Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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The 1984 Retro Hollmann Awards: The Winners, Part One

Here we are - and on time - the first half of the 1984 Retro Hollmann Awards!

These first nine winners are more than just my favorites from films made ~40 years ago. Combine the contemporary and retro editions, and this makes, overall, the Fiftieth Hollmann Awards! 

Here are the first nine 1984 Retro Hollmann Awards winners, starting with the fiftieth winner for Best Director:

Best Director
Brian De Palma
Body Double
2. David Lean for A Passage to India; 3. Miloš Forman for Amadeus; 4. Wolfgang Petersen for The NeverEnding Story; 5. Ken Russell for Crimes of Passion

When I called Body Double the De Palmiest of De Palma, that meant one of my all-time favorite directors hit the high-water mark. It's the film he was born to make, and he made it beautifully: it's sly, sexy, and suspenseful, all the things you'd want in a thriller - all the things you want from De Palma. It's his most tonally consistent, bookended by laughs, intense and grotesque within. As for the rest of the lineup: Lean executes intimate storytelling through an epic lens, Forman keeps his period biopic entertaining, Petersen makes us believe in Fantasia, and Russell, well, he's a brilliant kook (and I may as well mention Mrs. Soffel's Gillian Armstrong, almost a nominee here, for her clarity and understated eroticism).

Best Production Design

Once Upon a Time in America
Giovanni Natalucci, production design
Carlo Simi / James T. Singelis, art direction
Bruno Cesari / Osvaldo Desideri / Gretchen Rau, set decoration
2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; 3. The Muppets Take Manhattan; 4. Crimes of Passion; 5. Birdy

It was genuinely tough to decide between the fancifulness of Temple of Doom and Once Upon a Time's lived-in grit. Both period pieces, each going for a completely different tone in the details, each nailing it. Best? Ah. So silly to put it that way. My favorite? Listen, Temple of Doom in all its heightened art deco Orientalism is never trying to be real, but Once Upon a Time in America's sheer scale - the restaurant, the tenement housing, the ornate speakeasy, the lavish mansion with secret passages, the dusty Chinatown theater that fronts for a velveted opium den...I could go on. I won't. You see who won. Also want to pay a tip o' the cap to the Manhattan custom-made for Muppeting, the fleabag motel and spotless penthouse in Crimes of Passion, and the cages for both fowl and man in Birdy.

Best Actress
Kathleen Turner as Joanna Crane / China Blue
Crimes of Passion
2. Diane Keaton in Mrs. Soffel; 3. Judy Davis in A Passage to India; 4. Mia Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose; 5. Meryl Streep in Falling in Love

That makes four-for-four when it comes to Best Actresses from a Ken Russell film. Well, what can I say, the man knows talent. And Kathleen Turner? What a talent! She proves game as anyone from her first scene as Miss Liberty with that demented look and too-much accent, but she narrows her eyes just so and the seduction is. And when it's all over and the john's paid - like a switch. You can see what she enjoys, what she hates, what she's guilty about. She's as moving in her scene where she pays a house call to a dying man as she is hilarious in her bawdy one-liners - "I never forget a face - especially one I've sat on!" Who is the real woman, Joanna or China Blue? Turner lets you see a woman still finding the answer. (Meanwhile, all props to Diane Keaton being surprised by her own arousal, Judy Davis carelessly hurting people, Mia Farrow in full brooooooad mode, and Meryl Streep in full Celia Johnson mode).

