Monday, June 28, 2021

Oscar '85: William Hurt and Best Actor

My two all-time favorite actors are William Hurt and Vincent Price. Only one of them won an Oscar:

It was the first of a three-year streak of the Academy loving Hurt's performances, which I've discussed before in my coverage of 1986 and 1987 (linked below). You can tell that the room was with him - a semi-standing ovation, a shout of support, an incredible wave of adulation. And being that he is my favorite actor, you could perhaps assume what my take on his performance, his win, and his competition may be. But read it for yourself:

Friday, June 25, 2021

Oscar '85: Steven Spielberg, Sydney Pollack, and Best Director

The nominees for Best Director this year do not include Steven Spielberg for The Color Purple. It's a significant point, for two reasons. Number one: The Color Purple led with eleven nominations, and while Picture and Director are rarely a five-for-five deal (even these days with the expanded lineup in the former, lone directors such as Thomas Vinterberg still pop up), one would think that the most-nominated film of the year would have the director who brought it all together lauded. Number two: not only was he nominated for the Directors Guild Award - against Huston, Pollack, Weir, and Cocoon's Ron Howard - he won the damn thing. In the 38 years of the DGA Awards, Spielberg was the first to win without even being nominated for the Oscar, a "feat" that's only been accomplished twice more: Howard for Apollo 13 in 1995 and Ben Affleck for Argo in 2012. Frankly, I think the Academy's directors branch got it right: I like The Color Purple, but I think some of Spielberg's choices are to its detriment. But even if he had been nominated at the Oscars, could he have forestalled the inevitable?:

Probably not. A sweep is a sweep is a sweep. What a tough choice to make, though! Look at the contenders:

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Oscar '85: The Writing Awards

The Best Picture lineup consisted of four adaptations and one original work. All were nominated for their screenplays. Looking back, one sees the obviousness of these wins - the Best Picture juggernaut for Adapted, the lone Best Picture nominee for Original, duh!:

But I don't know that it would turn out the same way today. Maybe Witness would still be the one to beat, given its WGA Awards win, but the way campaigns and buzz run now, I can see a reality where Prizzi's Honor and The Purple Rose of Cairo come out ahead on Oscar night due to precursor support and a spreading of the wealth. Is it a reality I prefer? Find out after the jump...

Monday, June 21, 2021

Oscar '85: John Barry, Lionel Richie, and the Music

The leads of Singin' in the Rain came out in yellow raincoats to present the music awards, beginning with Original Song. The Color Purple was the only Best Picture nominee to make the cut, though I believe Kiss of the Spider Woman was also the only other Best Picture nominee to even have an original song. The other films nominated were Back to the Future, Richard Attenborough's tepidly-received but, to my eyes, very underrated adaptation of the Broadway smash A Chorus Line, and the Cold War dance drama White Nights - twice! Clearly, it was too good to deny:

But would I deny it? Let's find out:

Friday, June 18, 2021

Oscar '85: Geraldine Page and Best Actress

Best Actress! A lineup of three winners, a newcomer, and a perennial bridesmaid on her eighth nomination. Finally, a nomination that turned to a win:

There's hope yet, Glenn Close! The nominees are:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Oscar '85: Anjelica Huston and Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actress saw competition between five performers from four films: Best Picture nominees The Color Purple, in which Celie Johnson experiences heartache after heartache in the rural South at the turn-of-the-century, and Prizzi's Honor, in which mob hitman Charley Partanna falls in love with a freelance hitwoman; Twice in a Lifetime, a grounded, wonderful drama in which a family man ends his 30-year marriage after falling for a barmaid and the fallout from it; and the curiously dull melodrama Agnes of God, in which a court-appointed psychiatrist investigates the state of mind of a novitiate accused of murdering her newborn child. Much as Supporting Actor went to a long-beloved veteran, this one went to a legacy:

Unfair to characterize the win as such? Let's talk performances:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Oscar '85: Don Ameche and Best Supporting Actor

It's a lineup of one-and-done, where absolutely no one was nominated before, nor would they ever be nominated again. Not long ago, someone on Twitter called this the worst Supporting Actor lineup in history. I can understand that feeling, honestly, as many of the performances seem "lightweight," or at least less memorable compared to some of the year's other choices (John Lone in Year of the Dragon, Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future, Danny Glover in The Color Purple...though I suspect he had a Best Actor push). On the other hand, I think a lot of the disappointment comes from the bastardization of what this category has become. These are all clearly character actors in supporting roles, even Roberts', none of them with towering subplots, no one a mega-star "slumming" it for an easy get. The closest you get to that is Don Ameche, a star in the 30s and 40s who'd aged into supporting roles. That veteran status is probably what catapulted him to the win - peep that standing ovation:

