether the slow, Potemkin-esque montage of the train station or the endless, repetitive staccato of Malone's apartment. And when the comeuppance to certain villains is delivered - ooh, every cut just nails the hiiiiiigh! Greenberg
In second, the action and comedy! of RoboCop. In third, Broadcast News' tight rhythms. In fourth, the comic, erotic, romantic beats of Tampopo. In fifth, Prince of Darkness' gradual build to the ultimate end.
1. The Last Emperor
Ryuichi Sakamoto / David Byrne / Cong Su
2. The Untouchables
3. The Whales of August
4. Prince of Darkness
John Carpenter in association with Alan Howarth
And coming soon - Part Two! Featuring Best Actress...Best Original Song...and Best Picture of the Year!
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