Sunday, August 13, 2023

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1984: Best Director

Miloš Forman's Oscar win for Best Director was inevitable. Before that ceremony, he had already been named Best Director by the Hollywood Foreign Press, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Directors Guild of America. The only competitive film award he lost was BAFTA, and that may be because Amadeus was a 1985 release - he had to wait a whole year, by which time new and shiny films had come along (oddly, too,, it's the only year where directors did not have their own category but shared the Best Film award and nomination with their producers). But for the 1984 film year, Forman's Oscar was a shoo-in:

A past winner himself, he was up against a first-timer and three other past winners. These folks, in fact:

Woody Allen for Broadway Danny Rose
past winner, third of seven directing nominations 

A high: the jokes are fresh, every character is colorful and interesting, the visuals are beautiful, and it moooooves. He handles the surprise of romance well - it may be built out of a single day's experience, but the connection is there. He handles the action pretty well, too - I mentioned it before, but the helium-rich shoot-out in a warehouse filled with Macy's Parade floats is a great comic scene, the visuals and sound design making magic together. It's one of his most accomplished films. 

Robert Benton for Places in the Heart
past winner, second and final nomination; DGA Awards nominee for Best Director

Understated work here. There's so much quiet, so much attention paid to the silences and the sounds of the environment, it feels almost like a documentary - lived-in, I suppose, is the phrase. It is a genuine, lived-in experience. The closing shot with everyone singing together at church is beautiful: straightforward, and all the more emotional because it is so straightforward, so deceptively simple. He has faith in the world he's created.

Miloš Forman for Amadeus
past winner, second of three nominations; DGA Awards winner for Best Director, Golden Globe winner for Best Director, LAFCA Awards winner for Best Director

It'd be so predictable to call his approach operatic, but, well... People (Mozart) laugh with their whole body. They openly sneer in an aside (or, you know, close-up) before feigning friendship. They do not walk, they glide, they dance, they pose, they prance across rooms. His use of music is superb, whether it's Salieri describing the perfection of a Mozart piece, or a great chorale underscoring Salieri's declaration of revenge... suddenly cutting off as he realizes he has no plan. Forman knows he has a great drama and a great comedy - and a hell of an entertainment!

Roland Joffé for The Killing Fields
first of two nominations; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Directing, DGA Awards nominee for Best Director, Golden Globe nominee for Best Director

He never seems exploitative - the sea of bones scene stands out because he introduces it so casually: part of the scenery, a new landscape that almost blends with the rest of the fields and forests and lakes Dith Pran runs through. Joffé shows great restraint, his understatedness is appreciated. He'd get even stronger with The Mission the next year.

David Lean for A Passage to India
past two-time winner, seventh and final directing nomination; National Board of Review's Best Director of 1984, NYFCC Awards winner for Best Director; DGA Awards nominee for Best Director, Golden Globe nominee for Best Director

The widescreen, period setting, crowd scenes, and general veneer scream Prestigious Historical Epic, but Lean is concerned here with regular people befriending and betraying each other - that he manages to convey as much in their silences as in their shouts is a testament to a long career concerned with humans, great and small, and how fates turn on a glance, a gesture, a lie, a pause. I think it's a masterful final film.


My vote goes to:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Original Song - Against All Odds ("Against All Odds"), Footloose ("Footloose," "Let's Hear It for the Boy"), Ghostbusters ("Ghostbusters"), The Woman in Red ("I Just Called to Say I Love You") - and also for Original Score - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Tne NaturalA Passage to India, The River, and Under the Volcano.
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