The film for which he won isn't the usual usual, either. Cocoon is a sci-fi-fantasy dramedy about a clique of senior citizens who frequent a neighboring pool during the off-season, when its renters aren't home. This year, unbeknownst to them, the home is occupied by aliens using the pool to rejuvenate cocoons of their left-behind brethren; suddenly, it becomes the Fountain of Youth, and our old-timers enjoy a renewed vitality. A surprisingly moving treatment of mortality and loss, with a great ensemble and beautiful score from James Horner. Other films nominated here: Best Picture nominees Out of Africa and Prizzi's Honor; Jagged Edge, a wonderful pulpy legal thriller in which a defense attorney falls in lust with her client, accused of raping, then murdering, his wife; and Runaway Train, an uninvolving thriller about two escaped prisoners on a speeding train with no crew, and no signs of stopping. And the performances nominated? They are:

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Oscar '85: How To Make History Without A Nomination

Today, every distributor who can afford to do so sends screeners to Academy members for films that are "for their consideration." Wasn't always so: before, members had to attend special screenings in cinemas, presenting their membership cards for admission. Then and now, these screenings/-ers are, of course, in addition to the print ads in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times and Variety. Embassy Pictures could not afford these luxuries, but John Boorman could, so in order to get The Emerald Forest seen by Academy members, he made VHS tapes and made them available for free to Academy members at select rental outlets. And so, the first Oscar screeners were born.

The Emerald Forest, based on a true story, begins with an American family newly arrived in South America, the patriarch heading a construction project that's destroying the Amazon; when he takes his family to see the site, his son is taken by an Indigenous tribe known as The Invisible People. Ten years later, they finally meet again, though now the son has completely assimilated, the son of the chief, reluctant to return "home" with Dad. It's another Boorman winner, a thoughtful examination of colonial exploitation of Native lands and natural resources, a difficult fathers-son drama about defining home and family. Gone from the Oscar conversation since Deliverance, and two years away from his return with Hope and Glory, it would make some sense to honor this Boorman film; if not in Picture or Director, difficult fits for box office also-rans, then certainly in categories like Cinematography, Production Design, Makeup.

The strategy did not work then. It received three nominations at BAFTA (Score, Cinematography, Makeup) and one at the C├ęsars (Poster). Still, it kicked off a way to reach voters that changed the industry forever. One-week qualifying releases that depended more on screeners and word-of-mouth than on an actual release include films like Still Alice, Biutiful, The Father, Minari. Screeners are also not just relegated to home video materials like VHS and DVD, but streaming links as well, particularly important in this COVID age.

So, The Emerald Forest made history but could not crack the crafts. Here are films that did, with special attention paid to films we won't get to discuss elsewhere:

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Worst of '85?

The Golden Raspberry Awards were founded in 1980. They've been shitting on fun ever since: consider their first Best Picture lineup not only included my favorite film of all time, Xanadu, but William Friedkin's best film Cruising. Five years later, they still struggled with how to appraise parody, targeted actors who weren't bad but were obnoxiously popular, and found a groove they would never get out of - dishonoring Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta. And, as if that wasn't enough, they had the audacity to nominate the great The Last Dragon in Worst Original Song...for the two best tunes on the soundtrack! Risible. Among the many which I did not see, here were nine films nominated for Razzies:

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Old Friends of '85

As I looked at the films of 1985, I realized that I had seen many of them before, not just once, but many times. In addition to the aforementioned Cannibal Holocaust and Oscar nominees Out of Africa and Ran, I reacquainted myself with such familiar faces as:

Monday, June 7, 2021

Horror '85

Many agree that the genre films of the 1980s are unlike anything that came before and cast long shadows over that which came after. This particular genre, horror, is a favorite of mine, and 1985 seems a particularly fertile year for it. Vampires and zombies, some fantasy (though I've saved pure fantasy for another day), a good balance of scares and laughs, here is the year in horror (going by US release dates).

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Why 1985?

1972 is barely cold, but we forge ahead with the films of 1985! So why 1985? I blame Juan Carlos Ojano and his podcast The One-Inch Barrier.

The One-Inch Barrier takes a look at the Academy Awards' Best International Feature category, known through 2018 as Best Foreign Language Film. Its name is derived from one of Bong Joon-ho's acceptance speeches, in which he said he hoped more people would take to watching films in other languages and not be put off by the "one-inch barrier" of subtitles. The podcast's host Carlos takes that idea and runs with it; every episode, he and a guest watch and discuss the five nominees of a given year, some of them readily available, some of them hard-to-track-down rarities, a good many of them forgotten - yesterday's Oscar nominee is today's footnote.

Carlos asked me to guest for the episode concerning 1985 back in February, which featured this lineup: