The Best Picture nominees of 1985:
The Color Purple
produced by Steven Spielberg / Kathleen Kennedy / Frank Marshall / Quincy Jones
Spielberg's second of ten nominations in this category, Kennedy's second of eight nominations, Marshall's second of five nominations, Jones' first and only nomination; National Board of Review's Best Film of 1985; Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama
Anchored by luscious cinematography, detailed costumes and sets, and great performances. Clearly an attempt to create an old-fashioned American epic in the tradition of Gone with the Wind (I know, I know, loaded comparison), it is ultimately undone by its two lackings: focus on its central heroine (that it sacrifices the joy Celie finds in tailoring to focus on all around her, including Mister, is short-sighted), and confidence in tone (humor can be a great balance in a drama, but the quadruple-take broad comedy the film indulges in is jarring).
Kiss of the Spider Woman
produced by David Weisman
first and only nomination; National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1985; Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama
A beautifully made film with its heart in the right place, a lot of ideas, great performances. Does it gel into this one perfect thing? No: I think it's incredibly flawed in its depiction of queer people, and when it breaks away from the prison and film-within-the-film for the outside world in Act Three, it loses some of its magic. But it's an easy sit and visual feast.
Out of Africa
produced by Sydney Pollack
second of four nominations in this category; Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama, National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1985; LAFCA Awards runner-up for Best Film, NYFCC Awards second runner-up for Best Film
The sexiest moment in cinema - Robert Redford washing Meryl Streep's hair. One of the most levitational moments in cinema - flying over Africa, John Barry's music underscoring the flock of flamingos, the lush valleys. Definitely, one of the best scores, speaking of. It's so gently executed, you might not realize the emotional hold it has until you're already sobbing at those damn lions in the final shot. I think it's one of the great movies about taking a risk, about how a place can change you, about realizing who you are away from the places you've known. I love it.
produced by John Foreman
second and final nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Musical/Comedy, National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1985, NYFCC Awards winner for Best Picture
Fully hated this movie.
produced by Edward S. Feldman
first and only nomination; National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1985; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Film, Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama
It's a superb thriller, a fish-out-of-water drama that presents two different ways of life with their advantages and shortcomings, the tension between urban and rural, between modernity and simplicity, between violence and meditation. I appreciate a depiction of a fringe group that doesn't feel like I'm being actively educated - we're learning by living among them, not by explanations. And wow, wow, as if Meryl being shampooed wasn't enough for one year, Witness has a Sam Cooke barn dance to get you wholesomely hot and bothered. There's nothing but good things.
My vote - and Oscar's! - goes to:
OUT OF AFRICA
Next: my own awardage of 1985, starting with a complete list of the screened films.