Best Original Song
1. Purple Rain - "Purple Rain"
music and lyrics by Prince
2. Streets of Fire - "Tonight is What It Means to be Young"
music and lyrics by Jim Steinman
3. Purple Rain - "I Would Die 4 U"
music and lyrics by Prince
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four - "Oceania, 'Tis for Thee"
music by Dominic Muldowney
lyrics by Jonathan Gems
5. Footloose - "Holding Out for a Hero"
music and lyrics by Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford

Best Supporting Actress
Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs. Moore
A Passage to India
2. Mary Woronov in Night of the Comet; 3. Lonette McKee in The Cotton Club; 4. Melanie Griffith in Body Double; 5. Aurore Clément in Paris, Texas

Here's to Mary Woronov's worn-out scientist, Lonette McKee's powerhouse vocalist, Melanie Griffith's professional actress, and Aurore Clément's unspoken love. More so, here's to the winner, Peggy Ashcroft, who genuinely can't figure out why colonizers aren't more polite to the colonized, bless her damn heart, and who finally finds herself overwhelmed enough at the Caves not to go on, so overwhelmed by the unpleasantness of a trial she can't even stay to defend the accused. She's a sweet woman, a genuinely good-hearted person, and she's in over her head in India. Ashcroft delivers no judgment, just honesty.

Best Film Editing
Michael Chandler / Nena Danevic
2. Purple Rain; 3. Body Double; 4. A Passage to India; 5. Crimes of Passion

Amadeus flows like good entertainment - like great opera. I think of that cut revealing Mozart's father - or, later in the film, when it cuts to Salieri disguised as Mozart's father, and the reaction on Mozart's face. I think of Salieri's "miracle," the choir of boys singing "amen" intercut with his father choking on a fishbone. Of that opening sequence, rushing Salieri to hospital while a ball is underway. Of Mozart playing Salieri's tribute to him and the constant cuts to the Emperor's court as they react to the insult. Oh, oh, and that back and forth - "Have you got that" "You go too fast" "Have you got it" "You go too fast!" "SHOW ME!" Snap, snap, snap. This is, of course, no slight to the music video rapidity of Purple Rain, the patient then chaotic energy of Body Double, the lucidity of A Passage to India, or the arty smuttiness of Crimes of Passion.

Best Costume Design
Theodor Pistek
2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; 3. Night of the Comet; 4. The Bostonians; 5. A Passage to India

Oh, I just love everyone's outfits, from the browns and bronzes for Salieri to Mozart's blues and lavenders and patterns and... well, other choices that are eye-catching and eye-matching. Of course, there are others: always been a fan of that big blue coat worn by Baron Van Swieten, Lord knows I grew up remembering every, uh, detail of Constanze's gowns, Schikander makes bolder (gaudier?) color choices (and his fabrics are not as luxe) - and, duh, the costume, Papa Mozart's masquerade set. Followed by Temple of Doom's period fantasy, Night of the Comet's memorable character outfits, The Bostonians' careful tailoring, and A Passage to India's mix of Anglo and Indian, sometimes in one outfit.

Best Sound
A Passage to India
Michael A. Carter / Graham V. Hartstone / Nicolas Le Messurier / Dick Lewzey / John W. Mitchell / Lionel Strutt, sound recordists
Jack T. Knight / Winston Ryder, sound editors
Ron Butcher, sound engineer
2. The River; 3. The Cotton Club; 4. Amadeus; 5. The Terminator

It's the subtlety of A Passage to India's soundscape that's always struck me. Much as I love The River's storms and The Cotton Club's tap-dancing and Amadeus's concerts and The Terminator's bullet-ripping machines... Much as I love all those, I can't help but think of that scene at the mosque which seems completely silent except for the gentleness of the river (and the sudden splash of a crocodile), or the great shout of "Mrs. Moore!" or the sound of sandals upon dry rock, or the unique audial hallucinations of the Marabar Caves, rolling and echoing and roaring and booming as though from another dimension.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Peter Shaffer
2. A Passage to India; 3. A Soldier's Story; 4. Mass Appeal; 5. The NeverEnding Story

This is how it's done. This is what I aspire to, as a writer. Peter Shaffer. I've written about it before, I've no more to say, my words cannot do his justice. 

Nine categories down, and Amadeus has three wins. Tomorrow: the final nine, including Best Score, Best Actor - and Best Picture!

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